Prototyping The Urban Environment With Garden Urinals And Staircase Slides

In cities across North America, tiny parks known as “parklets” have begun to take over parking spots in front of storefronts, creating spaces for passersby to congregate, lounge, and park their bikes. Parklets are just one piece of a larger movement to take back underutilized public spaces in cities. This past weekend, San Francisco’s Urban Prototyping Festival, held in the city’s troubled yet evolving Central Market neighborhood, showcased creative innovations from local residents that aim to make the urban environment more livable.

Pulse of the City.

We first wrote about the Urban Prototyping Festival, a collaboration between the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts (GAFFTA), the SF Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, and 5M Placeworks, and others, in August. GAFFTA had managed to whittle down dozens of entries–all required to include physical and digital components and be easily replicable–down to 18 finalists. In theory, the projects sounded brilliant. But seeing is believing: The finalists exhibited at the festival, along with five additional projects dreamed up during a “makeathon” held earlier this fall. They’re all still in the early stages of development, but that’s the point. As the festival’s website points out, “long-term solutions can often be jump-started by building and refining quick working models.” And one day soon, you might spot these solutions in a city near you.

Check out the slide show above for our favorites, from a device that measures the pulse of the city, to simple performance spaces for street musicians, to, yes, public urinals that house a garden.AS