QR Code Fences in Soho

QR Code Fences in Soho
Allison Mooney
  • 24 july 2008

The fences are sending me secret messages!!!

These are not the ramblings of a paranoid schizophrenic. They are what anyone with a QR code reader on the corner of Houston and Broadway in Manhattan might say.

A group of New York-based architects and media artists (led by Carolina Cisneros, Carlos J. Gomez de Llarena and Mateo Pinto) recently studded the fences lining the downtown construction site with plastic color blocks. These form QR codes, which can be decoded with the proper software on a picture phone. From their blog:

The Houston Fence, located on the corner of Broadway and Houston, is an temporary outdoor installation inspired by QR-code patterns. These bar codes, when scanned with a mobile phone, allow pedestrians to seamlessly connect to online content such as web sites, blogs and others.

Meant to be read in different scales and speeds (pedestrian, cars, bikes, etc) the two sided fence uses put-in cups as ‘pixels’ to create a permeable pattern. This pattern partially fills in the sixty chain link fences set up alongside Houston Street as safety barriers of the Houston corridor reconstruction project.

The installation, occupying four corners, seeks to identify each segment with color codes that relate to the site, the traffic and the city. Shades of green, yellow, blue and orange will mutate with the progress of the construction site.

As part of the project the team maintains this blog where they document the progress of the fence and its interactions with the public. A mobile version of this blog can be accessed from any device that can read QR-codes.

The Houston Fence project is sponsored by the New York City Department of Design and Construction and is part of the second phase of the Re:Construction program originally launched in November 2007 by the Alliance for Downtown New York and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. The group also did a similar project on Fulton Street.

Pretty sweet. Though unfortunately, we couldn’t get our hands on a compatible phone to read them, so we don’t know what they say.

This pretty much encapsulates the entire problem in the US right now for barcodes–scalability. The fact that I tried out six, yes SIX, phones and none of them could download a popular QR code reader (Kaywa), is a problem. Sprint and Nokia are beginning to pre-load barcode reader software, but we could still use a standard technology. In Japan, QR (Quick Response) codes rule, but in the US, Semacodes seem to dominate. All in all, the codes are just too inaccessible at the moment. But heck, it’s art–not everyone is supposed to get it.

[Via All About Mobile Life]

Note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that the project was done by Kaywa

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