Prototyping on Market Street

When cities reconstruct transit infrastructure, they often fail to see the street as a public space. In San Francisco, the Market Street Prototyping Festival exemplified a different approach, where the street is prioritized as a place for people to gather and spend time together. It was developed as an idea-generation tool to inform the long-term reconstruction of a 2.3-mile stretch of Market Street–a major cultural, commercial, and transit corridor.

The experimental festival connected artists, designers, and “makers” with the neighborhoods along Market Street and encouraged them to develop and test ideas to enliven the sidewalk. Prototypes included everything from ping pong tables to rock climbing walls, public bathrooms to art galleries, performance stages to classrooms, and interactive digital stages to community wishing walls.

Public life tools were used to measure the Prototyping Festival’s success at bringing together a diverse group of people and inviting them to linger. The evaluation of the festival took multiple forms, including observational tools like Age + Gender Counts, People Moving Counts, and Stationary Activity Mapping. These tools were particularly useful in understanding the impact of specific prototypes, as well as the festival’s impact more broadly. Volunteers used Intercept Surveys to ask questions related to social mixing in the space.