Rethinking City Space For Greater Public Use

Rethinking City Space For Greater Public Use

From an urban rendition of 'Chutes and Ladders' to a public urinal that doubles as a planter, ideas to reinvent community spaces.

Allie Walker
  • 30 october 2012

The recent San Francisco Urban Protyping Festival challenged participants to imagine new uses for city spaces to create a more community-focused urban environment. Participants were required to include both a digital and physical component in their designs, and the prototypes had to be replicable in other cities. The organizers state the goals of the festival:

To give cities a new way to reinvent themselves; to give citizens a tangible new form of creative engagement; and to spur action and dialog that improves public space around the world through design and technology.

Project submissions ranged from a kit that changes stairs into musical slides to an urban planter that doubles as a public urinal. Below, PSFK looks at five of our favorite submissions:


Finding a public restroom in the city can be quite a challenge; to alleviate the issue, the PPlanter is a public toilet that also adds green space to the city. Modular biofilters are used to treat the waste water, which is then used to water an attached bamboo plant.

The 10 Mile Garden

San Francisco has over 9,000 fire hydrants, and  the 10-Mile Garden proposes using these concrete fixtures as spots for mini gardens.



Have you ever been walking around the city and been caught by a sudden rainstorm? URBAN_Parasol is a modular series of shelter-shade structures made from 3D printed joints and ready made objects. People would be able to find the shades throughout a city through a dedicated app.


Highlights aims to eliminate all of the dark alleyways in a city, making them safer to pedestrians to travel at night. Using digital light projections to illuminate the alleyways, Highlights provides artists with a new canvas as well as pedestrians with greater peace of mind.

Clip + Slide

An urban version of ‘Chutes and Ladders,’ Clip + Slide is a kit that would turn stairs into musical slides. Brightly colored plexi-glass strips clip into existing staircases, and embedded sensors play musical tones when the strips are touched.

For a complete list of the project submissions, see here. What would you do with fences, sidewalks, scaffolding, and even fire hydrants to make the city environment more community focused?

 San Francisco Urban Prototyping Festival


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