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One idea that would have a profound impact on every person who visits downtown Rochester

One idea that would have a profound impact on every person who visits downtown Rochester

Imagine this: You're walking through downtown Rochester  on your way to work, headed to the bar or about to check in for treatment — and you look up and see the color violet shining back at you from underneath one of the city's many skyways. A baby was just born within the walls of Mayo Clinic.

This past week, the first-ever PlaceMakers prototyping festival was held in Rochester. The event was organized as a way for local creatives to demonstrate how our community could enhance public spaces and make the built environment more welcoming for residents and visitors alike.

 
 

Installations ranged from the artsy to the high-tech; from exhibits designed to improve inclusivity and dialogue to ones that make the existing infrastructure safer and more attractive. My group's prototype, for instance, sought to create a town square where people could come together and interact while learning about upcoming events, news headlines and more. Other projects included protected bike lanes, multilingual signs and a pop-up park for children.

 
 

But if you ask those who attended the three-day event, one prototype stood out above them all. The Artery, designed and created by local writer Eric Anderson, imagined how we could connect what's happening within the walls of Mayo back into the community in a non-invasive way.

Anderson and his team developed a light installation focused on four types of health events: Births, organ transplants, completion of radiation or chemotherapy, and a pathology report with clear margins indicating a patient is cancer free. Each was broadcast back into the street using a different color. 

For the festival, Anderson was able to work with Mayo to get live data each time a child was born (other events were broadcast using simulated data from the previous week). And for one minute, the light would shine violet — leaving a profound impact on those who witnessed the display first-hand.

 

"It was overwhelming every time it happened," said Anderson. "It's letting people know their health affects not only themselves, but their family, their neighbors, their community, and they're part of something bigger," said Anderson. 

The inspiration for the installation came from working a job as a security guard at a Boston hospital, Anderson said. The speaker system would play a lullaby each time a child was born. At Mayo Clinic, a similar concept is used — allowing patients to ring a bill once they complete cancer treatment.

 
 

But by notifying the entire community of these significant health events, Anderson said it can help new visitors to Rochester feel apart of the community just as they are getting introduced to their new surroundings. (To remain HIPAA compliant, no personal information, such as patient's name or gender, was transmitted from Mayo to the prototype.)

In creating the Arterty, Anderson was assisted by his wife, Rose, as well as Diane Klein, Matthew Moore, Anthony Huber, Nel Pilgrim-Rukavina and Grace Wengler. The project was one of 16 total to be included in the festival.

PlaceMakers Festival: The Artery - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

While there are no guarantees moving forward, several of the prototypes could be readily engineered for permanent installation, said Patrick Seeb, director of economic development and placemaking for DMC. 

"Already one of the prototypes, Creative Crosswalks, is permanent," said Seeb, one of the lead organizers of the event. Demonstrating the various prototypes also has the potential to "lead to policies and procedures that enable other neighborhoods to do their own version," he said.

 

He noted that representatives from two consulting firms working with the city, SRF and RSP, were on-hand during much of the festival talking with both makers and attendees about ways to incorporate the various ideas into future designs for transportation and DMC's Heart of the City sub-district.

"It was nice to see the extraordinary efforts by the prototypers rewarded by an equally enthusiastic community response."

Follow Sean on Twitter.


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(Cover photo: The Med City Beat)

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