Provocation: Urban Encounters


Urban Encounters is our imagination of the future of interactive surfaces within our 5x5x5 site. The crosswalk “island” we chose at the corner of Shattuck and Center in downtown Berkeley promotes an interesting combination of isolation, stuck-ness and loneliness. To bring out these themes into the physical world, we decided to modify existing objects to support traditionally web-only interactions.


The two we chose are missed connections, which are the moments where you feel a connection to someone but cannot stop to acknowledge it, and casual encounters, which are the personal ads you often hear about posted on sites like Craigslist. By molding these interactions and inputs/outputs into the objects of the site, we hope to show how one day, anything will be able to be transformed into a computing interface.

Site Research

  • Median strip of crosswalk on Center Street across Shattuck Ave.
  • East of Downtown Berkeley BART station
  • One block west of University of California campus
  • Surrounded by restaurants, stores, company buildings
  • An estimated one million pedestrians pass between BART plaza and University of California campus
  • Over 18,000 people pass through BART plaza daily
  • Downtown Berkeley Association in coordination with City planted decorative native grasses on median strip
Visible Landmarks
  • BART station main entrance rotunda
  • BART station plaza
  • Art sculpture on median strip
Art Sculpture
  • “Earth Song” by Pho Shu Want, native of China and Berkeley resident
  • Installed on January 2003
  • Deep red, slender, painted steel sculpture resembling tuning fork
  • Approximately 42 feet high with 14 inch wide base
  • Steel bell suspended around 3 feet above ground to stimulate interaction from passerby
  • Designed to tune to the oscillating frequency of the Earth, a low frequency outside of audible human range
  • Project of Berkeley Civics Arts Program
  • Berkeley has received over $2 million to transform BART plaza and station
  • Rotunda landmark will be redesigned to look more transparent
  • BART plaza to be redesigned to invite more activity with dining area and seating
  • Construction scheduled to start in spring 2015

Read More:   Provocation 3: Urban Encounters

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