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Dynamic Street for Sidewalk Labs

Dynamic Street features a series of hexagonal modular pavers which can be picked up in minutes to change the road function

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Visitors can engage in the co-creation of Dynamic Street. Photography: David Pike
Visitors can engage in the co-creation of Dynamic Street. Photography: David Pike

Innovation and design firm CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati working in partnership with Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs in Toronto has introduced a modular and “reconfigurable” paving system that can adapt the use of a street to meet different needs throughout the day.

 

Named the Dynamic Street, the prototype features a series of hexagonal modular pavers which can be “picked up and replaced within hours or even minutes”, in order to swiftly change the function of the road without creating disruptions on the street.

 

Imagine a city street, nestled between buildings with mostly foot and bicycle traffic, said CRA. During the morning and evening hours, there might be a steady stream of commuters heading to work. In the middle of the day and the evening, families might use the street as a play space. And on the weekend, the street could be cleared for a block party or a basketball game.

 

The project explores the different patterns that can be created on the hexagonal grid as well as the integration of lights into individual pavers. Each paver can also potentially host a “plug and play” element – that is, vertical structures such as poles, bollards or even basketball hoops.

 

This system is inspired by French research group Ifsttar’s pilot project on removable urban pavement underway in Nantes.

 

“The Dynamic Street creates a space for urban experimentation: with this project, we aim to create a streetscape that responds to citizens’ ever-changing needs,” says professor Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA practice and director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

 

“As autonomous vehicles are likely to start running on streets soon, we can start to imagine a more adaptable road infrastructure.”

 

The project is based on Sidewalk Labs’ extensive experience and research into street design and affords visitors the ability to engage with up-and-coming technology concepts. The installation is at Toronto’s Quayside 307, a former industrial building converted into the central office and experimental workspace for Sidewalk Labs and is on view throughout the summer of 2018.

 

At the exhibition, visitors can also engage in the co-creation of the Dynamic Street by playing on a digital reconfigurator, to design urban scenarios of their own.

 

“The installation is an experiment and an area of active research, so expect it to change as we learn from feedback and tests. In this first iteration, the pavers are made out of wood so that we could quickly mock something up and rapidly change it – we would expect later versions to be made of concrete or other more resistant materials,” added Chris Anderson, urban prototyper at Sidewalk Labs, who adds: “We look forward to visitors imagining new types of

urban activities for streets.”

 

“As autonomous vehicles are likely to start running on streets soon, this project helps us to imagine a more adaptable road infrastructure,” says Emma Greer, project manager at CRA: “Self-driving cars will change both the number of lanes and the amount of parking we will need. The Dynamic Street explores a flexible platform that allows people to see how technology can evolve and respond to different conditions.”

 

The Dynamic Street is a project by Sidewalk Labs with CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati. The full CRA team comprised: Carlo Ratti, Giovanni de Niederhausern, Saverio Panata, Emma Greer (project leader), James Schrader, Rui Guan, Luca Giacolini, Alessandro Tassinari, Aunie Frisch. Construction was by Pac Team.

 

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