San Francisco's seemingly inevitable transformation into Silicon Valley's hipper, more bike-friendly older brother is already bringing a lot of changes to the city--higher rents, more private shuttle buses, increased frequency of Foursquare check-ins and a new kind of street festival.

Not that the Folsom Street Fair doesn't have its charms. But he Urban Prototyping Festival that took over SoMa last weekend was a welcome change of pace.


A collaboration between the Gray Area Foundation For The Arts, Ideo, Rebar, Intersection for the Arts, the 5m Project and the San Francisco Mayor's Office of Civic Innovation, the Urban Prototyping Festival was a celebration of what innovators in the fields of technology and artist expression can bring into urban spaces.

Held last Saturday, the festival showcased the results of a competition in which more than 90 groups pitched ideas that would receive small grants to create urban design projects that can be easily and cheaply replicated in other cities all over the world.

Nearly two dozen projects were selected to present in the festival.

"We've been seeing a parallel between DIY urbanism and the DIY civic hacking worlds, and we wanted to bring these two communities together to see what possibilities could come out of that," Jake Levitas of the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts told The Huffington Post. "We wanted to see what would happen if we took the software development cycle and applied it to urban space."

One of the biggest hits was the 10 Mile Garden, a project that converted small squares of empty street space in front of a fire hydrant into a tiny community garden. "There are so many opportunities to make the city more livable," California College of the Arts Urban Design Professor Mona El Khafif, one of the people behind the gardens, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Check out some of the other awesome Urban Prototyping projects:

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  • Clip + Slide

    SF District 6 Supervisor Jane Kim takes a ride down the Clip + Slide!

  • Beer Garden

    The festival transformed an empty parking lot into a grassy beer garden and interactive playground.


    An empty, dark tunnel on Minna Street was filled with 2,000 square feet of grass and 10 hours of live audio + visual performance for the Gray Area Foundation For The Arts stage.

  • Pulse of the City

    Pulse of the City measures the pulse of passersby and turns it into a musical sequence, while uploading data from these stations to an open database online.

  • Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

    Good Fences Make Good Neighborhoods turns neighborhood data gathered across San Francisco into a spatial sonic landscape.

  • Highlights

    Highlights turns dark alleys into beautiful, glowing gathering places using 3D video projection mapping on existing street art pieces.

  • Turn to Clear Vision

    Turn to Clear Vision turns a tourist icon into a means of uncovering underviewed parts of the city by linking a full-scale telescope replica with interactive cameras placed at disparate points around the city.

  • Urban Parasol

    Urban Parasol is a modular canopy affixable to any city street pole to provide shade, rain protection, and gathering space.