Rochester Residents Given Chance to Change Urban Environment with Call for Proposala

You could play a role in the future of Rochester and have a physical structure of your own creation on display in the city. 

PlaceMakers Prototyping Idea Jam held last Wednesday night wants to make this possible.  The event brought together Rochester residents to collaborate, integrate, and create prototypes- or models testing a concept- to form a healthier, more connected, urban environment.

The event, co-hosted by Destination Medical Center, Rochester Art Center, and Rochester Downtown Alliance, put public design right into the hands of the Rochester community, giving anyone a chance to walk in the door with an idea and turn it into an actual physical structure on the streets of Rochester in only three months.

The Prototyping Idea Jam was facilitated by Ray Boyle and Jake Levitas, co-founders of Our City, a non-profit run out of Oakland, California that works with communities to utilize public design to improve cities. 

But what exactly is public design?  Public design is something that’s created by the public, with the public, for public good, in public space, as explained by Our City.  Public design uses public infrastructure and the built environment in an outdoor space to change some aspect of that environment, in this case, to create a healthier city. 

This Prototyping Idea Jam is part of the PlaceMakers Open Call for Proposals, where Rochester residents- or really anybody- can submit public design concepts that utilize Rochester’s built environment to create a vision of a healthier city.

A previous prototyping workshop held in April identified seven core values that Rochesterites think are vital to a healthy city: nature, connection, accessibility, inclusivity, art, and food.  Applicants are encouraged to create a prototype that encompasses one, or more, of these focal areas. 

The Open Call for Proposals ends June 17th, so get your applications in soon!  Ten selected projects will receive a stipend of $2,000 and have the option to fundraise more capital if needed.  Three projects will also be selected for storm water management on the 3rd Street Ramp.  Two additional projects will focus on the 3rd Street Parking ramp concrete underside. 

Teams have until September to build a 12’x12’x12’ prototype of their idea.  The prototypes will be showcased in the public PlaceMakers Prototyping Festival September 15th-17th along 3rd Street between Broadway to 3rd Avenue SW.

At least fifty people walked in the door for the Prototyping Idea Jam last week.  And not many left until well after the three-hour session was over. 

For the average person, it’s pretty hard to conceptualize transforming some structure you see on your daily walk into something new.  Something that people would actually want to interact with that reflected one of these seven core values.  I was a skeptic going in, thinking I would just sit by passively and listen to what ideas other people developed. Our City walked everyone through an open exercise to get the creative juices flowing, and pretty soon everyone was scribbling away, drawing out their ideas.  Some were insightful and beautiful.  Some were ugly.  Some were just weird.  Some looked like a drunk kindergartener drew them.  Wait…that was mine. 

But the point is, everybody in that room came up with some idea, whether they chose to share it or not.  Everybody developed a concept that had the potential to change Rochester’s urban environment.

What public design ideas did Rochester citizens envision to change their urban environment to support a healthier, more connected, inclusive city?  One person came up with an idea for art filled bike lanes.  There was a concept for portable gardens.  A live social media and event feed that could contain giant emojis.  A stationary bike that played music when pedaled.  Painted artwork and poetry that would appear under certain weather and environmental conditions.

At the end of the night, nine teams formed to support some of these ideas and hopefully submit an application in the upcoming weeks.

The Open Call for Applications is not limited to the people who were in that room last Wednesday night.  It’s open to all of us.  Do you have a great prototype idea that could benefit the city’s health?  Do you want to see some change?  This is our opportunity to take- or leave- to see some change and help to mold an evolving urban environment. 

For more information and details about the prototype application, click here.  Teams will also be looking for help and experts as these projects move forward.  Keep checking social media to see how you can help.