11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

A garden skyscraper. A sidewalk library. A floating pool. A DIY bike park. These are some of the finalists in the Place By Design competition announced today by SXSW Eco, a new sustainability conference by the organizers of SXSW. Which one makes the greatest impact on a city?

Finalists for the competition were selected across three categories—Transformative Design, Community Impact and Global Potential—by a panel of judges from around the world. Keep in mind these are all in varying stages of development; some are finished, while others are still a glimmer in an architect's eye. There are lots of Austin entries (which makes sense because SXSW takes place in Austin) and plenty of familiar faces like +Pool and the Lowline. But the diversity of projects, from complex to low-budget, ambitious to simple, is inspiring. These projects prove cities can implement change on a block-by-block basis. Here are 11 of the finalists; the winner will be announced as part of SXSW Eco in October.


The Transformation of Waller Creek | Austin, TX

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

An urban creek in Austin suffered from years of neglect until a revitalization project was conceived by landscape architects at Michael van Valkenburgh Associates with architecture firm Thomas Phifer and Partners. The creek itself serves as the heart of five park districts which will run the length of the banks and provide new recreational and development opportunities for the city.


+Pool | New York, NY

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

A Gizmodo regular, the +Pool is planned to float off a Brooklyn pier with filtered water from the East River and a large deck for lounging. It's also sparked similar projects across the country, as cities try to reclaim their urban rivers and bring residents back to the water.


Brooklyn Pop-up Bike Park | Brooklyn, NY

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

Dellavalle Designs was behind the conversion of this abandoned lot in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn into a progressive bike park. It's not just a place to ride bikes, however, it's a place that can be sculpted by the community, its paths transformed into trails that improve health and provide entertainment. The park also reintroduces greenery and a home for wildlife to the block.


Bagby Street Infographics | Houston, TX

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

As part of a redesigned Houston street—one of the city's first Greenroads—Design Workshop created a series of infographics inserted among the sidewalks, planters and bike racks to help explain the new benefits to users. The signage includes data about stormwater collection, sustainable materials, and shade all of which help to enforce the value of the improvements, especially after a long construction process.


Urban Skyfarm | Seoul, South Korea

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

Proposed for downtown Seoul by designers at Aprilli, this vertical farm prototype is right next to the Cheonggyecheon Creek, which was famously daylighted after a freeway was removed. meant to evoke giant trees, the Urban Skyfarm provides a community garden space in an urban environment while also improving air and water quality.


HOPE Outdoor Gallery | Austin, TX

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

This "paint park" in Austin took advantage of another abandoned lot, turning it into a gathering spot for artists who could express themselves here instead of on private property. Currently it is recognized as one of the top tourist destinations in Austin and certainly one of the most Instagrammed.


Poppy Seed | Shanghai, China

A new placemaking app by Gensler hopes to gather digital "seeds": recording thoughts and memories about individual spaces around the city. This database goes beyond location-based searches like Yelp, for example, allowing users to search for parts of the city that match their current emotions or feelings.


Libros Libres | Dallas, TX

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

This streetside book exchange found throughout Dallas pairs neighborhood residents with local designers to build outdoor reading rooms on corners that need better public space resources. So far 15 teams have built 10 libraries across the city. Libros Libres is organized through a collaborative partnership between Big Thought (an arts-based youth education provider), bcWORKSHOP (a non-profit community design center), and the Dallas Public Library.


Pavegen | London, UK

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

This system of pavers, or outdoor flooring tiles, gathers kinetic energy from human footfalls to power just about anything. When people walk on the tiles, the tiny movement of the tile—only about 5 millimeters—generates about eight watts of power per footstep, which can be stored in batteries.


Rabalder Parken | Roskilde, Denmark

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

This skate park doubles as a drainage ditch, allowing floodwater management on this Danish plain without taking away recreational space. The canals and pools provide ways to divert water when it's raining, then skaters can take advantage of the same spaces—which just happen to be perfect for skating—when it's dry. This is such a smart way to add much-needed multi-use infrastructure to a city.


The Lowline by Raad Studio | New York, NY

11 Clever Ways Cities Are Taking Advantage of Public Space

Another project that will be very familiar to Gizmodo readers: The Lowline, New York's "first underground park." The abandoned trolley terminal on the Lower East Side will be turned into a sustainable, solar-powered wonderland that will provide this neighborhood with much-needed greenspace. And it all happens below the surface of Manhattan. [Place By Design]