An ongoing exploration in user-generated urbanism

Project Background

A Design Problem

How effectively and efficiently does urban space fulfill a broad range of human needs, both individual and social? In addition to satisfying environmental regulations, commercial imperatives and transportation efficiencies, a socially ecological urban system should provide efficient, effective opportunities to rest, relax, play, socialize, or do nothing. And taken to its logical extremity, such a system would provide individual users or user groups the means to adapt the urban infrastructure itself to meet a particular set of needs at any particular time. The ability (and right) to program certain urban spaces is transferred thereby from civic agencies to the public, devolving from institutions to individuals. The dynamic urban situation that results is better adapted to contemporary human needs and provides fertile territory for the continuing evolution of urban form.

A Design Solution

To advance this socio-ecological or participatory understanding of ecological urbanism, Rebar proposes Bushwaffle. Bushwaffle is a prototype user-generated modular street furniture system first commissioned by Droog Design and Scott Burnham at the 2008 Experimenta-Design biennale in Amsterdam. Bushwaffle is designed to aggregate and tessellate, enabling its users to improvise architectural structures, shapes, toys and temporary communal spaces. Bushwaffle also function as a visual and experiential critique of — and response to — the dehumanization of the public realm. Over the last decade many city governments have systematically removed street furniture and other urban comforts in response to fear of terrorism, and to discourage loitering and panhandling. Places that once fostered vibrant street life and activity are now barren desolate landscapes. Such urban public spaces, often characterized by hard, cold, geometric surfaces, generate a narrow bandwidth of human behavior. Bushwaffle — brightly colored, soft and curvy — temporarily transforms the psychogeographic contours of the typical urban surface to create an environment for relaxation, experimentation, social interaction and play. chairs