“The Universal Silver Platter” at FIGMENT Oakland

On Saturday, June 10th, the Universal Silver Platter opened in downtown Oakland. For just one day, we handed people whatever they needed or desired most on a silver platter.

FIGMENT   is a participatory art festival that takes place in a few cities across the US. Artists, designers, and entertainers come together to create fun, creative pop-up experiences open to the public. My friend Josh L suggested the festival, and my friend Josh H joined the project when we decided we wanted to jump on the opportunity to create a fun, playful experience for our community.

After a quick brainstorming session, we riffed off the idea of using an actual silver platter that I had to symbolize the current political discourse around entitlements. Rather than having privileged, smug, politicians telling people they should just work harder, and that they don’t deserve or even need assistance with education, healthcare, or housing, we decided that for one day, you DO deserve to have whatever you need “handed to you on a silver platter”.

Our team quickly prototyped a nail board to collect the collective story of what people needed and wanted on installation day. We dubbed it the “USP Data Accumulator” to fit with our theme of the Silver Platter being like a government bureau or information desk. The idea was to have each participant choose a colored rubber band based on the theme of their wish or desire, then attach it to the nail board based on their relationship with the person who granted their wish and the outcome of their wish.

Participants were invited to express a need, wish or desire. We asked visitors to fulfil one another’s wishes, and if a single visitor came up, a “U.S.P. Technician” (one of the designers) would draw their wish. Once the wish was represented graphically or with words, the wish grantor would hand the completed wish to the recipient on one of our shiny silver platters.

Finally, the person who had just had their wish handed to them on a silver platter would add a rubber band to the data accumulator.

There were quite a few other fun installations happening that day in Oakland’s Mosswood park:

And by the end of the installation day, we had so many rubber bands stretched on our nailboard, that they started popping off!

We had a lot of fun playing with the visitors to the U.S.P. booth, and had a number of interesting and illuminating conversations. Some of our visitors wished for something quite meaningful and serious – a healthy body, a child, family reconciliation. Others wished for something more lighthearted like a goat to eat their neighbor’s ivy, or a fried chicken sandwich. One of our younger visitors had the following, slightly creepy wish:

It was a day well spent, facilitating conversations and granting wishes to our friends and neighbors.

The Play Station on Market Street

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For a few days in October, Market Street got a little friendlier, a little more colorful, and a little more fun. The Play Station was live on the sidewalk, next to a bus stop just down the block from Powell Street. Our team was selected to join the Market Street Prototyping Festival, with support from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the SF Planning Department.

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Thousands of passersby from all walks of life stopped to interact with our kinetic bike sculptures or to take a spin on one of our three free public exercise bikes. Above, a young girl spins the hand-cranked LED bicycle wheel featuring a programmable LED light display from Berkeley’s own MonkeyLectric.

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We were fortunate to have wonderful weather for the entire installation. Here, visitors take the bikes for a spin, and the last rider plays a game of “Newspaper Delivery”. The game, a simple toss game designed by team mate Ivan Rodriguez, was a crowd pleaser as visitors got competitive about slinging the newspapers into a faux windowbox from the bike.

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A young visitor checks out one of the zoetropes designed by team mate Michael Huang, a popular attraction we placed to create a “soft edge” to our installation and draw people’s attention and interaction. Visitors could even draw their own zoetrope design on receipt paper. The zoetropes are mounted on bike wheels.

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The overhead canopy I designed from 4-way stretch mesh had the unexpected effect of creating dappled light and shade (we didn’t expect much sun), hung on a structure designed by team mate David Yao. It also achieved my personal aim of creating a sense of color and inviting space on drab Market Street.

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The whole design team. Not pictured – friends and significant others who helped load, carry, shop, paint, install, and volunteer on the festival days! We’ll share more insights shortly – data collection led by team mate Deland Chan will reveal more insights on how many visitors we had, how many interacted with various parts of The Play Station, and what their thoughts were about public space and Market Street.

The Play Station SF is coming!

This weekend, my team tested concepts for our upcoming installation, “The Play Station SF”, soon to be a temporary part of the Market Street sidewalk in downtown San Francisco.

We tested interactive kinetic bike sculptures, this one hand cranked and featuring a MonkeyLight Pro 256-LED wheel installation.

We also played with a teammate’s last minute fun addition – two hand made zoetropes created on horizontal spinning bike wheels.

There will also be a kinetic bike sculpture created from corrugated hose, to add a sound element.

A fun canopy to create color and a sense of place . .

And three spin bikes with a box full of games and challenges to play on them!

“Present Ground” now open at Hayes Valley Art Works

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Site-specific art installations by local artists are now live at “Present Ground”, a collection sited at Hayes Valley Art Works from Oct 1- Nov 5. Visit the site from Fri-Mon 12p-5p at the corner of Fell and Laguna Streets.

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I spent one very busy week busily prototyping my piece, OPEN/OPEN. From Lowe’s runs to geometry sessions, to midnight tests in the alleyway outside, it wasn’t clear if the piece would actually work onsite.

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Construction was designed with outdoor use in mind – including a strong wind.

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I learned the challenges of trying to construct a piece of public art in a tiny one-bedroom apartment with not outdoor space. It just doesn’t work. Not only was it impossible to lay out the fabric pieces, we ended up performing some dangerous moves to drill the holes (and hopefully, managed to clean up all the metal filing before the next bath).

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Collaborator Josh was on hand for a very, very hot installation day. Here, we test tensioning the piece. I intended it to be installed at a slant, but higher up. The natural bowing of the nylon webbing over 20 feet made the piece sag more than intended. The manpower you see here was sufficient to tension the piece, but attaching it to the 10-foot EMT conduit pipe caused the pipe to bow, so we decided not to tension it further.

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Here I am “interacting” with my piece.

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As intended, it looks cool in the wind.

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Poke around the construction site to find other unique installations . . like “The Hole To Bury Your Emotions In” and a honeybear.

OPEN / OPEN

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I’m currently hard at work on team urban design The Play Station SF, going live on downtown San Francisco’s Market Street October 6-8.

Now, I’m busy testing materials for another project that has just been confirmed! I’ve been selected to install a site-specific piece at an upcoming show entitled “Present Ground”, hosted by Hayes Valley Art Works.

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The Art Works is a community art space located in SF’s Hayes Valley neighborhood, and aims to activate an empty construction lot behind a condo development (which was recently constructed over the former Hayes Valley Farm site). HVAW is a temporary space in this city of development, and true to its nature, all of the artworks installed will also be temporary.

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On view Oct 1-Nov 5, my installation “OPEN/OPEN” comprises an overhead kinetic fabric piece that simultaneously attracts attention visually, while also delineating space in an unprogrammed site and blocking unrestricted peering inward to the site by neighbors and pedestrians.

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Construction materials are nylon cordura, webbing, swivel bolds, and EMT conduit pipe.

The public opening for “Present Ground” will take place at Hayes Valley Art Works at Laguna and Fell Streets on October 1 from 4-7 PM.

The Play Station SF

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Keep your eyes peeled for a new outdoor fitness and play installation that will be popping up on the sidewalk of Market Street in downtown San Francisco this fall. I’m part of the team behind “The Play Station”, a concept proposal that was accepted by the Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and the San Francisco Planning Department to be part of this year’s Market Street Prototyping Festival. 

Our team has been engaged in a brainstorming and concept development process for the past couple months and we’re excited to share our project progress with you: 

Play is for everyone. But there’s really nowhere to play on Market Street. Thousands of people will walk by this spot or wait for the bus – but they won’t play. Step into The Play Station and experience Market Street in more fun way. Placing free, public workout equipment in a public space is a radical way to invite everyone to workout, play, and feel good – right on a city sidewalk. Community starts with a shared experience. The Play Station invites anyone to look up, get curious, and start playing. Don’t just wait – play. How far can you go while you wait for the bus?

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After researching current challenges and needs on Market Street (above, a visual of a typical bus stop), we’ve recently moved from concept development to prototyping some of the moving parts. 

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Team Play Station recently had the opportunity to get feedback from the public at an open house along with other artists and designers. We debuted our kinetic hand-cranked bicycle sculpture prototype, complete with installation of a 256-LED programmable Monkeylight PRO donated by our new friends, local business, and bike fun advocates Monkeylectric over in Berkeley. 

Stay up to date on our progress by following #mspf and #playstationsf and by adding your name to our email list over at www.theplaystationsf.com – or come find us October 6-8 on Market Street between Ellis and O’Farrell Streets! We’re open to collaboration (activities, games, cyclecomputers and more), participation (lead a game or activity during the festival) or feedback (how to make our installation safer and more interactive), so please get in touch. 

Playland at 43rd – A Brand New SF Park(ing) Lot Playspace

Neighbors, designers, and families teamed to create a low-cost, low-intervention flexible play and gathering space in what was formerly a very large asphalt-paved school parking lot in San Francisco’s Sunset District. 

Even on a wet, cloudy day, these photos clearly show the effort made to create a bright, colorful, welcoming space. Overhead nylon paracord delineates a pingpong table and outdoor seating, and colorful painted murals break up the asphalt surfacing. 

A newly built plot of raised beds freshly planted with greens frames the new skate park, in the back, with the magenta spires of two climbable “San Francisco Hills” donated by participants in last year’s Market Street Prototyping Festival. 

Green Alleys Pop-Up Class

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i recently had the opportunity to engage with stanford d.school again, pitching in on a fun “pop up class” which took place in a set of alleys between San Francisco’s Noe and Mission districts. the class, which invited a multi-disciplinary group of students to participate, along with neighbors and city officials, was designed to introduce students to new tools for observing spaces and also to learn about neighborhood-level sustainability, public space, and urban ecology efforts. 

i help the group start getting comfortable in the alley space, and get to know one another, with a fun interactive game of “walking tag” (more difficult than it sounds!), then d.school teaching fellows hannah and nihir led the group on to the main part of the day – observation in the alleys. the group was generously hosted by neighbors on the alley, who are active participants in the neighborhood’s “green alleys” action plan to improve the environmental sustainability and community resiliency of their little corner of San Francisco.

the workshop participants broke into groups based on different “lenses”, including: stormwater management, culture and politics, and stewardship. each group took a walk throughout the mapped areas, noticing (and noting) elements that stood out to them within a particular lens, such as drainpipes that dumped directly onto pavement, murals, native plants, unmaintained property, seating, color, and scent. 

concluding the workshop, students marked areas of particular interest, success, or future improvement on a large map of the area, and shared back what they learned about neighborhood and community work, environmental sustainability, and design thinking. 

Palm Springs

we had a fun visit to palm springs recently, but its clearly not a place designed for people. between the multiple lane, high speed, one-way roads, the “disappearing sidewalks”, the lack of crosswalks, and the heat (at least part of the year … so what’s wrong with the rest of the year?), its not a place I’d probably choose to spend a lot of time. after a brief and somewhat disappointingly deserted foray to downtown, and a short (>5 block) walk to a nearby attraction – of which only 20% of the walk involved sidewalks, crosswalks, or any pedestrian infrastructure whatsover (and no crosswalks or intersections anywhere near the attraction….what?) and during which we saw zero other people walking or outdoors at all – we ended up just sequestering ourselves at the hotel and pool. which was great! but we didn’t need to travel 9 hours for that. we also took a short, strange, moderately fun bike ride to the museum of art, on the “Designated Bike Route” which basically was just the road on the edge of town, where the valley hits the mountains and there’s not much development (or destinations….to bike to?) then on to the museum, where we were also the only bikes in the rack. 

its interesting, wierd, and frustrating, to spend time in a town built almost exclusively to rely on the automobile as a planning and transportation device, from the heyday of the first zenith of auto culture. (is today one? i suppose it is, functionally, but maybe not culturally?) the last photo, above, shows how even driving into a vacation a Polynesian-themed motel was set up to give the best possible experience to drivers, as they entered through a dramatic gate.