The Market Street Prototyping Festival held its first festival in April 2015. Over the course of three days, Market Street came alive with more than fifty models, or “prototypes,” ranging from performance spaces, relaxation zones, educational spaces, green spaces and interactive art installations. Each prototype was conceived and built by members of the community—everyday citizens, artists, designers, urbanists, architects, etc.—with mentorship from professional design expert partners and feedback from residents of San Francisco.
The Market Street Prototyping Festival builds upon the Better Market Street project, a five-year, multi-agency effort led by San Francisco Public Works to re-establish, improve, and enhance San Francisco’s civic backbone.
Our city’s reaction to the first Market Street Prototyping Festival event was overwhelmingly positive. The festival engaged 590,000 people over three days and thousands more engaged online. Together, we instigated inspiration, joy, and connection on our streets. Together, we have paved the way for a new way of thinking about how we engage all San Franciscans in shaping the future of their city.
From there, Market Street Prototyping Festival has continued to test and learn how these projects can introduce activation and engagement with the public. From a month long showcase in the Central Market area to learn more about long-term installations to installing projects off Market Street in public places.
The Market Street Prototyping Festival builds upon a larger effort to redesign Market Street. Since 2011, multiple City agencies have focused their attention toward improving and enhancing Market Street’s public space through the Better Market Street project , a five-year, multi-agency effort led by San Francisco Public Works to re-establish, improve, and enhance San Francisco’s civic backbone. Surveys conducted during public outreach for the Better Market Street project found that placemaking ranked as the highest priority among respondents. Placemaking is a planning and design strategy that draws inspiration from the local community to create public spaces that promote health, happiness, public engagement, and well-being. Active and engaging sidewalks are intended to invite diverse public life, create continuity along Market Street, and promote opportunities to integrate walking, biking, and public transit. The purpose of the prototypes/projects created for our festival is to test how to introduce activation and a sense of play on the sidewalks. The learnings and responses from these tests will be incorporated into the long term built project.
The Market Street Prototyping Festival is a natural progression of the innovation displayed by the Urban Prototyping Festival (UP), a pioneering program of citizen engagement in urban design developed in 2012 by San Francisco nonprofits Gray Area Foundation for the Arts and Intersection for the Arts. Included on the selection jury for UP was San Francisco Planning Department, who then went on to commission a prototype from the UP festival to be placed in a community market.
Afterwards, Neil Hrushowy, manager of the San Francisco Planning Department’s City Design Group, approached the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to support a public, community-based effort to help imagine ways to activate the sidewalks of Market Street. Committed to promoting ideas that advance community engagement and foster the arts, the Knight Foundation encouraged a partnership between the San Francisco Planning Department and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Finding unity in their commitment to collaborative, people-centered placemaking, the Market Street Prototyping Festival was born.