2011. A smartphone-based augmented-reality app developed for Freshkills Park, the 2,200-acre former landfill site on Staten Island.
One of the pivotal ways in which we were able to convince visitors of the Freshkills Park site's value as a public amenity was through the views afforded from its massive, grassy hills. Visitors were always enthralled by the 360-degree visual access to New York City and New Jersey and tended to ask many questions about what they were seeing. On individual and even group tours, we were happy to answer these questions, but our answers were not always as thorough as they could be—visitors wanted more information—and there were not enough staff to answer all questions when we began to host larger public events.
We tried printing poster boards of panoramas annotating all the points of interest, but these could only hold so much information, and they also tended to blow away, since they couldn't be easily secured or staked in the ground because of a need to protect the vast network of underground landfill infrastructure. Plus visitors tended to ignore them in favor of looking at the actual view.
Responding to these needs and constraints, I conceived and developed Freshkills Park+ in collaboration with Carlos J. Gomez de Llarena of media architecture studio Med44. The experience was constructed using the Layar browser, which makes use of a phone’s camera, GPS, compass and accelerometer to enhance what is seen with a layer of digital information. Users were able to view the landscape through their phone, and Freshkills Park+ provided relevant information, audio, video, links and downloads in real time.
The app made its debut during the Freshkills Park preview event Sneak Peak in September 2011.