The Market Street Prototyping Festival challenges teams to design urban interventions which bring out the diversity of Market Street’s neighborhoods and encourage new forms of social engagement. Often the latter is a problem by design, since ideas that box themselves into specific categories of political or socioeconomic interaction by definition leave other populations underrepresented.
As a group of UX designers and architects based all around the world, our team at Cloud Arch Studio sought to define a more universal way to understand the gap in pedestrian interaction and came up with a simple binary condition: people who are moving, and people who are still. We have devised a game that requires interaction between people moving by and people staying put and rewards greater participation and coordination between all types of people. Through three simple networked surfaces - seating, landscape, and pavement built on identical grids - we can map user inputs from corresponding cells of seating and pavement to an unexpected water feature within the landscape, and program the reactions to occur sequentially as more cells are activated in sync along the path. No water feature is activated unless both the seat and the pavement are activated, and if the whole path is activated then the installation will offer a grand finale feature. The overall result is a sometimes surprising, sometimes contagious, but always magical experience powered by connections between strangers and the common ground beneath our feet.
The pavilion will be programmed and constructed by local team members at Stanford in partnership with a variety of mentors in the arts and engineering disciplines. Through our participation in the U.S. DOE Solar Decathlon competition we have significant experience assembling and delivering installations on time and under budget. The skeletal roof structure shown in the renderings was designed by our Danish, Slovenian, and Puerto Rican colleagues and is a simple solution to sun and rain protection while being easy to manufacture, transport, and construct, and the sensor and feedback elements of the interaction will be developed and tested at our product realization labs on Stanford campus.
We are especially interested in working in the Embarcadero district because we want to highlight its distinct character as Market Street’s gateway to the water and address the current gaps of engagement between visitors (from the Hyatt and waterfront) and locals commuting to and from the Ferry Building. We hope our novel urban installation will improve interaction between these and all people in a playful and welcoming way while becoming a hub of leisure and entertainment. As trained architects and engineers we have had many experiences working with the Autodesk team and would enjoy collaborating with them here to develop a sustainable virtual design & construction methodology to our prototype, and scaled possibilities to come. We also welcome the opportunity to work with the Hyatt Regency, Pacific Waterfront Partners, and Port of San Francisco to better understand and engage the social dynamics and navigation experience in this important nexus of tourism, commerce, and culture.
At Cloud Arch Studio, our whole practice is built on the belief that designers and architects cannot solve problems of the built environment without first engaging its users and occupants in human-centered need-finding and subsequent iterative prototyping and feedback. That is why this summer we got out of the office and set up a POP-UP architecture studio inside a bustling antiques market in London to engage with the local community for four weeks on producing a shared vision of their market development. That is why a month later we went to a film and wine festival in Slovenia on their request for a film center proposal and spoke to the local community about what kinds of educational and cultural needs they have in order to co-create a long-term plan. And that is why for the next four months we are working with partner universities on a project-based learning experience that places interdisciplinary teams in a real-world challenge like urban blight in the Central Valley and pedagogically immerses them in community outreach to drive positive impact in urban planning and public policy.
We intend to bring this robust experience in working with communities to the Market Street Prototyping Festival, starting with a series of prototypes at Stanford and on Market Street to test and refine our user experience. The specific types of sensor-feedback interactions we are creating translate well to low-cost, lightweight, and rapid iterations built-to-scale onsite, allowing us to get direct feedback from user testing and even allow people to manipulate our prototypes themselves. This is why we are purposefully leaving a great deal of design flexibility between now and April. Most importantly we want to understand what is currently lacking for pedestrians on the Embarcadero district and how our intervention can meet those physical and social needs, and we will do this mostly through face-to-face interactions between locals and our team, many of whom are also SF locals, supplemented by an online network of social media and external feedback. This is ultimately the key to our “glocal” approach which draws innovation from global perspectives while respecting the unique needs and circumstances of the locality. It is our way of advancing the mission of a global community through a project in one of the epicenters of human-centered innovation.
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