Totally Tubular: SonoGROTTO and peepSHOW Win People’s Choice Awards

Sheila Kim Sheila Kim

Imagine that over the course of three days, random installations ranging from architectural structures to interactive art pop up out of nowhere along your city’s main thoroughfare to offer you a bit of a respite from the hubbub or an intriguing sensory experience. That’s just what San Franciscans encountered last month during the Market Street Prototyping Festival. Lining select stretches across Market Street — from the Embarcadero to 7th Street — the 2016 program presented 36 prototypes, of which two were voted People’s Choice Award winners.

One of the winners, SonoGROTTO became a testament of sorts, demonstrating the strength of cardboard tubes. A team from Kuth Ranieri Architects precisely cut open hundreds of tubes and assembled them into a pavilion space that evokes a naturally carved out grotto (hence the name).

A mix of 6-, 10- and 24-inch-diameter tubes were used, some as support columns, some as seating, while others formed windows framing unique views and an oculus to the sky above. SonoGROTTO, in this way, functioned both as a refuge and place of exploration.

Visitors to the “grotto” got to witness some light and shadow play as the sun passed over the various tube apertures. The cutaways exposed a simple white interior finish that, in contrasting with the natural cardboard exteriors, created some visual interest without sensory overload. To make the pavilion structurally sound, at least for the duration of the festival, the project team weighted down the base units with sandbags concealed within the tubes and fastened everything together with screws and bolts.

Sharing honors with SonoGROTTO was peepSHOW, designed by DBA (David Baker Architect) Lab. The tunnel-like installation was originally based on a concept from the 2015 edition of the festival, in which this presented an urban viewing station punched with portals to filter views outward; in other spots, surfaces were finished with reflective material to transform the composition into a giant selfie machine.


peepSHOW 2.0 photography by Michael Alan Ross

Following the success from last year, DBA Lab was invited to revisit the design with some funding. The evolved peepSHOW 2.0 delighted passersby once again, and plans are being made to make it into a semipermanent installation (to stand for up to two years).

Launched in April 2015, the Market Street Prototyping Festival actually builds upon a larger effort to redesign the city’s backbone. The prototypes — conceived and built by architects, designers, artists and everyday citizens under mentorship from design professionals — introduce activation and a sense of play, and the responses are in turn recorded for consideration in the long-term project.

+