Market Street Prototyping Festival Evaluation

Smaller and Upside Down, Robb Godshaw and Max Hawkin

The Market Street Prototyping Festival encouraged designers, artists, and makers to test ideas to enliven the sidewalks along San Francisco’s Market Street.

The Festival built upon the design process for Better Market Street, a five-year effort to redesign Market Street into a lively and attractive destination with vibrant public life. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the City Planning Department solicited 200 ideas for prototypes, of which 50 ideas were installed on Market Street over one weekend in the spring of 2015. Gehl evaluated the impact of this transformed street.


MARKETSTREET_0_Common Ground_1

Caption: Common Ground, Cloud Arch Studio

Gehl Studio conducted an evaluation and analysis of the Market Street Prototyping Festival to connect the Festival’s process and outcomes with the urban design goals of the Better Market Street Project; festival funders’ goal of promoting diverse, integrated public spaces that support civic life; and YBCA’s goals around creative placemaking and generating culture that moves people. 


Gehl evaluated the Festival according to five themes that address the ways the Festival can impact Market Street and the people who use it.  The evaluation looked at the event both as a one-time festival, and as an idea-generation tool for the redesign of Market Street.  The evaluation themes were: A Street for People, Engaged Communities, Shared Civic Spaces, Opportunity and Access, and Building Capacity.  To complete this evaluation, Gehl Studio worked with 50 volunteers to gather information about the Festival through a range of methods, from intercept surveys, to a public space public life survey, to scoring criteria for each prototype.

We found that in some places staying activities increased as much as 700%, and pedestrian activity doubled in many areas. Our overall findings indicate that creating more invitations for staying and interacting with others on the street leads to a more vibrant public life, and in some cases improved block perception. 


Our evaluation has informed the Better Market Street process including guidance for iterations of the prototypes in the festival’s second yearThe Market Street Prototyping Festival evaluation has been used by festival producers as a tool for selecting prototypes in the event’s second iteration, and has also been used broadly as a way to describe the festival’s goals and impact.