There is one more project that I developed as part of my thesis, which I hadn't yet revealed.
In the spirit of empowering New Yorkers to get out of the office at lunchtime, I wanted to create a portable seat that you could pop out whenever you needed a place to sit on the streets of NYC.
My primary point of creative departure was a plain old brown paper bag. Brown bags have so much character, and they are perfect icons of lunch (especially in these "dire economic times"). And it turns out, when you flip a bag upside down, it pretty much looks like a seat.
I did a ton of exploring. I made seat models that could open and close like a bag, seats that could be used as a bag, seats that folded like origami, seats with inner mechanisms...it went on and on...I think I started to drive myself a little bit crazy trying to figure out how to make the chair fold up easily, while also making it feel new and different, while also capturing a sense of "bagness".
So here comes the twist in the story: My furniture class was also involved in a semester-long competition sponsored by Wilsonart laminate. Participating students had to design a sittable chair covered (mostly) in Wilsonart laminate. We also had to incorporate the iconic Wilsonart laminate chip somewhere into the design. Also, the chair had to look really good in a print ad.
I love a good competition, so I decided to try and create a chair that worked for both my thesis, and for the competition. (You see why I haven't mentioned this project before....it got pretty twisted...)
In the end, my seat doesn't fold up, but it does sort of look like a piece of origami meets paper bag. I am happy with it, but I do think it lost its link to the streets. Live and learn, but at least it looks good in my apt :)
After finalizing the design (white foam core images below), I hired Adam Apostolis in the metal shop at Pratt to make it in steel. He did a wonderful job, and it was hard to cover up his beautiful work.
But cover it up I did. Below is the final image of the chair, outfitted in hand-cut Wilsonart laminate pieces. My design will be featured at the ICFF at the Javits Center this May as part of the Wilsonart booth, along with the winning design and those of several other finalists.
Pop Up Lunch is about creating places to eat but more than that, it is a celebration of potential.
On that note - my husband and I went for a stroll this weekend on the High Line. I know, I know - so much has already been said about this magical gem of a strolling ground. But I don't want to talk about its design, I want to talk about the visible shift in human behavior that seems to come out of its design.
If the term "pleasant" could be visualized and brought to life, it would be the High Line. It was as if the space itself had a calming effect and everyone was on their best behavior. It was extremely crowded, but no one was irritated or pushing. No one was in a rush, everyone was there to stroll. Cell phones and other digital devices were put down for the moment. It was like urban catnip.
We were surrounded by people from all ages and walks of life - tourists, natives, romantics, entire families and even teens (when is the last time I saw a teenager in the city??!!!). It offers great people-watching but it also offers more than that. It offers a reminder that it is a great big world out there and it would do all of us well to get out of our little bubbles a little more often.
I had heard about a woman who was suing (Friends of the High Line?, the City?, Field Operations?) because she had tripped while she was on the High Line. I do understand how she tripped. There are indeed gaps and I was so engaged in the views surrounding me that I almost went down a couple of times. But it seemed like a small price to pay for such a rewarding experience. Maybe I'd feel differently if I'd gotten hurt...
But maybe the gaps in the walkway are not a problem to be fixed but a design element to which we need to get better acclimated. Because when you are on the High Line, it feels almost too good to be true. It is as if we aren't used to public spaces this interesting, and we are still a little bit star-struck, a little bit clumsy. We don't usually have to take in so much at once. We don't usually have to watch our step and stay on our toes.
In time, I am sure that the High Line experience will become a little more natural to us, a little more familiar. But I hope that it will always keep us inspired and engaged.
My sister just got back from Norway, where she took a picture of this neat little bottle stool designed by Studio Helsinki. Oh Finland - so cold, so clever. Wish I had thought of it but still love love love it.
As part of my thesis project, I wanted to better understand some of the driving principles and precedents behind the planning of public spaces today. I asked around and was directed to the influential urbanist William H. Whyte and his book and video of the same name, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.
As part of his Street Life Project, Whyte studied how ordinary people use the streets and public spaces of New York (more info at PPS.org). He did this for 16 years! While the insights he gained from his research seem so obvious, Whyte was the first one to take the time to uncover them. As a related aside, he was also the man behind the redesign of Bryant Park in the 80s. If it weren't for him, movable chairs might never have taken off in the public spaces of our city.
There is a whole series of YouTube segments from the Street Life Project, each one about 10 minutes long. Hurray for YouTube! While getting away from the computer at lunchtime is always a good thing, coffee break YouTube watching is encouraged. Here's the first one:
With the end of the Aughts, I thought I ought to tell you about what's been going on and what's up ahead...
First of all, it has been a great start to 2010. Pop Up Lunch has received over 15,000 visitors in the last 5 days, thanks in large part to some super coverage on Lifehacker.com. My previous benchmark of awesomeness (1,000+ visitors in one day) was set back in November after MidTownLunch bloggage. Totally shattered! Thanks a bunch Lifehacker. Google Analytics, you are truly great as well.
As for next steps - here is what is going on:
Gaining employment is my #1 priority for the new year. After 2.5 years in grad school, I can't wait to get back to work! With that said, I have read through all of your comments, questions and feedback. Your responses have reinvigorated me about the potential for keeping the Pop Up Lunch dream alive.
The well has not run dry and there are a number of new adventures and opportunities that I'd like to explore, ranging from exhibits and pilot tests, to partnerships and full-on production. I will update you with new developments as they happen. In the meantime, I will continue to blog with thoughts, observations, sightings and ideas as they come.
When the weather warms up, I also plan to host another Pop Up Lunch event in NYC. I have some time to plan it out but off the bat, I am thinking there will be a DIY component, for maximum luncher involvement. We'll also see if I can't embrace Twitter by then.
That's all for now. Check back when you have a chance.