The hexagonal slice of wood don’t was like much. There’s the shape, sort of interesting in its architectural way, and the neutral timber color. A few are studded with bright, white sunlights, right in the center, which is fun. And the route the hexagons, each the dimensions of the a manhole encompas, have been bunched into clusters feels natural and sensible. Surely a Fibonacci sequence is hiding somewhere in there.
What’s important about these shapes is what they represent to Sidewalk Labs, a sister company to Google, Waymo, and Loon. It’s how the company envisions the street of the future: as a series of removable, modular, flexible pavers. During a public roundtable hosted at Sidewalk Labs’ new Toronto office this week, participants sat on and played with the experimental shapes, the outcomes of its collaboration with Carlo Ratti Associati, the design firm run by MIT architect and engineer Carlo Ratti. 1
“The way that space is usually allocated on the street is fixed, ” Jesse Shapins, Sidewalk Labs’ director of public realm, told the Toronto crowd on Tuesday night.( To make sure all interested locals could see the presentations, Sidewalk Labs repeated the performance on Wednesday .) “You have your kerb and perhaps paint, and that signals different employs. It’s hard to change, which entails there’s less space for people.”
Contrary to today’s concrete-based, fixed style of doing things, the idea here is that these chunks of public space is to be able to reconfigured or lit up differently at different times, thereby reordering the streets with a firm nudge or a flick of a light switch. What is during the course of its morning rush hour a bus-only corridor might transform into a kids’ play space during the day. Monday’s commuter-carrying cycling lane might be Sunday’s farmer’s market. Streets should be ever-changing, flexible spaces, goes the argument–not the permanent province of fast-moving, sometimes inconsiderate, often dangerous cars.