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Tim McCormick

33 neighbors want ProtoHouse – a space for affordable/innovative housing prototypes on Market Street.

ProtoHouse is a space for curated, changing display of innovative urban dwellings. The installation space will host a series of either complete micro-units fitting within the 12'x12'x12' space, or sections of larger units; in either case, with partial cutaway or transparent sides to allow viewing of and/or access to the interiors. 

The installation aims to dramatically foreground, and invite participatory rethinking about, one of the city's (and neighborhood's) most crucial issues: how might we create and design new housing, particularly housing that is affordable, adaptable, and sustainable? 

Challenging expectations about what is put in public vs private spaces, ProtoHouse will invite passers-by to see housing through a new lens. We hope to spur new public imagination and discussion of how private spaces can be designed and used to support smarter, more ecological and vibrant living.

We propose a roster of innovative urban housing ideas from around the world, with one to be installed during the 3-day Prototyping Festival. In the (hypothetical) longer-term/permanent version, the community would select a new dwelling unit/display for exhibition every few months. Therefore it would embrace prototyping/exploration as an ongoing state -- for an ever-changing city. 

Broadly, we seek to bring housing back into the urban prototyping conversation -- recognizing that good urbanism includes good dwellings. Housing, like public space, needs to evolve and be reinvented; and prototyping can help. In fact, public prototyping may be particularly crucial for broad envisioning, experiencing, and dissemination of new approaches, since housing design is often a particularly conservative and convention-bound field. 

Some potential exhibition units: 

- Y:cube prefab housing: project led by YMCA London SW, with Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners architects.

- microunit apartment (or portion of) from Panoramic Interests, developer of micro-unit buildings in Berkeley, San Francisco, etc.

- tiny house from TechDwell, provider of units to Portland, Oregon's planned homeless-rehousing village. 

- tiny house from Four Lights Tiny House Company, based in Sonoma County, which is currently developing a high-density tiny-house urban village in the North Bay.

- example unit from NYC microunit program, as exhibited at museums there and now being built. 

Related prior project "Maker House 1" installation at Open Cities Arts Cities Festival, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, October 4 2014.

Andy Redfearn - Director of Housing, YMCA SW London, and head of the Y:cube project. 

Jennifer Loving - Executive Director, Destination: Home (main homeless-services provider for Santa Clara County). 

Chris Block - CEO American Leadership Foundation, Silicon Valley Chapter; longtime affordable-housing developer & homeless advocate. We are working together on a project 

Mark Roth - The Learning Shelter
We discussed this project at the Open Cities 2025 conference.

Martha Bridegam - housing attorney & advocate.

If you like this idea, "me too" it to stay updated on it's progress. Feel free to share your insights in the "How can you help?" section. If you'd like to get involved with this project, let us know. You can fill out a volunteer form to help with the overall festival. 

Also, please comment, discuss & share on social media. Follow/mention on Twitter: @protohouseSF, hashtag #ProtoHouse

Supporters All

David Anderson
Juraj Mihalik
Eckhart Beatty
Chelsea Rustrum
Market Street Prototyping Festival
Maria Judice
Future Cities Lab
Mary O'Neal
Evelyn Taoka
Tia Paneet
Steve Pepple
Maggie Farquhar
Sam-Omar Hall
Michael Thomas Angelo


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Groundplay: The evolution of tactical urbanism
Wednesday, March 22, 2017, 6:00pm - 9pm
Exploratorium Observatory, Pier 15 (RSVP required)

Introducing Groundplay -- join us in celebrating the launch of San Francisco Planning’s Groundplay program at the Exploratorium on March 22nd at 6pm as part of their Conversations About Landscape speaker series. Pavement to Parks is merging with Living Innovation Zones and the Market Street Prototyping Festival into one citywide program called Groundplay.

Panelists include Deborah Cullinan, CEO of Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Katy Tang, San Francisco Supervisor for District 4, Shawn Lani, Studio Director of Studio for Public Spaces at Exploratorium, and will be moderated by Kay Cheng and Ilaria Salvadori of City Design Group, San Francisco Planning Department.

RSVP to attend:

Who Went?

Danielle Rose
Erik Schmitt
Hunter Franks
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Happy Hour Q&A
Wednesday, March 30, 2016, 4:00pm - 7:00pm
The Hall, 1028 Market Street, San Francisco, CA

Join us for a Happy Hour Q&A at The Hall! Come meet and mingle with the MSPF team and get a chance to discuss any questions you might have about your project submissions and ideas. The MSPF Open Call for new projects for our 2016 festival is open until Apr 15. We’ll also be joined by some of last year’s participants who can share their experiences. Bring your friends and prototype ideas and we’ll see you there!

Open Call info:

Who Went?

Sean Stevens
Tom K.
Market Street Prototyping Festival
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Market Street Prototyping Festival

Calling all Bay Area citizens! MSPF is now accepting new project applications for our 2016 festival! Do you have an idea to make Market Street a more vibrant public space? We want to hear about it, submissions accepted now thru Apr 15.

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Posted Mar 2, 2016
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Market Street Prototyping Festival

Here's an in depth analysis of the 2015 festival from Gehl Studio San Francisco. "Makers on Market" summarizes key findings and insights from the Festival, identifies prototypes with potential of influencing the design of Market Street, and outlines a framework for using prototyping events as a way to engage members of the public in finding solutions to public challenges.

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Posted Sep 15, 2015
Oct 3, 2017

Updated link:

Posted by Dan on Oct 3, 2017
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MSPF Community Meeting: Select 10 projects for incubation
Thursday, September 3, 2015, 5:00pm - 7pm
Center for New Music, 55 Taylor Street, SF CA 94102

Our work depends on you! YBCA values our community partners as primary stakeholders as we evolve and grow together. We believe that nurturing and deepening mutually-beneficial relationships with community based organizations, nonprofits, schools, local businesses, artists and creative problem-solvers is key to our interdependent success.

Join us! Participate in the process to select the 10 most successful prototypes--emerging from the pilot festival--for incubation. Together, we will identify the most forward-thinking, diverse citizen-driven solutions for re-energizing Market Street.

You can see the projects that participated in the April 2015 festival here:

Who Went?

Tom K.
Market Street Prototyping Festival
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Market Street Prototyping Festival

Here are a few thoughts on the festival from the team at Neighborland -


Market Street Prototyping Festival — The Neighborland

Tens of thousands of people travel down Market Street in San Francisco every day. Most of us simply mind our own busines…

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Posted Jul 29, 2015
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Tom K.

Interesting story about a $600 house in Reno that sits in back of a traditional house:

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Posted Apr 14, 2015
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Tom K.

Coming along nicely! Good to see one of the projects address a dire need in the City--- housing.

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Posted Apr 6, 2015
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What's your take on the IKEA Flatpack Shelters as a temporary solution -


Here Come 10,000 Ikea Flatpack Refugee Shelters

All photos courtesy of the Ikea Foundation "Better Shelter," the next-generation refugee dwelling from the Ikea Foundation, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and a group of Swedish...

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Posted Mar 29, 2015
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Market Street Prototyping Festival
Thursday, April 9, 2015, 9:00am
Market Street between Embarcedero and Van Ness

An open call for creative ways to improve Market Street yielded hundreds of submissions from citizens and organizations. Fifty of these submissions were chosen to create rough models, or “prototypes”, that demonstrate how their idea would work. From April 9th - 11th, Market Street will come alive with these ideas. Its wide sidewalks will be filled with temporary installations ranging from performances spaces, relaxation zones, dynamic art pieces, and more.

Come and walk the festival route, check out the installations, and tell us what you think. A selection of these designs will then move from prototype to reality, as part of our city’s Better Market Street initiative.

Who Went? (51)

Steven Kahlich
Susie McKinnon
Max Hawkins
Melody Villavicencio
Cheyenne Maples
Tom K.
Dan Sullivan
Alvin Shiu
Garen Gary Srapyan
Paul Pillitteri
Timber Valley
Galen Maloney
Maria Judice
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