On the evening of February 25th, the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics hosted an informal forum to answer your questions about the Invitational. This presentation provides an overview of the Invitational.
Public Space Invitational
T H E P U B L I C S PA C E I N V I TAT I O N A L
A D V I S O R S
Project partners advising on the PSI include City agencies and an outside partner at Design Museum Boston.
These organizations will also be part of the review process.
2012 - 2013
Streetscape Innovation Fund
The Streetscape Innovation Fund (SIF) was $1 Million of capital funding used to test new ideas in the
streetscape. This included large projects like the artistic lighting of the Northern Ave. pedestrian bridge and the
smart parking sensors in the Innovation District. There was also a portfolio of smaller projects.
The next few slides are examples of SIF projects. City Hall To Go is the City’s take on a food truck serving up
city services like the ability to pay a parking ticket from the curbside of your neighborhood street.
In 2012, Boston experienced ﬁve cyclist fatalities, four of them from large trucks or buses. One response
included the installation of sideguards on Public Works trucks to prevent cyclists from slipping under the rear
wheel after a side impact. This is an example of something you might not think about with publi space. In our
view, it’s an idea that is low cost ($1,200 - $1,800) and can make a big impact on the streetscape.
PHOTO: METRO BOSTON
Parklets are an interesting way to activate the street - through programming and passive use. This is also an
example of a permanent seasonal application, since it is removed in the winter for snow plowing but returns
each year in the warmer months.
Pulse of the City - public art that plays music to your heartbeat. Four of these were installed around the city.
Again, this is a relatively low-cost ($5,000 +/- each) installation the evokes the feelings of discovery and
wonderment we are seeking.
Seat-e is a product from the MIT Media Lab, a solar bench that charges your smartphone. This project was less
than $4,000, is durable, and easily scalable.
Other than being founded by people with funny hats, we have at least one more thing in common with
Philadelphia. The City of Brotherly Love also has a Mayor’s Oﬃce of New Urban Mechanics oﬃce. Last year, our
sister oﬃce ran a civic design challenge and received a number of interesting response. It got us thinking about
replicating the concept of an “RFP-lite” idea competition for small improvements to public space.
Boston has a very strong creative community. It’s the city of Meds, Eds, and Archs. It has a high concentration
of world-class design ﬁrms. We have engineers who ﬁgured out how to put a highway underground, while using
the tunnel they were building to support the highway above. The city also had the ﬁrst subway train in the
nation. We are clearly a city of innovators.
The goal with the Invitational is to tap into this creative and engineering talent, and not scare it away with an
overly bureaucratic process.
This is an invitation to everybody to rethink some of our City’s largest assets. 33% of land in Boston is public.
56% of the land owned by the City is a street or a sidewalk. Plenty of room to play.
It’s space, not rocket science
PHOTO: VIVA VANCOUVER PHOTO: DEZEEN.COM
PHOTO: FLICKR-CURTIS NEWTON PHOTO: BIKERADER.COM
As we move towards designing and constructing more complete streets in the City – that are green, multi-
modal, and smart – we know that those streets are more about people than they have been in past decades.
There are small interventions that can move us towards this vision of streets for people.
Help Us Make Public Space
Intuitive + Delightful
The main goal of the Invitational.
How do we improve the medians and plazas, not just in the downtown area, but in our neighborhoods, like in
front of the Strand theater? How do we make the places we congregate more enjoyable? How can we soften the
space students walk through on the way to school?
We are not going to be able to change the polar vortex microclimate of City Hall Plaza with this project, but
maybe we make ﬁnding the entrance easier. This project is not to replace large capital projects for the building,
but aims to rethink small portions of its functionality: wayﬁnding inside, queuing on the second ﬂoor,
incentivizing the stairs as a path of travel, and creating spaces to congregate on the 3rd ﬂoor are all possibilities.
Boston City Hall
(random awesome designs)
The PSI has three categories.
The Streetscape: Roads, plazas, sidewalks. Both downtown, but particularly out in the neighborhoods as well.
City Hall: We are looking for small ideas to improve the interior user experience and places like Fisher Park, where the food
trucks gather. This could be the entrance area, the 3rd ﬂoor mezzanine, stairwells, and other underutilized spaces.
RAD: Designs that defy classiﬁcation. We aren’t entirely sure what will ﬁt in this category, but collectively we’ll know when we
sense of discovery
We want projects to give a sense of discovery. With a lot of our eﬀorts on the streetscape - whether it’s Pulse of
the City, City Hall To Go, or seat-e - people are simultaneously puzzled, but captivated.
And the key point is - people of all ages feel compelled to play or interact with these projects, even if it’s
something they don’t understand yet.
surprise + delight
We also want projects to surprise and delight.
build your own adventure
But playful projects that surprise and delight can also be really useful and provide tangible beneﬁt to the
Earlier, we mentioned that our sister oﬃce in Philadelphia held a civic design challenge that inﬂuenced the
In Philly, Public Workshop build and designed an adventure playground and outdoor maker space with 70 teens
at the Smith Memorial Playground. They wanted people to build their own adventure.
Philadelphia City Hall
choose your own adventure
Public workshop ended up winning Philly’s civic design challenge. And they decided to apply their sense of play
to Philadelphia City Hall. They’re designing a series of games called “Choose Your Own City Hall Adventure” to
help people navigate a complex City Hall.
We also want to touch on something that’s a little more practical.
You should think about the durability of your project. We learned a lot from Pulse of the City.
This is what it looked like when it was launched at Christopher Columbus Park. Shiny and new.
And the next day, it looked like this. Someone stole the heart.
So things happen. People steal. The weather gets bad. And a lot of it is outside of your control. But we want to
see that you’ve thought about the risks and general maintenance of your project. This is the largest roadblock for
our Public Works department - getting a maintenance agreement.
So when developing your idea, you may want to think about partners in the community who will help your
maintain your project.
Now, we just want to go back to one of our favorite projects - seat-e, the solar-powered seats that charge your
It has four key characteristics that made it successful.
It’s functional, solving a common everyday need.
It’s durable. They developed special material to make it especially resistant to the elements.
It’s inherently scalable and could be redeployed throughout the city.
And we happen to think it’s beautiful.
Let’s talk a bit about process.
We have a simple Google Form online to ﬁll. We wanted to make sure the Invitational was very accessible.
document the design process
renderings of ﬁnal piece in context
(note the dimensions!)
The most time-consuming part is submitting a poster.
You don’t need to submit a physical poster. We just need an image or PDF that you’ll email to
We want you to document your design process. How did you come up with your idea?
We also want you to provide sketches of the ﬁnal piece, both on its own and in the context of where you imagine
it living. (And it’s important that you tell us about its size and weight!)
Goal to Implement 4 to 6 Projects
Finally, the goal is to implement 4 to 6 projects. Hopefully, one will be yours!
What excites you about this?
Question for a speciﬁc dept?
What should we do next?
Now, we would like to open it up for questions.