A project by David Michon, made possible by ASK US FOR IDEAS, Where We Stand has asked 15 leading design agencies, designers and design partnerships to help reimagine public spaces to fit the new socially-distanced demands we must place on them, as we grapple with a global pandemic. Choosing an admired public space, each agency eschews the go-to language of caution and restriction, discovering beautiful ways to encourage safe behaviour and reoccupy our parks, streets, market squares and sports fields with a feeling of ease, enjoyment and even festivity.
Open public spaces have always been crucial for cities, contributing to our physical and mental well-being, our sense of community, and as sites of trade. In grappling with COVID-19, the value of these spaces is greater than ever.
What these agencies have produced are but a small number of possible creative strategies to make public space, in the COVID-19 era and after it, safer and more welcoming – strategies that can and should be taken seriously both for the public realm and in private spaces where people gather, such as transportation hubs, shopping centres or cultural venues.
We believe that thoughtful, smart design can and will help to revive the cities we love.
Participating agencies, in alphabetical order:
Accept & Proceed
Sthuthi Ramesh x Samar Maakaroun
WGI alumni – Es Youn, Kinzie Burke, Na Rojanusorn, Qiang Wang
Wkshps x Studio Pandan
Our solution provides a way to engage in dialogue in the age of COVID-19. During these unprecedented times, we must encourage open and comfortable dialogue within our communities and our personal circles. Domino Park in Brooklyn was selected to demonstrate the intervention’s application leveraging acoustic (parabolic) architecture and thoughtful mark-making techniques to revolutionise how we spark dialogue within our public spaces. Face-to-face IRL dialogues shifted due to COVID-19 causing social isolation during the quarantine. Interaction in a safe, comfortable and healthy way was conceptualised as we reintroduce this skill into our public spaces.
World’s Greatest Internship, a new model for a changing industry, handpicks hybrid creatives to embark on a six-month journey at top creative companies. Kinzie Burke, Na Rojanusorn, Qiang Wang, and Es Youn, alumni of the “Second Edition,” contributed to this project. They’re passionate creatives starting their careers with a variety of specialties.
Domino Park is built on the grounds of the former Domino Sugar Refinery, since the park’s opening in 2018, it has been a local favourite. We selected this site because we have experienced it as a popular spot for outdoor relaxation, and recently seen that the park has been very proactive in adding social distancing measures, in addition to social distancing circles on the grass areas. We wanted to push and evolve another part of the park to welcome guests in a safe and innovative way. We found the reimagining of the pyramid seating steps and splash pad to be a great way to demonstrate how we could holistically approach the idea of creating a healthier space overall.
The splash pad feature at Domino Park needed to be turned off due to social distancing, for the safety of its users. We re-imagined this central area in the park and its existing structures and features. We saw great potential in the colourful grid of lights that are used on the splash pad and repurposed them in a meaningful and playful way. The goal was to bring people together while having healthy and surprising conversations in this space.
Instead of taking the approach of separating each other, we wanted to encourage togetherness while safely distancing. We encourage distancing through the tactics of experiential interventions and visual language. We use mark-making techniques to serve a purpose both of beauty, storytelling, and safety that is non-threatening.
We avoided cues of restriction, control, and caution by adding human interaction into our world again in a safe and effective way. Many individuals are feeling isolated due to quarantine, we wish to bring back organic and unique conversational encounters by creating conversation starters, using the beautiful centrepieces of Acoustic Mirror Conversation Chairs.
The approach can evolve over time as new engaging conversation topics are presented. As time goes on topics could change with current events, the delivery of conversation starters could evolve to an app or even cards that are shared in the space when there is less worry around the spread of the virus. The intervention is adaptable to different levels of need in distancing because the core of the interaction remains relevant.
We were inspired by the physics of the parabolic curve, though we did not create this technology but are leveraging it in a refreshing way for the times we are living in. We were also inspired by the works of Douglas Hollis, an artist who pioneered using parabolic curves. Another inspiration of ours was A Minute of Silence by performance artist Marina Abramovic; we saw how trust and vulnerability can lead to connection.
The use of Acoustic Architecture and Acoustic Mirrors as an aid in having safe and comfortable conversations is highly replicable. Although we leveraged existing structures and lighting at Domino Park the concept can be incorporated in many settings from urban to rural, park to corporate.
The greatest asset of Domino Park is the park’s existing structures as well we saw a great advantage in the coloured lights and downlighting on the stairs to aid in marking and path-creation. The greatest challenge was in how to spark conversation without being too overbearing. We also ran into difficulties on how to create meaningful markers that spoke to the goals of the space, while still aiding in the creation of pathways and keeping six feet of distance.
Public spaces are important to our experience of the World's Greatest Internship. WGI allows young creatives the experience of a lifetime by inviting them to embark on a paid six-month journey with stops at top creative companies doing top work while exploring the cities they are located in.
By being introduced to new cities for such short periods of time, the need for public spaces was pivotal in taking in the culture, atmosphere, and community of people in any given city. We always used public spaces as a location where we could get to know our fellow creatives, know the city we were located in, and the locals.
The value of public space has changed because of the coronavirus pandemic in the sense that it is harder to have conversations with individuals in passing, these organic conversations are what keeps us from feeling socially isolated and lonely.
We have seen the need for “difficult” conversations to be had especially with the current events happening in our world. We think the more we listen to differing perspectives within our community the more we can truly build more happy and healthy communities.
We applied lessons from how we experienced new cities and getting to know new communities and the people who inhabit them. Since WGI has a variety of different perspectives from the diverse individuals who were chosen to participate, we had to get comfortable with our fellow creatives that we were experiencing new cities with – we found the best way to do this was through listening and open communication.
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