Exploring prototyping to enhance urban design

Nature, connectedness, and accessibility.

Photo credit: Emma Jeanson

In twenty minutes, those are the three words more than 100 Rochester community members settled on to describe what they believe makes a healthy city.

The rapid-fire brainstorming event was part of a Community Conversation About Prototyping, a public event hosted by Destination Medical Center, Rochester Downtown Alliance, and the Rochester Art Center. It featured Our City co-founders and prototyping festival organizers Ray Boyle and Jake Levitas.

In the context of urban design, prototyping is the process of building temporary installations to test how new ideas can change the way a city looks. Prototyping has been used successfully in California to rethink how public spaces can be used, and Rochester will host its own prototyping festival in September.

Photo credit: Emma Jeanson

“The event was meant to inspire Rochester residents to answer questions about how we create change and how we build change,” says Patrick Seeb, DMC director of economic development and placemaking.

Seeb said there will be unprecedented investment in Rochester’s infrastructure in the coming decades and that those investments should reflect Rochester’s goal of becoming a city for health.

“It’s important to involve the community in the process of connecting Rochester’s urban landscape to the theme of health and well-being,” Seeb says.

Photo credit: Emma Jeanson

To get Rochester’s collective creative juices flowing, Boyle and Levitas talked about prototyping festivals they have helped organize in the San Francisco area, including one event meant to reimagine how San Francisco’s Market Street could become more people-friendly.

Some of Market Street’s temporary installations included a six-sided ping-pong table, a multi-user instrument, and a grass-covered rocking chair.

Boyle and Levitas emphasized the importance of community engagement in prototyping festivals. They said anyone can be involved as long as they have a pencil and a good idea for transforming their city.

“We want people to see the power of art, design, and place to transform how people engage,” Levitas says.

Rochester’s prototyping festival will be held September 15 – 17, 2016.