2006. The Digital Mile was a major intervention proposed by the City of Zaragoza, Spain to better position its enterprises, institutions and citizens in the technological 21st century. A large stretch of land in the heart of the city was proposed for redevelopment as public and private space integrating digital technology with the built environment. Our team at MIT was asked to envision, design and propose program for this project.
My contribution included proposals for several built interventions and digital services to engage citizens in considering the potential of their role in the city through technology. Some of these proposals were refined and realized for a 2008 World Expo that took place in Zaragoza.
For the printed prospectus, I conceived and produced a series of cartoon scenarios illustrating these proposals.
Digital Water Curtain. One of the proposals I co-conceived was a digital water curtain: a sinuous, motion-sensing armature that opened and closed to allow citizens to pass through it as well as digitally "printing" patterns in the water. The concept was refined and demonstrated by Carlo Ratti Associati and the MIT Senseable City Lab for the 2008 World Expo held in Zaragoza.
Memory Pavement. Intended to record pedestrian activity across a given space using responsive ground surfacing. Digital pavers each contain a sensor and and LED. Each time a footstep hits a paver, it emits an increment of light. As time passes, paths of light are illuminated where pedestrians have tread the most; untread areas emit no light. Pedestrians are made to consider the physical impact their travels leave on the city as well as to become aware of typical and atypical paths.
2007. My master’s thesis (PDF, 10MB) in urban planning focused on mobile user-generated and location-accessed digital annotation of physical places with text and media, and how this emerging field can be useful to urban planners and designers. The thesis establishes a taxonomy of modes of spatial annotation (both physical and virtual); catalogues annotations made in two neighborhoods each for the projects Yellow Arrow (in New York City) and [murmur] (in Toronto); and develops a preliminary methodology to analyze and compare trends in distribution, placement and content of annotations. So-called ‘placelogging’ content is found to distinguish itself from other forms of spatial annotation by its application a wide range of public and private places with predominantly subjective, first-person content.
Participant interviews and research on related technologies are used to support claims that placelogging could be used to identify sites of shared meaning in the city as well as to foster place attachment, claim to space and social connections among participants. Uses in community development are considered through three case studies of implementation. Uses for revealed meanings are proposed in preservation, identification of development priorities and sensitivity of response in urban development.
2009. Proposal for an urban design intervention. Brooklyn’s Red Hook Ballfields are a community destination for soccer leagues and spectators and a regional destination for foodies seeking cheap and authentic Latin American eats. But after Department of Health (DOH) regulations forced many of the food vendors to reclocate from in-park tents and tables to food trucks outside the park perimeter, the elbow-bumping atmosphere of the ‘mercado’ was lost. Vending took place on the street, while seating remained inside the fenced-in park. Architecture for Humanity’s New York chapter held an ideas competition soliciting design interventions that could address both DOH’s concerns for sanitary food preparation conditions and the Parks Department’s regulations for vendors, while accounting for the impermanence of the vendors’ presence onsite.
Our team—urban designer Michael Haggerty, architect Bryan Ackley and myself—prepared a design solution that turned the primary barrier, the perimeter fence, into the central organizing element of the market. Outfitting it as a utility channel with electricity and sinks would allow some vendors to return to the park’s interior, with tents and grills; we recommended the Vendors Association purchase two or three food trucks for shared food prep areas that met inspection requirements. Vendors who had already invested significantly in new trucks could keep them. Slight ridges and depressions in the lawn were envisioned to echo the new topography of the fence and to create newly defined and nearby areas for seating. The proposal was awarded an Honorable Mention in the competition.
2010. ResilientCity.org held a design ideas competition to solicit new strategies from urban practitioners in planning and designing cities to be resilient to large-scale shocks like climate change and peak oil. Urban designer Michael Haggerty and I prepared a response to the prompt of designing for food self-sufficiency in an urban neighborhood.
Through study of the struggling West Side neighborhood in Newark, NJ, we developed a strategy that created a hierarchy of food production and processing facilities capitalizing on existing neighborhood assets, vacant properties, community history and workforce mobilization. Facilities were connected by a green corridor system designed to be a safe public space permitting distribution and exchange. We proposed networks of social and physical infrastructure to allow the neighborhood to generate and manage its own energy, water and heating and waste systems. The proposal won the competition’s grand prize.
Concept development and writing was a shared enterprise; I laid out and developed design language for the proposal and produced photo-illustrations and diagrams.