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Saturday, June 10 • 9:30am - 9:50am
Street Lab: Design Considerations for Pop-Up Urban Placemaking

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Street Lab is a Non-profit creating pop-up programming and placemaking in New York City. We serve all 5 boroughs and work with community organizations, city agencies and BIDs. We create custom-designed furniture, objects, and programming to bring people together and activate Open Streets, Plazas, and NYCHA courtyards. We pop up by invitation of our partners and deploy objects with our staff for several hours per engagement. Street Lab strives to create equitable access to public space through beautiful and meaningful programs and objects that work together as pop-up urban placemaking to improve the urban environment, strengthen neighborhoods, and bring New Yorkers together.

Street Lab designs both programming and objects. Street Lab’s programs are drop-in and open-ended. Programs are appropriate for children and adults of all ages and abilities. Our programming is customizable to feature community groups or local artists and our signage and materials are offered in multiple languages, adjusted regularly for access by the communities where we pop-up. We have seated programming like our open-air reading room, block building or science programs. We also have active programming like our obstacle course, designed to respond to closed playgrounds and lack of play space for children during COVID-19 that remains popular.

We custom design the objects that support programming. Well-designed objects create a sense that something special is happening and invites community to participate. Design considerations for creating pop-up public space include use of durable and lightweight materials, safe and sturdy construction, and repairability. We also practice a knock- down modular approach for easy assembly, moving and storage considerations, scalability and replication. Along with our existing programs, we have started to design objects that encourage casual gathering and relaxation. We are currently working on new objects focused on urban cooling as a part of NYC’s climate resiliency strategies.

Our research and design methodology relies on repeated community engagement. Our staff is on the street working in different neighborhoods every day, returning to the same streets many times per year. We meet with community members, local organizations, and government to understand their programming and placemaking needs and deliver objects back to the street and provide programming that supports their goals whether it’s a safe place for kids to play, a communal meal, or a visioning session about the very street they are sitting on. Our designers are out on the streets with program staff evaluating use as well as new opportunities for programming and object design and there is a constant feedback loop for non-design staff to give feedback and new ideas both informally and during all staff brainstorming sessions around new designs. We rigorously test all programs and objects with community partners and utilize a rubric to evaluate potential and ongoing programs and design. We evaluate our designs for equity and inclusion, community participation, access, and comprehension as well as visual considerations around creating simple, emotional experiences and enjoyment for communities across New York City.

avatar for Hannah Berkin-Harper

Hannah Berkin-Harper

Adjunct Associate Professor, Pratt Institute
Hannah Berkin-Harper is an Industrial Designer and educator.  She is the Design Lead at Street Lab (streetlab.org), a non-profit that creates pop up programming and placemaking in New York City where she works with New York City agencies on new designs for use in open streets and public spaces. Hannah teaches Undergraduate and Graduate courses in the Industrial Design and Interior Design depart... Read More →

Saturday June 10, 2023 9:30am - 9:50am EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)