Case Study: Architecture that Engages

It is a challenge to design a public space. The factors to consider are immense; pedestrian patterns, vehicular patterns, vegetation, seating, safety, material longevity, weather..it goes on.  We are excited to be working with OPEN Asheville to design a parklet in downtown Asheville.  We will be turning 2 adjacent parallel parking places into a parklet, or mini-park.

As part of our research, we have been looking for art, architecture and installations that engage the public. We wanted to find projects that are transformed, if only temporarily, by users of the space.  It’s a concept that can be found in other design projects of ours. Below we have catalogued a few of our favorites.

Crown Fountain

Location: Millenium Park, Chicago
Artist: Jaume Plensa
Concept: Modern day gargoyle
Design: Two 50′ tall glass block towers that shoot water out of the faces’ mouths. It has become a water park for the city of Chicago.
Notes: While this large scale project relies heavily on digital technology; it also was transformed by users. Originally, the water was supposed to just gently flow into a reflecting pool. Residents & tourists had an unplanned idea-to play in the water.

Crown Fountain at Millennial Park

Tidy Street

Location: Tidy Street, Brighton, England
Architects: Jon Bird
Concept: Document electricity usage of  a small street using sidewalk chalk.
Design: Residents were given hand held monitors and recorded their daily elecricity output.
Notes: This project has it all! Users generated the street art; very little technology was actually used. Best of all-the public accountability actually produced change-the street reduced its energy consumption.

Electricity usage markings on the road in Tidy street

The Tidy Street project used simple materials (washable paint) to record the electricity usage over a period of time.

The Brasserie

Location: The Seagram Building, NYC
Architects: Diller, Scofidio + Renfro
Concept: emphasizes social aspects of dining
Design: Uses LCD screens to capture diners on the street before they enter. Then, as they make their entrance; the screens show them on the street; seconds prior.
Notes: While this gesture doesn’t exactly cause people to do anything differently; it certainly catches you off guard. Again, this project relies heavily on digital technology. I think it creates an awareness of the user-they’re being watched!


The “video beam” at The Brasserie

The Megaphone Project

Location: travels, recently in Asheville, NC
Artist: Australian Artists-click here for the full list
Concept: Uses bright red megaphones to create sound & play; a world of private and public broadcast.
Design: Encourages those who encounter the megaphone to express themselves; the art is created by the users.
Notes: This project is great because it doesn’t rely on technology at all. The space is entirely activated & transformed by the users’ audible choices.

The Megaphone Project

Pulse Park

Location: Madison Square Park, NYC
Artist: Rafael Lozona-Hemmer
Concept: Comprised of a matrix of light beams that shine on the central oval of Madison Square Park. The lights are triggered by users heart rates.
Design: Users place their hands on grab bars, not unlike those found on exercise equipment, and their heart beat illuminates the park.
Notes: This project takes a human element, a heartbeat, and makes it art. It makes a field in a park a canvas. Similar to the other samples, the form and experience are fleeting. The users stand for a bit and watch their light beat interact with others and then the move on.


Pulse Park


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