Crowds who walked along Market Street this weekend may have been intrigued by the many small built structures sprinkled along both sides of the thoroughfare from Civic Center to the Embarcadero. Some of these tiny installations spun, some squirted and squeaked. Upon investigation, they belonged to an initiative from the Market Street Urban Prototyping Festival. Led by the San Francisco Planning Department, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, and the Knight Foundation, the festival transformed Market Street into a platform for art installation and public forum experiments. Over the three-day span from April 9-11, select local design agencies, architectural design firms, independent artists and makers showcased their ideas for new methods of civic engagement and urban design.
All the works were prototypes-rough models-to act as ice breakers among strangers, form connections between local communities and individuals, and create moments of introspection, or lingering on the sidewalk. Play Everyday was an improvisational workout park that turned the sidewalk into a play structure, and stopped rushing pedestrians to try something out of their routine. Bookmark showcased San Francisco Public Library’s connection to the city through a pop-up library of SF resident’s favorite books and audiobooks. Bench Go-Round was a playful structure that gave passersby a whirl. And Common Ground was an interactive pavilion that provoked cooperation and coordination between people sitting and walking to activate water feature sequences in the landscape. These installations and more give a taste of how the built environment can influence people’s quality of life. While the festival is over, there is a way to keep abreast of the impact of these projects on Neighborland, where community feedback is always welcome.