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Urban Forest

October 1, 2010

Urban Forest interior image


This Communication Design Workshop tackle the problem of “placemaking” from a specific point of view – that of the Chicago Loop. The Loop is an interesting “place” because it can be deconstructed into a complex array of historic artifacts, personal memories, political engagements, tales of businesses that succeed, stories of dreams that fail, and so on. On top of this evolving sensing, actuation, and interactive technologies provide us with new ways of constructing place – both spatial and connective.


Urban Forest embeds the concept of a social family tree into two windows of a large urban shopping mall called Block37. The installation asks passersby to answer questions like Thin Crust or Deep Dish? Sox or Cubs? O’Hare or Midway? The questions were designed to change out every 72 hours.

Proposed User Experience

The interaction model is simple – as you walk down the street you tap on the question you associate with. The tap is visualized as a leaf on a digital tree that grows with every answer. As more people answer the tree grows larger and larger. The visualization allows viewers to see which question is getting more responses from people on the street. The “forest,” constructed over time showcasing the collective preferences of a city represented the demographic profile of the population which frequents State Street and the Loop.


Both conceptual and implementation prototyping were conducted in order to design the content for context and design to align with usability and human factors.

Final Results

Urban Forest embeds the concept of a social family tree into two windows of a large urban shopping mall called Block37. More details can be seen in video and final presentation.

Urban Forest - a placemaking installation on State Street




Farid Talhame
Diana Cheng
Pinxia Ye
Helen Tong
Na Rae Kim
Sarah Ekblad
Wei Sun