The Play Station on Market Street


For a few days in October, Market Street got a little friendlier, a little more colorful, and a little more fun. The Play Station was live on the sidewalk, next to a bus stop just down the block from Powell Street. Our team was selected to join the Market Street Prototyping Festival, with support from the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the SF Planning Department.


Thousands of passersby from all walks of life stopped to interact with our kinetic bike sculptures or to take a spin on one of our three free public exercise bikes. Above, a young girl spins the hand-cranked LED bicycle wheel featuring a programmable LED light display from Berkeley’s own MonkeyLectric.


We were fortunate to have wonderful weather for the entire installation. Here, visitors take the bikes for a spin, and the last rider plays a game of “Newspaper Delivery”. The game, a simple toss game designed by team mate Ivan Rodriguez, was a crowd pleaser as visitors got competitive about slinging the newspapers into a faux windowbox from the bike.


A young visitor checks out one of the zoetropes designed by team mate Michael Huang, a popular attraction we placed to create a “soft edge” to our installation and draw people’s attention and interaction. Visitors could even draw their own zoetrope design on receipt paper. The zoetropes are mounted on bike wheels.


The overhead canopy I designed from 4-way stretch mesh had the unexpected effect of creating dappled light and shade (we didn’t expect much sun), hung on a structure designed by team mate David Yao. It also achieved my personal aim of creating a sense of color and inviting space on drab Market Street.


The whole design team. Not pictured – friends and significant others who helped load, carry, shop, paint, install, and volunteer on the festival days! We’ll share more insights shortly – data collection led by team mate Deland Chan will reveal more insights on how many visitors we had, how many interacted with various parts of The Play Station, and what their thoughts were about public space and Market Street.

The Play Station SF is coming!

This weekend, my team tested concepts for our upcoming installation, “The Play Station SF”, soon to be a temporary part of the Market Street sidewalk in downtown San Francisco.

We tested interactive kinetic bike sculptures, this one hand cranked and featuring a MonkeyLight Pro 256-LED wheel installation.

We also played with a teammate’s last minute fun addition – two hand made zoetropes created on horizontal spinning bike wheels.

There will also be a kinetic bike sculpture created from corrugated hose, to add a sound element.

A fun canopy to create color and a sense of place . .

And three spin bikes with a box full of games and challenges to play on them!

The Play Station SF


Keep your eyes peeled for a new outdoor fitness and play installation that will be popping up on the sidewalk of Market Street in downtown San Francisco this fall. I’m part of the team behind “The Play Station”, a concept proposal that was accepted by the Yerba Buena Center for The Arts and the San Francisco Planning Department to be part of this year’s Market Street Prototyping Festival. 

Our team has been engaged in a brainstorming and concept development process for the past couple months and we’re excited to share our project progress with you: 

Play is for everyone. But there’s really nowhere to play on Market Street. Thousands of people will walk by this spot or wait for the bus – but they won’t play. Step into The Play Station and experience Market Street in more fun way. Placing free, public workout equipment in a public space is a radical way to invite everyone to workout, play, and feel good – right on a city sidewalk. Community starts with a shared experience. The Play Station invites anyone to look up, get curious, and start playing. Don’t just wait – play. How far can you go while you wait for the bus?


After researching current challenges and needs on Market Street (above, a visual of a typical bus stop), we’ve recently moved from concept development to prototyping some of the moving parts. 


Team Play Station recently had the opportunity to get feedback from the public at an open house along with other artists and designers. We debuted our kinetic hand-cranked bicycle sculpture prototype, complete with installation of a 256-LED programmable Monkeylight PRO donated by our new friends, local business, and bike fun advocates Monkeylectric over in Berkeley. 

Stay up to date on our progress by following #mspf and #playstationsf and by adding your name to our email list over at – or come find us October 6-8 on Market Street between Ellis and O’Farrell Streets! We’re open to collaboration (activities, games, cyclecomputers and more), participation (lead a game or activity during the festival) or feedback (how to make our installation safer and more interactive), so please get in touch. 

Playland at 43rd – A Brand New SF Park(ing) Lot Playspace

Neighbors, designers, and families teamed to create a low-cost, low-intervention flexible play and gathering space in what was formerly a very large asphalt-paved school parking lot in San Francisco’s Sunset District. 

Even on a wet, cloudy day, these photos clearly show the effort made to create a bright, colorful, welcoming space. Overhead nylon paracord delineates a pingpong table and outdoor seating, and colorful painted murals break up the asphalt surfacing. 

A newly built plot of raised beds freshly planted with greens frames the new skate park, in the back, with the magenta spires of two climbable “San Francisco Hills” donated by participants in last year’s Market Street Prototyping Festival. 

Transforming a Parking Lot Into a Pop-Up Cargo Container Village

One corner of an enormous parking lot in San Francisco’s Mission Bay neighborhood has been temporarily transformed into a lively pop-up “village”, featuring food trucks, seating, planters, retail, and a beer garden all based on repurposed shipping containers. The colorful concept, dubbed “The Yard”, features Gehl Architects’ methodology of activating public spaces and focusing on human interaction. 


Photo by Emily Peckenham

The Mission Bay neighborhood has gone through numerous changes in its lifetime, beginning with its origins as, well, an actual bay. The bay was slowly filled in over the past two hundred years of San Francisco’s urbanization, seeing use as a shipyard, industrial zone, dump, paved over empty space, and soon, will feature condos (are you surprised?).  

The part of the project that may be a bit unusual is one of its aims – to “create community” and a sense of place –in advance of condos and mixed use development breaking ground. It will be interesting to see how and if this concept succeeds. 

For now, you can enjoy a beer at Anchor Brewing’s pop up outdoor beer garden (watch out on game days – its sure to be packed to capacity), and The Yard project hopes to activate the space with free public performances and happenings of various kinds over the coming months. 

Read my whole article and check out a photoset from my visit to The Yard last week (and don’t forget to try the food – the greasy, delicious Filipino BBQ pork from Señor Sisig filled me up for the entire day!) 

sf parklet update!

ritual coffee, on valencai street in san francisco’s mission district, features a fun new parklet. the tiny public space (created from two former parking spaces) is now home to a “shipwreck” complete with ships beams, sand dune plantings and a tiny anchor! patrons of nearby ritual coffee enjoy sipping their drinks in the sun and passersby turn their heads to puzzle out how this nautical vessel made its way a good few miles inland from the bay. check out my full piece on the project, designed by boor/bridges archictects, here. 

Your #wednesdaymusic. Sultry slipping down to the tail end of this week. 

Drive west and chase the sun out to the edge of the concrete where it crumbles down into the silky cold sand. Where the endless churning of the briny waves on repeat washes out the loop of prosaic nothingness you’ve been thinking about all day. 

Photo via Conger Moss Guillard Landscape Architects

Have you seen a Parkmobile yet? You might have if you’ve been walking in downtown San Francisco near the MoMa or Yerba Buena Gardens! Be on the lookout for these bright red “dumpster” style boxed gardens – with attached benches – to roam about the district. Portable mini-gardens, the Parkmobiles will be moved periodically from parking space to parking space, taking advantage of a city permitting process for construction debris bins. CMG Landscape Architects has created Parkmobiles as part of the 10-year Yerba Buena Street Life plan, which aims to improve seating (thank god!) inadequate crosswalks (jaywalking downtown anyone?) and streetscapes (finally – a break in the gray concrete under gray skies!). Check out the cheery red mobile gardens next time you’re in the area. You can read more about the Street Life Plan and the Parkmobiles in my most recent article for Inhabitat. 

Treasure Island Redevelopment – Is It Really “Green”?

Aerial rendering of SF (left) and Yerba Buena/Planned TI Development (right) via Skidmore, Owings + Merrill

The SF Board of Supes recently gave the go-ahead to a billion dollar plan to redevelop Treasure Island, a flat and wind-scoured artificial island built from fill in the 1930s. Envisioned as a a “green utopia”, there are serious doubts as to how sustainable a 19,000 inhabitant island community can be, considering it will be built on toxic weapons dumps and accessible mainly by car. Read more in my recent Inhabitat post, with architects renderings.