Place x Design
My friend, neighbor, and co-conspirator, Shelby Neal and I were inspired to enter the Place by Design competition for SXSW 2019. Our charge was to create a public intervention at the intersection of art, design, and technology in the realm of placemaking.
Here I Found
Here I Found is a shared-space experiment, focused on uncovering the stories, memories, and moments of the individuals in our community. We use temporary materials (sidewalk spray chalk) to capture lifelong memories. This project sits at the intersection of physical, digital, and emotional to create a portal into the experiences of the individuals who make up our community.
Unrolling a swath of poster paper onto the floor, we started bucketing the ideas, questions, and concepts we thought could engage our community. The primary topics we found to be of importance were political, intrasocial, environmental, and hyperlocal. We asked questions like:
Where do we see a need for spatial design in our community?
How can we impact the most people in a relatively short timeline?
Which mediums lend themselves best to our vigilante effort?
How can we best foster organic discovery, which will resonate most authentically with our audience?
In the age of instant gratification, social sharing, and access, how do we create an experience that satiates the impulses of our most probable consumers?
In answering these questions, we ended up with about a dozen idea blocks, ranging from large-scale sculptural installations to hyper-technical digital offerings to participation-driven political engagements. Ultimately, we used our criteria questions and input from other potential participants at a national scale to hone our final concept: Here I Found.
Beginning in our own community of Portland, OR, we used a laser-cut stencil and spray chalk to mark “nodes” across our city. Each of these nodes denoted a memory our team had in that place - a feeling, recollection, or discovery “found.” Acting as the physical call to action for individuals in our city, the stencil urged discoverers to our website: hereifound.com and/or our social media hashtag, #hereifound. Once on the website, users could peruse dozens of stories marked all across the city, and submit their own moment for placement on the custom interactive map. Using social media, those who posted photos of themselves standing on nodes, and those who tagged their stories were brought into the map as well. What resulted was an interactive physical-digital experience that brought individuals in our community into the fold of a movement.
Using the one thing we all have in common - our shared physical spaces - we created a platform for people to share their stories, read the memories of others, and either affirm or reframe their perception of our community. The project sought to harness the empathy of individuals at a personal level, and leave a breadcrumb trail of the memories, experiences, and emotions that unite us across the places that bring us together.
Ultimately, our project is physically diminutive, with potential to be massively impactful. Each node represents a small, personal moment. But together, the network of memories we’ve connected represents the summation of infinite minutiae that become each of our lives.
With an entirely community-minded approach, our main goal was to unite individuals, while creating a “memory map” of our shared space. Tools already exist to discover the best sandwich in the neighborhood, the history of a beloved architectural feat or the fastest route to the library. What we sought out to do was build something that gave individuals - locals, newcomers, and tourists alike - a way to search for memories. There’s no Yelp for emotion. How do we collate our knowledge of our community to share the best places for intimate conversation, for interacting with neighbors, or for walking alone on a crisp autumn morning? How do we capture the small, “meaningless” moments that aren’t marked on a calendar or celebrated year after year? It’s these moments that start to color a person’s experience of place, and ultimately her life.
The barriers to entry were low: it doesn’t take a lifetime in a place to develop a memory there. Even just one visit can stick with a person forever. Here I Found creates a structured place for people to record those memories, those commonalities, for all future visitors to explore.
The “easter egg” nature of the project leaves room for organic discovery. It’s not meant for mass consumption; it’s designed as a secret, a personal exchange, one-to-one. Whether stumbling upon a physical Here I Found node or perusing through its digital manifestation, these shared memories start to act like fibers, creating connections between the unique, patchwork of individuals who make up our community.