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San Francisco Plans to Produce More Fog to Build Community Spirit

The Market Street Prototyping Festival will bring a giant dining room, a roving selfie machine, and other wackiness to the city.

(Market Street Prototyping Fest)

If there's one thing San Francisco doesn't need more of (beside techies, some might argue), it's fog.

Yet next year, the municipal government plans to deploy a machine that spits out even more vapor. Called the Fogplane, the device is tentatively scheduled to sit at the UN Plaza near the Civic Center BART station. Its creators say that it's an artistic tribute to the burg's signature pea soup: "Fogplane focuses on San Francisco’s microclimates and the way its inhabitants relate to, create, recollect in memories their city as they walk through it and experience it." Curious pedestrians—and people who just don't feel clammy enough—will be able to walk through it and receiving a light misting.

The artificial-weather generator is among scads of interactive exhibits that San Francisco has in the works for next April's three day-long Market Street Prototyping Festival. The city's planning department has teamed up with the Knight Foundation and the local Yerba Buena Center for the Arts to crowdsource ideas about "improving our famed civic spine and how we use it." Many of the 50 winning projects announced last week are playful (a glowing drum circle, a theater made of fungi), many are educational (a pop-up library, a disaster-planning station), and some are just weird, like the Fogplane.

The organizers of the fest explain a bit about its purpose:

The goal of the Prototyping Festival is to unite diverse neighborhoods along Market Street, encouraging these vibrant communities to work with designers, artist and makers to build a more connected, beautiful San Francisco.... A diverse jury of more than 50 makers, artists, thought leaders, and community stakeholders reviewed the hundreds of submissions received by the October 10th deadline. Ideas were chosen based on their creativity, sense of community, potential to make Market Street a more vibrant public space and ability to identify Market Street as uniquely San Francisco.

All in all, it sounds like it should be a trippy delight for the city's tech geeks, neo-mystics, and legions of potheads. Here are a few of the other winning entries, listed in order of increasing bizarreness:

"Shimmering Stars": an "interactive light installation with organic patterns triggered by footsteps."

"Tenderloin ExerTrail": an "outdoor urban exercise path to encourage social fitness."

"Mobile Selfie Booth": a roving camera station that "explores the potential of selfies to support a deeper urban conversation."

"Relax": a "playful outdoor stage just for you and your friends."

"Mineral Benches": a "crystalline seating installation that honors the history of minerals in SF."

"Three For Life": a "set of oversized furniture and art equipment that makes people of any age feel a bit smaller again."

"Urban Living Room": a bike pump-equipped chill pad that "creates a place for residents, employees, and commuters to take a break, and perhaps meet."

"Habit(At)": an "educational safety net that catches falling Western Tiger Swallowtail caterpillars."

"It's News to Me": a "large-scale replica of SF Chronicle's Herb Caen's typewriter," with the keys acting as seats.

"Public Anemone #1": "urban street furniture that advocates for provisional, ambiguous, and playful interaction with the diverse populations of Market Street."

The winner for wackiness goes to "NeuroFlowers," an "interactive art piece that brings people together to explore and visualize their brain activity and practice controlling their mental states to make robotic, LED flowers bloom and change color."

(Market Street Prototyping Fest)

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.