San Francisco has long been a test bed for innovation when it comes to its streets. With their Pavement to Parks program, the city showed how low-cost parklets and pop-up plazas can make streets much more welcoming, creating new street life where there was once only cars. Now, the city is experimenting with what they call Living Innovation Zones (LIZs), public-private spaces that also feel like design installations. The city thinks these places can become “catalysts for exploration, innovation, and play.”
The idea of the LIZ program is to express in physical form what San Francisco is all about: innovation. San Francisco sees the LIZs as a way to demonstrate the “economic and technological movements that define San Francisco today.” These public installations are people-friendly monuments to the city’s “creative expression and DIY spirit.”
San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said the city’s everyday pedestrians and visitors will also benefit: “this is a whole new approach to activating our public realm.”
The first LIZ is on Market Street at Yerba Beuna Lane. The city gave a spot to the Exploratorium, the city’s museum of science, to create an interactive educational experience. The city says 20,000 people pass by the installation every day, meaning about 7 million will see it each year.
According to The Architect’s Newspaper, the Exploratorium’s LIZ is called Pause, and it was designed by that museum’s Studio for Public Spaces, along with Gehl Architects, and the Yerba Buena Community Benefit District. The installation has a set of “whispering dishes,” a musical bench “activated by hand-holding,” and a “pedal-powered cell phone charging station.”
Shawn Lani, director of the Studio for Public Spaces at the Exploratorium told The Architect’s Newspaper that people may pick up some science while enjoying the space. “Hopefully, you develop proficiencies for seeing space, and that’s a type of learning—it’s not always about delivering that science punch line.”
This is just for the first innovation zone. The city plans ten more.