Parasols, Slides and Succulents for Better Cities? SF says, 'Why Not?'

What do all these seemingly unrelated elements have in common? They were just a few of the creative ideas for improving the urban environment showcased at the recent Urban Prototyping Festival held in San Francisco.

2 minute read

October 26, 2012, 9:00 AM PDT

By Erica Gutiérrez


"The city as it exists doesn't have to be the city we live in. These crazy projects could reinvent the urban landscape--and make it a little more fun," writes Ariel Schwartz.

She's referring to the Urban Prototyping Festival, which brings together "performances, food and expert speakers," while focusing on the future of urban innovation. According to the event website, "urban prototyping" is defined as "a global movement exploring how participatory design, art and technology can improve cities." All submissions are judged with the criteria of actual replication and adoption in mind.

This year, the festival "was held in the city's troubled yet evolving Central Market neighborhood", reports Schwartz, showcasing 18 out of the dozens of submissions made by "local residents [aiming] to make the urban environment more livable." Some of the more interesting submissions included "Pulse of the City" allowing passersby to "walk up and measure their pulse" and stress levels, says Allison Leahy. Another entry, "PPlanter", is "a urinal attached to garden spaces", which filters water through bamboo biofilters to water plants.

Another noteworthy example, the "10-Mile Garden", capitalizes on a loophole in San Francisco's law that prohibits parking in front of the city's 9,000 fire hydrants, but that doesn't explicitly state these areas need to be paved. The project, thus, proposes using succulents as a native plant to embellish and 'greenify' these otherwise drab grey areas scattered throughout the city. These are just a few of the many projects that were on display over the weekend, check out the slideshow accompanying the article to view more.

Thursday, October 25, 2012 in Fast Company Co.Exist

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

View of Palos Verdes Drive along Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, California at sunset.

Erosion Threatens SoCal Road, Lloyd Wright Icon

The city of Palos Verdes is closing parts of a roadway to cyclists, citing safety concerns as the land underneath moves between 7 and 12 inches per week.

June 23 - Daily Breeze

Faded image of vacant storefront in rural area with American flag stars painteind on windows.

COVID Isn’t to Blame for the Retail Vacancy Crisis

A drop in demand for retail space began well before the seismic shifts of the pandemic.

June 23 - Slate

Heavy New York City traffic headed toward Holland Tunnel in Manhattan.

Judge Rules in Favor of MTA in Congestion Pricing Suit

Advocates of the program are calling on Gov. Hochul to reinstate the program in light of the decision.

June 23 - StreetsBlog NYC

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.