Pilot Projects: Six creative design ideas for NYC
“Co-create a better world” is the motto of the American company Pilot Projects LLC. The design and consulting firm was founded on the belief that small things, well designed, can catalyze big systemic changes. They are so right! Take inspiration from their ideas, some of which founder Scott Francisco presents to you. Read More
WHAT AN URBAN PARKING GARAGE CAN BECOME
Almost every major city has them – big parking garages that take up valuable sidewalk frontage with lifeless blank walls. They create car traffic and pollution, and even when they are under-used and inconvenient, it is often difficult to get the political support to tear them down. So what can be done with a (generally ugly) big concrete block in the middle of the city?
Commissioned by the Lower East Side Improvement District (BID), Green Hub is a design project that takes an old, under-used parking structure and turns it into a lively neighbourhood space by introducing bicycle parking, a small cafe, rooftop garden plots, and flexible work space for community organizations.
The concept offers a multi-modal transit hub to encourage less car use in the city by locating sustainable transportation in a vibrant urban location. You have a concierge bike service, good coffee, and fresh garden vegetables all in one place, right off the sidewalk!
You can still park cars there too, by the way, which will provide the revenue to fund some of the other program elements.
What if you could do more at an interstate rest stop than just rest? The Power Playground is a kinetic sculpture that uses your workout to power an air compressor.
Heath and energy – no two issues could be more important or timely. Americans today face growing health issues due to inactivity. They also consume more energy per person than almost any other nation in the world.
Power Playground is designed to help change these trends with an outdoor exercise and energy station. It is a modular human-powered air compressor that anyone can use – and everyone will want to try.
When you spend hours every day on the road, finding a place to exercise is tough. While highway sites (travel plazas and rest stops) are our first target, we are also creating an urban model for bus stop and park areas designed to provide compressed air to cyclists on adjacent bike lanes.
Brooklyn Bridge Forest – restoring a bridge, saving a rainforest
Did you know that the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge Promenade is made of tropical hardwood? Pilot Projects wondered if this fact could be used to actually protect threatened tropical forests. Believing the answer was yes, we set out to see what this would look like:
The aging wood planks of the historic Brooklyn Bridge will need to be replaced in the next few years. The material traditionally used for this job is tropical hardwood, naturally durable but currently obtained through unsustainable practices. Brooklyn Bridge Forest is a proposal that, pending city support, could provide long-term protection of the source forest. It proposes using ethically sourced hardwood for the planks.
New Yorkers could sponsor any of the 11,000 planks. Their sponsorship would not only fund the board replacement by the 2017 deadline, but also a 200,000-acre tropical forest reserve. This sustainable “Brooklyn Bridge Forest” would ensure that the promenade boardwalk has the wood it needs for centuries to come – and the world has one more sustainable forest reserve.
100 Fountains: more beautiful & better than plastic bottles
It is getting harder and harder to justify buying bottled water. It comes packaged in petroleum, arrives by truck, generates tremendous waste, and increases corporate control of the water market. The more we spend on bottled water, the less investment we can expect to see in our public water infrastructure. What's more, New York City has some of the best drinking water in the world, thanks to earlier design foresight that connected the city with well-planned aqueducts, distribution systems, and protected watersheds.
But what if being a New Yorker meant drinking from a network of beautiful fountains? The 100 Fountains competition will bring international artists and designers together for a summer-long exhibition of creative drinking fountain concepts. Millions of New Yorkers and tourists will judge the entries, and the winning entries would be turned into permanent drinking fountains throughout the city. No one would never look at a drinking fountain the same way again!
Could this be the beginning of a drinking fountain revival? Yes. We might even be able to put dent in our disposable plastic water bottle habit, totalling 1.25 billion bottles a year, while creating a new New York City icon – one that represents sustainability, community, and chic urbanity.
Park chairs as gardeners
A lawn is an oasis in the city. It’s a surface that invites people to play, rest, talk, and decompress. A delicate balance of smooth, flat, soft and firm makes grassy areas so appealing. But this balance requires constant care: A lawn needs to be seeded, weeded, trimmed, raked, aerated, and rolled.
Movable chairs pose a problem for lawns. They poke, scrape or cut the surface and dense root system. As if this were not enough, mobile means the chairs have to be light, which is an invitation to theft, not to mention that light often means fragile – too fragile for heavily-used public furniture. Movable chairs in public space are often cheap, flimsy and replaceable.
Pilot Project developed a park chair that would not ‘walk’ away, be blown away or crushed by the use and abuse of the city. A lawn should be gently rolled to stay smooth and firm. Pilot Project’s chair does exactly that – plus it’s movable and sturdy at the same time.
By the way: Hurricane Sandy provided the material for the chair’s slats. Sadly, the storm gave the city an ample supply of the best possible reclaimed wood. Reclaimed tropical hardwood will last for decades with no surface treatment.
Every year 1,000s of bicycles are abandoned on NYC streets. Left for dead, they’re vandalized or stripped for parts, and no one really takes responsibility for the problem. City agencies are not equipped to deal with it, so the decaying bike problem persists, wasting valuable bike parking space and uglifying our sidewalks.
Bike Rescue plans to reclaim, recycle, and restore these bicycles with a team of well-trained young adults. These “Bike Rescue Field Technicians” ride custom pedi-cab recovery cycles, navigate with tailor-made GPS, and treat bike remains with dignity. They’ll be taken to Bike Rescue HQ and given a second chance at life.
The method in 7 short steps:
Spot an abandoned bike (a bike that is clearly not ridable).
Open “Bike Rescue” app and log location and bike condition.
Bike Rescue arrives on the scene (w/ branded pedi-cab, tools, uniform, and GPS device).
The bike is assessed, photographed and tagged.
7 days later, Bike Rescue returns on a pedi-cab, cuts the lock, and carts the bike away.
The bike is repaired using reclaimed parts or properly recycled.
Restored bikes return to even cleaner streets!