Block by Block, San Francisco’s third Living Innovation Zone was a temporary kinetic installation composed of blocks of milled urban timber and illuminated plastic. The elemental form of the blocks and their basic treatment: stacking, swinging, pivoting, suggests an intrinsic reconfigurability. The form is open for occupation and interpretation––a platform for performing, protesting, playing––and for simply enjoying life on the block.
Block by Block presented the first opportunity for public seating along Market Street since the City of San Francisco removed all public benches in the 1990’s in an effort to reduce the visibility of drug dealing and homelessness in the neighborhood. Lacking public seating, Market street became a stark 30’ wide sidewalk with no respite or place to pause, while homelessness and drug dealing remained a constant in the Central Market neighborhood.
In contrast to the City’s Parklet movement, Block by Block presents a truly public space. Parklets, through their prescribed enclosed form and frequent association with commercial entities have become implicitly privatized pockets along our public sidewalks. Precisely because of this inclusivity, Block by Block became a highly discussed experimental site, creating important and overdue dialogue between city agencies and the neighborhood.
Block by Block was the hub for Light Up Central Market, a series of six installations along Market Street organized by the Luggage Store Gallery and made possible by the Kenneth Rainin Foundation’s Imagining Central Market grant.
Anne Bluethenthal Dancers and Musicians at Block by Block
Photo by Darryl Smith
Electronic controls prototyping
One redwood tree, cut down in a residential yard in Oakland was milled at the O2 Artisans Aggregate, a local mill in West Oakland