Enlivening San Francisco's Market street

The sidewalks of San Francisco’s busiest thoroughfare came alive for three days in April at the Market Street Prototyping Festival as teams of artists and designers exhibited over 50 ingenious ideas for potentially permanent installations.

CCA was a partner in the effort to make the sidewalks more vibrant, serving as design captain for one of the five districts spread out along a two-mile stretch of the street. CCA’s Digital Craft Lab coordinated the overall effort, with Architecture faculty members Jason Kelly Johnson and Adam Marcus taking the lead.

The festival was part of a San Francisco Public Works project called Better Market Street, which aims to develop ideas to enhance public space in preparation for the street’s redesign in 2018. The temporary installations were chosen from a large pool of applicants, and during the festival members of the public were asked to give input on the prototypes to help determine which of them might become part of the new redesign.

Mobile Craft Modules

CCA faculty worked as mentors to student and community participants in the exhibits between First and Second streets. The anchor project was the Mobile Craft Modules, designed and constructed by students in Adam Marcus’s Prototyping Mobility Advanced Architecture Studio. The modules were designed with two purposes in mind: to host a series of CCA exhibitions and events during the festival, and afterwards, to return to the San Francisco campus’s Back Lot to serve as mobile workstations for students and faculty working on future design–build projects. The modules are engineered to fit in shipping containers, and the solid construction and wheels make them extremely mobile.

The module interiors are flexible; the number of shelves and their placement is configurable based on need. On Market Street, Marcus says “passersby told us they would be ideal for use as toolsheds, emergency medical stations, or even as temporary housing with cots as shelves.” Over the festival weekend the units displayed work by CCA Architecture students; in the evening they served as pillars for a projection screen stretched between them, as the modules became the site of public talks hosted by CCA Architecture faculty and students.

Mila Ilieva (BArch 2016) was impressed by how well informed and curious visitors were. “There was no criticism, just very well formulated, exhaustive questions from people interested in learning more about the project.” Ilieva’s favorite idea for a future use for the modules is as “a hydroponic vegetable garden deployable station, utilizing screens stretched between the modules to provide shade for the gardener as well as for shade-loving plants like artichokes!”

Data Lanterns

The Market Street blocks captained by CCA included other well-received installations, such as the Data Lanterns, designed by Future Cities Lab, the studio of Architecture faculty members Jason Kelly Johnson and Nataly Gattegno. The structures, connected to data from local transit systems, serve as illuminated civic “totems” that signal approaching underground trains. Data Lanterns could also be adapted to provide other urban data such as pollution levels, weather, transportation, or social media information, depending on the city’s needs. “Data Lanterns form an intelligent network of light sculptures that are both beautiful and informative,” says Gattegno. ”They have the ability to become urban indicators that spatialize information for citizens who can then ‘read’ the city landscape in a more meaningful and impactful way.”

Adaptive Playscapes

Industrial and Interior Design students taking part in an ENGAGE seminar led by Gregory Hurcomb (Architecture/Interior Design faculty) worked with the nonprofit KIDMob and local middle school students to build their vision of a collaborative and interactive modular—and mobile—play space. The result was a popular stop for festival visitors, who hopped, bounced, and balanced on the colorful structures. Festivalgoers also took part in a creative brainstorming, modeling, and building activity with 2×1's and zip ties to create their own full-scale playscape.

Street Sketch

Graphic Design Senior Lecturer Erik Schmitt was instrumental in the placement and design of the Street Sketch prototype, a larger-than-life chalkboard that extended over the sidewalk. Schmitt very specifically chose the site, an area of Market Street close to the Tenderloin that he feels is challenging and underserved by creative outreach. He was pleased that his chalkboards were left intact after hours. Pedestrians and homeless people who frequent the neighborhood were exuberant as they drew with the many colors of chalk. In addition to encouraging creativity, ”this structure creates a barrier between the busy street and pedestrians,” Schmitt says. “I wanted to create a zone of calm along this heavily trafficked sidewalk.”