BUILD NYC will let hundreds of New Yorkers gather in their neighborhoods and engage in design activities, increasing access to building toys/materials, connecting professional architects and engineers with the public, and exposing New Yorkers to diverse works of architecture, design, engineering and construction. Through the simple act of designing and building together in public, people of all ages and from all walks of life will create a public performance out of design activities, and will feel good about themselves, connected to their neighborhood, and hopeful about the city. Passers by will feel the same. After testing out a few program elements at our READ NYC events in 2016, we now want to develop this new program for the streets and offer it for many years to come.

Here’s what people will see: attractive, custom-made displays, filled with building toys and materials such as Tegu blocks, MagnaTiles, and stone blocks. Some shelves will hold books on architecture and engineering, while others will hold paper, pencils, stamps, and stencils. A matching cart nearby will contain a set of blue Imagination Playground blocks. Portable benches will provide a place to sit. Counter height displays and lapboards will provide surfaces on which to build. Prompts contributed by architects, engineers, and educators will provide self-guided activities and daily challenges. Cards posted on the sides of the displays will feature photos and challenges contributed by participating New Yorkers. Uni Project staff will manage each installation with the help of volunteers.

Here’s what will happen: people will approach, grab materials, and begin building or creating plans on paper. Some will use our prompts and daily challenges. Others will be inspired by what they see in books, or by the streetscape. Still others will create their own designs, exploring different properties of materials, and turn those designs into challenges for other New Yorkers. Some will participate in communal building activities. People will feel good—even proud—while building their own creations in public. Passersby will register that NYC is a city that supports design, where people are creative.

BUILD NYC is in development now—look for it on the street in Fall 2017.

A visit to SHoP Architects in 2016:

The Uni Project is the operating name (DBA) of Street Lab, a 501c3 nonprofit.