Talking Public Space and Urban Intervention With San Francisco's Rebar Studio
INHABITAT: Rebar touts itself as a design studio “operating at the intersection of art, design and ecology.” What role does environmental sustainability play in your designs?
MATT: We’re looking at playful ways to provoke a conversation around public space — particularly how the current set of conditions is not a sustainable use of space in the city. When you look at how much urban space is used exclusively or predominantly by the automobile, you are looking at a planning strategy that is outdated, outmoded, and does not adequately express contemporary values.
INHABITAT: What can you tell us about upcoming Rebar projects?
MATT: We just got back from Sydney [Australia]. The project we showed there is called “BubbleWare” and it’s essentially a set of yoga balls sheathed in oversize nylon bags. We collaborated with Timbuk2, with whom we share a building, who offered their materials and sewing expertise to help make them. They look sort of like molecules, and are basically oversized inflatable public furniture. We’re hoping to bring those out in public in San Francisco and other parts of the country, to enliven underused public spaces and promote conversation around how ordinary citizens can participate in improving public space. They’re rapidly deployable, they’re fun and they’re inflatable, so they’re sort of the opposite of your average urban materials., They’re soft, they’re nonlinear and they’re colorful. We deployed them in an alleyway in Syndey and provoked a range of reactions, from studied ignorance to uninhibited engagement. But either way, they cause people to think more expansively, even if just for a moment, about the range of possibilities for urban public space.
INHABITAT: So can we look forward to seeing those around San Francisco soon?
MATT: Yes, definitely.
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