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UP:SF was the second stop on the tour (the festival has already been to Singapore), and it was presented by Gray Area Foundation for the Arts in partnership with Intersection for the Arts and the 5M Project among other supporters. Projects were sourced through an open call for proposals and a 48-hour makeathon where teams had two full days to conceive and execute ideas that emphasized the creative use of digital and physical tools to improve the urban environment.

Each of the 23 projects showcased at UP:SF is completely open source, can be replicated in cities around the world, combines elements of the digital and physical, and costs less than $1000 to build. At budget, these projects might take on a slightly different form (like being fully secure and weatherproofed), but even at this low price point they stand to teach us a great deal about our cities.

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For the flora and fauna lovers, the Fruit Fence is a planting structure that can attached to just about any public fence. The urban orchard springs forth from AgBag-style technology, complete with care instructions and a unique hashtag. The 10-Mile Garden proposes to utilize some of San Francisco’s 9,000 existing fire hydrants and transform the porous concrete around them into succulent beds. The PPlanter is another forest-friendly idea that takes on the challenge of public urination by strategically placing reconfigurable urinals that are outfitted with modular biofilters to treat wastewater.

For the technologically inclined, the Darkness Map visualizes the city’s after hours luminosity on a human scale through crowd-sourced data collection. The Street Sensing project allows folks to track auditory and particle pollution using an Android app and existing open-source Arduino AirCasting platform. The data is then pooled and shared on via a Crowdmap.

The festival is a temporary instance of what San Francisco–or any city–might look like if certain social and political barriers were removed and collaboration was truly embraced. The Urban Prototyping initiative will continue to act as a catalyst for the innovative ideas that build our economy and strengthen our communities. Next stop: London.

+ Urban Prototyping

Photos by Allison Leahy for Inhabitat