The future of public space is being defined by Civic Harmony

The future of public space is being defined on the streets of San Francisco this weekend. The Market Street Prototyping Festival has uncovered 40 prototypes that are bringing new forms of civic engagement, reimaging how pedestrians use public space, and offering innovative approaches to strengthening local economies. One of the incubation prototypes, Chime, is particularly inviting.


The future of public space is being defined at the Market Street Prototyping Festival. To accomplish this, the Festival showcases “prototypes,” ranging from performance spaces, relaxation zones, educational spaces, green spaces and interactive art installations for a three (3) day festival and invites the public to interact with them and meet the designers. The goal of these prototypes is to reinvent public space to be more inviting and engaging to everyone. Each prototype was conceived and built by members of the community—everyday citizens, artists, designers, urbanists, architects, etc.—with mentorship from professional design expert partners and feedback from residents of San Francisco. 

The 2016 festival is comprised of two cohorts of prototypers, 40 first time prototyping teams and 10 of the most innovative teams from the 2015 festival, who are being incubated to take their designs to a more durable state. Both cohorts exhibit a high level of innovation in design. One of the incubation prototypes, Chime, is particularly inviting. 

Chime, an interactive musical instrument, is designed to respond to touch and provide feedback through sound by its residual swinging motion. A simple push on one wooden lever sets into motion a series of sounds, explorations of connectivity and smiles which has been described by music lovers and enthusiasts as a multisensory combination of visual, auditory, and tactile features. The designers of Chime, report that they have personally witnessed “the discovery process pedestrians have experienced in observing Chime.” 

The designers confirm that they have intentionally designed Chime to be accessible and easy for people of any age, fitness level or musical ability to operate and enjoy. This can be seen in that Chime is activated by a simple push on the vertical levers relaying kinetic motion from the player to the opposing side. This creates a truly community oriented experience as players from opposite sides can see glimpses of someone on the opposite side playing Chime through the structure and, more importantly, they can feel their energy through Chime’s kinetic motion and quickly respond through their own exchange of energy in pushing the lever in the opposite direction. 

The designers have also documented Chime breathing life into underutilized public space and reinvigorating areas pedestrians would ordinarily ignore without a second thought. Instead, we see the introduction of Chime has brought a moment of pause, whereby pedestrians often gaze at Chime’s mesmerizing motion and loose themselves, if only for a moment, in the beauty of Chime’s aesthetic. These interventions are a critical missing component in today’s modern world where pedestrians are driven from point A to point B, attached to a screen. 

This may be the future of public space. We should all take notice. 

Written by Scott Watkins – Urban Designer, Civic Harmony

Images can be found to accompany this article @CivicHarmony

Media Contact
Company Name: Civic Harmony
Contact Person: Scott Watkins
Phone: 925-864-8026
City: Oakland
State: California
Country: United States