You might have been asking yourself, what in the world has Softwalks been up to? What ever happened to the pilot project I funded? To be honest and transparent we have an update to help put things in perspective. Over the past year, there have been many amazing and unpredictable events. It started with a presentation at the Design INDABA conference in Capetown, South Africa. Then in Boston, Softwalks installed a sidewalk shed in a gallery for an exhibit titled Reprogramming The City: Opportunities for Urban Infrastructure. We were selected as a finalist in the SXSW ECO Place by Design awards, and most recently are in the running for the Design For Experience Awards.
Along the way, some opportunities didn’t come to fruition. We engaged in hopeful discussions with; a transportation charity in the UK, a scaffold manufacturer in Brazil, a champion of Active Design in Miami, a pop-up advertising gig in NYC, and a global urban development company. Each entity expressed interest in Softwalks and the pilot project, however as promising as these opportunities were they didn’t pan out in the end. Alas, the goal of this Kickstarter project has yet to be fulfilled!
All the while, big life plans have blossomed. Howard and her husband Balin had a baby, Evelyn in September and she is bringing joy into the world. Concurrently, Bland is planning a move from NYC to Jackson WY to continue his work in the creative and public art field.
Recognizing the pilot project we promised was not coming to fruition, we set our minds to action, trying to find an appropriate solution to the challenges of fulfilling the hopes and desires of this project. What we have come up with embraces the tenets of Softwalks, while contributing to current endeavors in the works. Here is the plan we hope you, as a loyal supporter, will approve as we make the most of the funding you contributed.
Howard has begun working on Unsitely! a colloquium organized by Laetitia Wolff of Future Flair and the Ville de Montreal’s Design Bureau in collaboration with the Ville-Marie borough in downtown Montreal and the Saint-Étienne Cité du design. The event takes place in October 2014 in Montreal and will be a discussion of construction sites, their impact on the surrounding urban landscape, and how design can positively impact those experiences. Howard will present her field work experience with Softwalks share her unique perspective on urban design for the 21st century. As part of her ongoing fieldwork, she plans to complete the Kit of Parts by testing the eye-level screen that mitigates visual clutter and traffic on the street, which has been in prototype stage until now.
Howard plans to then continue this work by returning the conversation started in Montreal to the streets of New York. She will be designing an amendment to the NYC street guidelines and working with DOT and other officials to present Softwalks as a component for this manual. By influencing the city landscape in subtle ways she hopes to create lasting change and an ongoing dialogue of how to live better in an urban environment. She will be posting updates as this exciting endeavor unfolds over the coming months. She will be using the funding from Kickstarter to employ communication tactics and strategic design principles with the goal of influencing future development in NYC to consider the human as a central element of design.
On April 1st, Bland plans to leave NYC and hit the road with long time colleague Francis Carter, and the documentary film producer William Novak on a cross-country trip of urban interventions. The team will be shooting short documentary videos about the design process applied to urban and rural interventions with a focus on community, education, and social activation. Their goal is to connect and contribute to different cities, people and places along the way through brief design projects. In each city, Bland and Francis will work with locals to produce an intervention for the streets. It will be an exercise in rapid design thinking and making. They encourage anyone living in Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee, the Badlands, or Laramie WY to get in touch. Your participation is what will make this endeavor unique and exciting!
Bland will be using funding from the Kickstarter campaign for materials and equipment on the journey, and to fund the documentation and production of the short form videos. Kickstarter supporters will be the first to watch this project unfold in April! Thereafter the content will be distributed through the internet to inspire like minded people, because we believe the world needs this type of spontaneity and excitement.
This has been a long adventure, and very few days have passed without thinking of the obligation we have to you, our Kickstarter supporters. We sincerely hope our current plans go above and beyond what you had initially expected from us. Softwalks was never intended to be a small manufacturing business. Our goal has always been to inspire people with the possibilities of transforming drab sidewalks and urban eyesores into lively and innovative pedestrian spaces. With Unsitely! and the cross-country interventions, Bland and Howard are continuing to infuse the world with the principles and ideals of Softwalks.
Feel free to leave comments or questions. We are both excited to get to work, and bring new ideas to the world.
Bland and Howard