Crowdsourced City Design: 4 Designers Take on San Francisco

Last month, GOOD Magazine and the San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR) asked city officials to present a "call for problems"—ways to improve local public education or create a more effective citywide recycling program. Six local designers were assigned the "problems," and their responses were presented last night in a panel as part of AIA SF's Architecture and the City Festival moderated by our own Alissa Walker. Below, we look at some of our favorites.

San Francisco Design

The design firm Min Day was assigned the task of making movement safer along the Embarcadero waterfront. Min Day's response was simple enough—turn the Embarcadero promenade into a "slow space," filled with colorful speed bumps, painted bike lanes, and greenery-adorned walkways. It's a feasible, cheap, and attractive solution inspired partially by PARK(ing) Day and the High Line in NYC.

Mike and Maaike

GOOD asked industrial design firm Mike and Maaike to take on a near impossible challenge: reinvent San Francisco's Broadway from a porn mecca that's virtually empty during the day into a vibrant commercial space. Instead of proposing to tear down down the porn shops and turn the street into a NYC Broadway clone, Mike and Maaike came up with the "Signs of Good Fortune" project, which plants interactive electronic signs into the landscape that generate new fortunes each time they are driven over or stepped on. Instead of trying to overshadow the neon-filled porn shops, the project works alongside them, all while embracing San Francisco's Barbary Coast gold rush heritage of adventurers seeking their fortunes. Mike and Maaike's project also involves more pedestrian-friendly walkways and a reproduction of Italy's Spanish Steps at the corner of Kearny and Broadway.

San Francisco United School District

Kuth Ranieri Architects attempted the overwhelming task of creating a scalable program that improves local public education. Using the Willie Brown Jr. Academy in the Bayview neighborhood as a case study, Kuth Ranieri proposed adding a daycare, community garden, public orchard, shared playground, food bank, and more in an attempt to make the school an integral part of the neighborhood. Currently, 90% of Bayview students go to school elsewhere in the city, so the area lacks a sense of community. By bringing state-of-the-art schools to low-income areas, the firm believes that neighborhoods can become more cohesive.

San Francisco

San Francisco is already notorious for its stringent recycling and composting laws, but Volume was nevertheless given the challenge of creating a more effective recycling program. The design firm proposed the "Bin There Done That" program, which eliminates individual trash and compost pickup, and halves the size of recycling bins. Instead, neighborhoods are given communal trash and compost bins that contain bag compactors and allow residents to shell out cash for garbage on a pay-as-you-go basis. The solution cuts down drastically on garbage truck fuel use and removes the issue of storing the three huge trash bins currently found in every San Francisco home.

None of these designs will be implemented tomorrow, but city officials present at the panel all seemed interested in exploring them further. Cities have too long ignored the role of good design in urban planning—perhaps events like this can at least get the ball rolling.


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