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Why San Francisco Just Installed a Musical Bench on a Busy Street Corner

April 16, 2014
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Why San Francisco Just Installed a Musical Bench on a Busy Street Corner
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Living Innovation Zones attempt to use public space in creative ways.

Next time you visit San Francisco, take a moment to play on a musical bench activated by handholding. Or stand in front of a “whispering dish” and listen to a friend’s audible whispers from fifty feet away. Or charge your cell phone by pedaling.

These are all part of San Francisco’s new “living innovation zones” (LIZ) program. A partnership between the Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation, San Francisco Planning, and San Francisco Department of Public Works, these installations are meant to encourage residents to use public space for creative interactions.

The first living innovation zone opened at Yerba Buena Lane and Market Street last year, and combines aspects of an art installation and a science exhibit. The zone is called “PAUSE” and was designed with help from Josh Bacigalupi, who works at the Exploratorium’s Studio for Public Spaces.

The Bay City plans to open 10 zones in total like this around town, according to The Architect’s Newspaper.

The innovation zone, which looks like a giant abstract art installation on the corner of a busy street, really does make you pause. And the LIZ program directors hope it will lead to new interactions in areas that aren’t usually used for community purposes.

Project manager Steve Genrich told Architect’s Newspaper: “We’re looking at how technology can be used to activate public space. San Francisco is the innovation capital of the world, [yet] walking down the street there are few monuments to that.”

Now there is — and hopefully there will be many more. As an innovation capital, ideas that begin in San Francisco often spread across the country. So maybe there will be innovation zones in New York City, Chicago, or Detroit soon.

Either way, next time you’re hurrying to a meeting in Silicon Valley, take a moment to PAUSE, and explore the San Francisco’s new space.

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