Guerilla Street Museum

Project: Guerilla Street Museum – Market Street Prototyping Festival, April 9th – 11th, 2015
Date: Fall 2015
Class: Advanced Studio
Professor: Neal Schwartz

This studio is interested in reasserting architecture’s role in shaping and defining the city. The now rigid disciplinary limits that establish the hierarchy of urban planning (territories), urban design (zones), and architecture (objects) has marginalized our ability to produce new visions of the city. These regimes, intended to produce consistency and predictability, leave architecture as a purveyor of introverted objects, subordinate to a larger totalizing urban schema. The studio explored the limits of architecture as a form of urbanism; to push back on the bureaucratic form of the city.

As a means of recuperating our role in the city, the studio engaged the unlikely policy mechanism of eminent domain. Uttered only with contempt and dismissed as an act of cruelty, eminent domain is both the most powerful and least considered invention of modern urbanism. The mechanism entails a government’s right to selectively appropriate private land for the greatest public good; a mediation of competing interests and collective values central to the idea of the city. Rather than accept the vilification of eminent domain, the studio reevaluated its potential opportunistically. Eminent domain was be deployed in a highly experimental fashion, as a counter-project to modern planning, producing exceptions in the city’s measured structure.

Urban street beautification projects, like many large-scale urban renewal efforts of the past, often confuse “beauty” with cleanliness, sweeping the unsavory realities of the street aside. This studio develops designs for a Guerilla Street Museum as a way to engage and activate the street while simultaneously revealing and critiquing what beautification often seeks to hide. The work of this studio has been selected to be one of fifty projects included in the upcoming Market Street Prototyping Festival this April 9-11, an event sponsored by the San Francisco Planning Department, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the Knight Foundation to develop new ideas to reinvigorate this urban thoroughfare. The festival seeks a broad range of full-scale design prototypes to improve the street as a more engaged and vibrant urban space, and provides $2,000 of funding to build each prototype. The studio is also sponsored by CCA’s ENGAGE program as part
of the Center for Art and Public Life.

The client for our prototype contribution to the festival is Larkin Street Youth Services, which provides a range of services to homeless and at risk youth in San Francisco and has been particularly critical to the young LGBTQ community here. We will work with Larkin Street’s outreach and arts programs to develop a “museum of the street” kiosk serving to collect and display creative expressions of life on the streets as well as serve as a touchstone for outreach and communication of the mission of Larkin Street. Each studio meeting will be in a workshop format, beginning with quick design charrettes and large scale prototyping in January and February. March is devoted to fabrication, with installation the beginning of April. The final weeks of the semester will focus on the documentation of our work, but be less intensive. The work will be highly collaborative and will result in a full-scale functioning construction displayed prominently on the sidewalk outside the Twitter headquarters at Market and 9th Street. We are looking for highly motivated students ready to engage in a real world fabrication project with a real world client.