The High Line, once an abandoned, elevated train platform, has quickly become one of New York's most celebrated public parks. It opened in June 2009, but I hadn't seen it for myself until this February when I climbed the stairs at Gansevoort Street for a class project. I know it's difficultnow that we're in a great rush of spring warmth and allbut try and remember what it was like only a few short weeks ago. It was cold. Painfully cold. An elevated, wind-scraped platform was the last place you wanted to be that day. But scholastic duty called, so my fellow SVA Interaction Design MFA students and I trudged out, ready to jump-start the research for our five week Design for Public Spaces class project.
Our instructor, Jill Nussbaum (Executive Creative Director, R/GA), had tasked each of five teams with examining the rise of ubiquitous technology and how it might alter our everyday experiences with and relationships to place. Each team would spend the next few weeks imagining some variety of technological/ wearable/ networked/ immersive/ social experience for the High Line, to augment its already impeccably carved public architecture. Her brief insisted "interaction designers are critical to crafting these location-aware experiences."
Our projects moved swiftly: from research synthesis to ideation, through user journey roughs to final presentations with esteemed (and cold-sweat inducing) guests Peter Mullan (VP of Planning and Design, Friends of the High Line), Ian Spaltar (Executive Creative Director of Mobile and Emerging Media, R/GA), and Margot Jacobs (Interaction Design Researcher, MA Student, UC Berkeley Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning), not to mention our very own department chair, Liz Danzico. Five weeks seemed to vaporize as we poured through storyboards, concept ideas, interface iterations, andfor someArduino based prototypes.
Here are the results, re-presented in the same arbitrary order in which they were delivered just a few weeks ago. (Descriptions, photos and videos provided by their respective teams.)
Jeff Kirsch, Colleen Miller, Evinn Quinn,
Borrowing a nostalgic and easily recognizable form, Story View updates the idea of a traditional coin operated binocular viewer to provide visitors access to short spoken-word stories and historical facts about the High Line and the surrounding city as they look through the viewfinder. As a visitor pans and tilts the viewer, they are able to listen to snippets of audio (either programmed by the High Line or left by other visitors) about the places and things the viewer is pointed at. By aiming the viewer at a location and holding down the record button, the visitor is also able to leave a story tied to that place for others to discover.
Stephanie Aaron, Clint Beharry, Beatriz Vizcaino
Performance artists can propose an event to the Up Stage website, as well as view videos and images from past events.
The smart phone app delivers geo-tagged photos and videos of previous events, mapping directly back to the visitor's location, allowing for potential re-emersion in the experience.
Performance artists debut on the High Line and visitors can use the Up Stage app to film and photograph the event, capturing the experience for future visitors.
The High Line is a fantastic promenade for viewing the city and seeing things from a different angle. The three team members who proposed the creation of Up Stage saw it as the perfect scaffold for promoting young, up and coming dance, theater, music, and circus arts performances. Up Stage, an organization in and of itself, would partner with Friends of the High Line to invite, schedule and present unique and budding performances along the High Line. The organization's website would be paired with a mobile app, capable of capturing and replaying performances using geo-location.
Michael Katayama, Katie Koch, Russ Maschmeyer
Urban ecology was a central consideration in the High Line's re-invention. Care was taken to preserve and showcase the evidence of nature's reclamation. That cycle of life and material was worth a deeper look. Using augmented reality and a simple interface, the Field Trip mobile app teaches High Line visitors about urban ecology at all levelsfrom the unseen world of bacteria, to the plants, people, architecture, and atmosphere. Virtual hidden tokens along the High Line reveal tips that encourage sustainable, healthy living.
Derek Chan, Carmen Dukes, Kristin Graefe, Eric St. Onge
StoryLines is an audio tour system built for small groups, allowing visitors to learn more about the High Line while engaged with the environment. The system uses wireless beacons placed throughout the park to transmit stories to a custom designed headset worn by visitors. As visitors walk through the park, the stories describe the history of the High Line, its ecology, and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Bright Points Project
John Finley, Angela Huang, Chia-Wei Liu, Gene Lu
Conceived as a way for New Yorkers to experience something they often seethe sunsetthe Bright Points Project is an idea of what a summer program at the High Line could be. Visitors with reservations would arrive just before sunset and receive special networked lanterns. At the moment the sun sets below the Hudson, the lanterns would begin to illuminate, symbolizing a continuation of the sunset and a personal duty the visitor has in its maintenance.
As lanterns are brought together, they grow brighter, encouraging interactions between the program's attendees. The High Line becomes transformed into a stream of pinpoints, each a visitor carrying on the light left behind by the setting sun.
There's a renewed interest in public space, as evidenced by the growing popularity of applications like Foursquare and Gowalla. We were all excited to work on a project constrained by the physical boundaries of space, and it was interesting to see the variety of experiences that grew out of the common landscape. We'll be sharing our work with the Friends of the High Line board in the coming weeks, so perhaps it won't be too long before you see some of these projects for yourself.
To check out more work from students at the SVA Interaction Design MFA program, click here.