Gait keeper: Situating a responsive paver system in the public realm
Ortloff, George Christian, Jr.
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STATEMENT OF ISSUE Understanding and reading the movement and occupancy patterns within a public space can help inform the effective design or use of that space. While GIS and other tracking systems can facilitate the recording of people's movement like never before, making that information accessible or visible to others is less than a popular idea. The goal of this project is to develop a material that can be installed in a public space and will convey a record of the people moving through it, while maintaining their anonymity. The art of making has reached a point that its technologies offer the opportunity to inject into the built environment a material layer that is no longer static and merely space-defining, but one that can convey information as well. The challenge is to develop such a material system that will seamlessly integrate into the existing library of ubiquitous forms and surfaces that make up our public spaces, while introducing real-time information about the occupancy and use of the space by other occupants and users. SIGNIFICANCE OF ISSUE The introduction into the public realm of such a display that is immediately visible, recognizable, dynamic, and whose data is accessible can engage and inform two distinct interested groups. First, the users of the space can see the graphical display and understand its significance as a map of the occupancy patterns of other users - neighbors, coworkers, or strangers from the same community. This function is toward a greater connectedness and awareness of others and a glimpse at their way of negotiating and experiencing a public space. A second group is that of the urban designers and city planners who may make use of the gathered data for input into design of new spaces or for the reconfiguration of a site based on any patters or trends that this may reveal. This can be a quick tool for assessing connections, not only within the space itself, but with places outside the project boundary. Additionally, the material surface may be a dynamic test site for integrating objects that affect occupancy patterns and may reveal how their introduction to a public space can modify users' behavior. But perhaps most importantly, beyond any technical or analytical relevance, this issue can challenge our expectations from what is a typically inert ground surface. METHODOLOGY The process relies first on the development of a prototype that is to be used to test and refine its operation. Generating its specific functions requires considerations of the physical nature of human movement, of activities in public space, and of the population of objects, surfaces, and actors therein. Its material is designed to allow the information to stand out as the subject of interest, and to otherwise blend in with other immediate local materials. At this stage the project briefly addresses weathering and other conditions related to an actual installation in a public space and the strength of the material. The last aspect of the project speculates on the material's impact and attempts to create a paradigm for a strategic deployment, though, while separate from a specific site, identifies conditions within a city that could benefit most from an installation of this system. EXPECTED OUTCOMES The development of the system will hopefully result in a product that would be realistically marketable to communities who are interested in revealing the nature of the people who occupy their spaces. It can be a tool but also a piece of art. Its expectations as both pose the challenge of a particular scenario for its design that promises fascinating results.