Imaginative Neighbourhood Woodquay 2015

Woodquay_parklet.jpgIn the summer of 2015, the AGL teamed up with the Fab Lab Limerick and the Interaction Design Centre at the University of Limerick to design and fabricate street furnishings over a 6 weeks period for a demonstration project in the autumn of 2015. These installations will be in place for a trial period to allow the community to engage directly in the design of their public spaces and to provide feedback in real time. It is intended that the information gathered and lessons learned from the demonstrations will influence future permanent changes and will assist the community and local authority in collaboratively being opportunistic in identifying funding opportunities from public and semi public sources as well as alerting potential industry and commercial partners to worthwhile projects. Some of the ideas for interactive installations discussed were: sensitive ‘musical’ plants included in the parklet that would react to movement/proximity, sensitive light installation that needs more than one person to be present to turn on, a hyperlocal website and newspaper, a dedicated radio/podcast station. Other ideas discussed were collecting oral histories from locals during dedicated events or a temporary audio booth, providing free wi fi with a landing page dedicated to the project, a geocache included in the parklet, the creation of an Ingress portal, a foursquare venue etc.

The summer project was manned by summer research bursary positions and engaged the stakeholders in the co-design, fabrication and installation of a parklet installation in the public spaces of Woodquay. Through the ‘Designing with Communities’ process, and in particular, the presentation of emerging design proposals at weekly public critiques held alternately in the Town Hall Theatre, Galway and Fab Lab in Limerick City, the installation’s proposed existence was debated and negotiated with local actors, its location and placement were agreed and facilitated by council officials and nearby business-owners and residents, its design was supported, developed and refined by industry partners, maker community collaborators and university researchers, its operational and maintenance protocols were clarified, assigned and accepted by willing participants as well as being rejected by those more reserved in their engagement. It is proposed that it’s use will be imagined and programmed by a participatory dance artist collaborator and a team of potential collaborators, including a sound production experimenter and an Arduino developer who have connections to both the Fab Lab in Limerick and the 091 Labs hackerspace in Galway. The design project and participatory design process act as frameworks to connect the aspirations of the community to the imagination and innovation of these socially engaged artists and makers, as well as to the innovation branches of industries including the self build department of local building supply merchant JP Corry who supported the project with donated building materials and expertise, and proposals from an international lighting company to provide interactive lighting and sound installation elements. Both the National University in Galway and the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design in Dublin have engaged in the project to provide research assistance in scoping pre and post occupancy measurement and monitoring tools and performance parameters.

Woodquay, Galway, Ireland
Parklet sketch in development

A continued engagement in the process is being carried out in the autumn of 2015, during which period two ‘Designing with Communities- Woodquay’ weeks are planned where new streets layouts and installations will beimagined, discussed and proposed. The first week is timed to coincide with European Culture Night and Global Park(ing) Day in September and will address the theme of “Street Culture” in Woodquay. The second Demonstration week will occur in October during Social Inclusion Week, and will form part of a Universal Design Community Engagement Week designed to input into the City Development Plan Review Process. It is anticipated that a further iteration of the hackable parklet installation can be imagined as a part of those demonstration weeks, that the question of whether a parklet license should be developed for Galway can be debated and that a new urban prototype proposed in the very first ‘Woodquay Designing with Communities’ Week to enable accessibility to premises in the area can be developed as a collaborative project during those weeks.

Parklet model development
Parklet in development
Fabricated Parklet Bench at test assembly in FabLab Limerick

The parklet’s physical appearance and construction system was inspired by dSPACE studio design “The Wave” at Lakeview, Illinois which won a AIA Award in 2014. The design is made out of fins of marine grade plywood connected by stainless steel rods with concealed bolts.

Parklet in place and open critique in Woodquay. (top to bottom, l-r)
a) Galway’s Men’s Shed assembling the parklet on-site. b) The assembled parklet in place.             c) Members of the community. d) Students presenting at the open critique. e) Mayor of Galway Cllr Frank Fahy officially launching the parklet. f) Hi-visibility flexi-bollards installed on road-side. g) Members of the community at the official open evening on Culture Night. h) 18 people on the parklet!