When it comes to urban "hacks"—open-sourced urban projects that allow small, informal changes to a city's structure—architects John H. Locke and Joaquin Reyes might be New York City's most seasoned experts.
Last February, under the moniker of the Department of Urban Betterment, the duo transformed abandoned pay phone booths into miniature communal libraries, providing the public with a valuable resource and an easily replicable design. Now, the urban hackers hope to repeat their success with a pop-up learning space in the most unlikely of sites... a street-side construction dumpster.
Called the "Inflato Dumpster," DUB's new project will anchor a dome-like, inflatable, gold and silver mylar structure to an 8 x 22 foot garbage receptacle, creating a mobile learning laboratory. When Locke and Reyes began looking for urban sites with the potential for metamorphosis, they wanted to "challenge assumptions of what can be repurposed in your neighborhood and teach attendees new ways to improve their urban environment." They also considered the symbolism of the dumpster as both a temporary object and an indicator of change, such as a renovation or new construction. "In this project," they note, "the dumpster still indicates a temporal event; however, we hope that it triggers a ripple of aftereffects that will germinate practical ideas and actions that are more inclusionary and empowering for the neighborhood."
In true open-sourced form, the DUB has launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the funding required to construct their first Inflato Dumpster, which would be up for five days. If funded, residents in the Manhattan Valley, Morningside Heights, Harlem, Manhattanville, and Hamilton Heights may soon be able to head to an Inflato space to see a local play or take music lessons.
"We envision collaborations with dance studios, community workers, and film groups," Locke says. They also plan to teach workshops that will prompt visitors to be more engaged with public space, such as a class on creating "small, solar-powered CO2 monitoring sensors that will give people the ability to test air quality around their street, in front of a construction site, or near a subway entrance." DUB hopes to remain flexible to the needs of the community, allowing neighborhood residents to chose the resources they find most engaging.
Perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Inflato Dumpster is how easily it's constructed and implemented. Since the dumpster will occupy a street parking space, the project can sidestep traditional zoning laws. The mylar will keep the supply costs low, while the shimmering quality of the material and the twinkling LED lights along the roof will encourage people to go inside.
DUB understands the concerns of crowdfunding a project that doesn't come with easily quantifiable results; however, it is the vagueness of the project that opens up a myriad of opportunities for the community. Additionally, small projects like the Inflato Dumpster spark a dialogue on larger issues. "[T]he overriding goal of the Inflato is that people can begin to view the everyday public space around them in new and engaging ways, and to start seeing themselves as responsible, active participants in the systems that exist around them," concludes Locke. "We hope that everyone who participates in Inflato gains the means to manifest their own agency through small and individualized means."
The Inflato Dumpster Kickstarter campaigns ends Sunday, November 3rd. Head over to the Kickstarter site to make this urban hack a reality!