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SOAK hits Kickstarter – you can get a piece of the action

First let’s get to the big news: a Rebar design that has been under wraps for over a year is now public and it’s on Kickstarter. (It’s the first Rebar project to land on Kickstarter and we’re as excited as…well, as excited as someone about to take the plunge from a sauna into the cold pool. I-can’t-believe-we’re-actually-going-for-it excited.)

Now you could get all you need to know from the Architizer story on the project that came out this weekend, which pretty much nails all the important points. Or the recent piece on the Architect’s Newspaper. Or Inhabitat. But it never hurts to recap:

SOAK from the street

SOAK is a spa entirely contained within several shipping containers, designed for the twin (and deliciously paradoxical) goals of maximum resource efficiency and maximum hedonistic enjoyment. It will occupy an open parcel in the eastern neighborhoods of San Francisco, at least to start. (No, we’re not telling where yet.) Because it’s entirely portable, it can keep going to where urban space needs activity, like a pioneer species preparing the ground for new growth. Aiming to be as off-grid and resource light as possible, SOAK will harvest half of its soaking tub water from rain and use only solar energy for its heating and electricity needs. Yeah, we said it–an entirely off grid rainwater fueled hot-tub sauna mecca for healthy hedonists.

Resource diagram

OK, we didn’t come up with the term “healthy hedonist”. To find the entrepreneurial engine behind SOAK look up Nell Waters, named one of San Francisco Magazine’s Hot 20 — yes, she’s like simmering hot H2O, get it? Damn straight. Nell engaged Rebar to develop the preliminary concept and start exploring the engineering feasibility (we are getting some world-class help with that part). We know it’ll work. We know, more or less, what it will physically look like. Now we just need to build Version 1.0.

This is where the Kickstarter part comes in. Nell is creating a proof-of-concept prototype with a slightly smaller footprint than the concept shown in the renderings, that will allow it to open for public use next year. We have the designers, engineers, and builders standing by. How much does it cost to build something like this? It isn’t loose change, but given the innovation in systems and design involved, it’s also resources used as efficiently as possible.

Right now you are thinking: how can I get a piece of that? Want to be part of making a statement about sustainability and enjoying yourself? Ever suspect those two things could move a little closer on the dial? Want to take your date to the spa you funded? (“You say you’re a benefactor?“) Or maybe just use the secret healthy hedonist handshake? Sign up to give to the campaign before 12/31/13. It’s all-or-nothing, soak or croak, zero to lose except your pants. Get in there. Take the plunge with us.

SOAKers in the hot pool

SOAKers in the hot pool

SOAK's back yard does primary greywater treatment and infitration

SOAK’s back yard does primary greywater treatment and infiltration


Written by Blaine

December 2nd, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Presenting PXSTL at the Pulitzer Foundation in St. Louis

Blaine Merker and Liz Ogbu represented their joint team as one of three finalists selected from a pool of more than 50 nominated designers and artists for PXSTL, a temporary project commissioned by St. Louis’s Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts and the Sam Fox School of Design & the Arts at Washington University. After the jury presentation, a public reception was held at the Pulitzer Foundation where Rebar, Freecell and Oscar Tuazon answered questions about their proposals. Rebar’s proposal here.

Written by Blaine

July 31st, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Adaptive Metropolis: User Generated Urbanism, A Symposium at UC Berkeley September 27-29, 2013

Rebar is thrilled to announce Adaptive Metropolis: User-Generated Urbanism. This three-day symposium will take place September 27-29 at UC Berkeley in celebration of the Centennial of the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning (see how else the LAEP is ringing in their 100th birthday). We’re inviting participants from around the globe – citizens, artists, activists, academics, designers – to discuss the power of emergent collaborative networks in shaping the urban realm.

Our exciting lineup of speakers starts with folks like Steven Johnson, Alfredo Brillembourg, Gil Penalosa and Lisa Gansky. In addition to their keynote addresses, there will be structured debates, plenary panels and small breakout sessions on topics like: the new tools for city-making that are enabled by emergent collaborative networks; and whether these tools able to make our cities more resilient, livable, and just.

It is our hope that participants will come away with a few critical tools for analyzing projects in the broader context of city-making, and the conference provides the opportunity to get started right here in San Francisco. The symposium concludes on Sunday when Rebar group will lead participants on an urban exploration of The City.

There will be engaging content, provocative discussion and plenty of time for informal conversation with like-minded peers. For more information – including a full list of speakers, a detailed schedule, and how to register – visit the Adaptive Metropolis website.

There are lots of ways to get in touch:

Follow us on twitter @AdaptMetropolis

Like us on Facebook

Keep up-to-date with the latest hints by signing up to our newsletter

Or drop us a line at info[at]

Written by LaurenKlein

July 26th, 2013 at 8:00 pm

Kaleidoscape Lecture at the Berkeley Art Museum

Plan symmetry emerges, even during installation. Photo by Matthew Passmore.

[check out our previous post on this project]

Doors 5 PM / Matthew Passmore 6 PM / Galleries open until 9 PM

This Friday, as part of the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive “L@te Friday Night” series, Rebar principal and founder Matthew Passmore will discuss the design process for Kaleidoscape, a colorful sculpture and interactive modular furniture system. “It’s an interactive sculptural seating system, as well as a human-scale kaleidoscope,” Passmore says. He and other members of the design team will talk about Kaleidoscape as social furniture and how artwork can improve public space.

Remarks start at 6 PM, Friday July 26th at the Berkeley Art Museum and tickets are available online and at the door. General admission is $7 and free for BAM/PFA members and UC Berkeley students, faculty, and staff.

Written by LaurenKlein

July 24th, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Opening Celebration for Embarcadero Plazas! – Tuesday, July 23rd, 6-8pm

[check out our previous post on the project]

You are invited to the opening celebration of two “parklet” public access spaces on the Embarcadero, commissioned by the Port of San Francisco and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission during the 34th Americas Cup events this summer. Situated at Piers 9-15 and Pier 24 1/2, the temporary public spaces are pilot projects that explore new ways to provide waterfront public access. Designed and produced by San Francisco’s Rebar and Design Studio and the Exploratorium’s Outdoor Studio, the people-friendly spaces feature greenery, customizable seating, bold colors, and special places for watching people and the Bay. These tiny laboratories reveal the social life of the new waterfront and provide ideas for rethinking what’s possible along the edge of San Francisco Bay.

The opening event will take place from 6-8 PM, Tuesday, July 23rd, at Pier 9-15 and is free and open to all members of the public. Snacks and refreshments will be available for purchase from the Exploratorium’s cafe carts, which will be stationed nearby. Acoustic entertainment will be provided by Trio Zincalo, which plays “Gypsy Jazz and World Cafe” music. Brief official remarks start at 7 PM, and include a welcome from representatives of the Port of San Francisco, and San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission. The project’s designers from Rebar and the Exporatorium will share the creative ideas behind the spaces. For those wishing to visit Pier 24-1/2 as well, a group will depart at 7:30 on foot and bicycle.


Written by Blaine

July 21st, 2013 at 3:42 pm

Design Cycle: Urban Prototyping

Sunday, July 21 Brava Theater Center

Join Matthew Passmore of Rebar and San Francisco’s Mission Bicycle Company in a tactile and conversational exploration of urban prototyping. Matthew will detail this emerging movement to make city design more innovative, responsive, and collaborative. The nights presentation also includes the first glimpse of the Streetscape Kit of Parts, an urban prototype kit for testing and developing bike lanes, designed in collaboration with the SFBC.

Come early at 6pm for an urban-proto-parklet party on 24th street with modular stage, Rebar Bubbleware, as well as live music and bicycle tacos. Matthew takes the stage at 7pm.

For complete details, and to grab tickets, click here. Design Cycle is an exploration of urban innovation created by Mission Bicycle Company.

Written by zoesiegel

July 16th, 2013 at 10:58 am

Driverless cars will spawn office cubes in parking spaces, big box stores downtown

According to Harvard researchers, via the New York Times:

Harvard University researchers note that as much as one-third of the land in some cities is devoted to parking spots. Some city planners expect that the cost of homes will fall as more space will become available in cities [due to driverless vehicles]. If parking on city streets is reduced and other vehicles on roadways become smaller, homes and offices will take up that space. Today’s big-box stores and shopping malls require immense areas for parking, but without those needs, they could move further into cities.

Written by Blaine

July 10th, 2013 at 12:04 am

Posted in Inspiration,Noticed

Parkcycle Swarms Copenhagen, next stop Baku

Iøn Sorvin of N55 and Till Wolfer release Parkcycle Swarm into the streets of Copenhagen


Rebar created the world’s first pedal-powered public park: the Parkcycle in 2007. On the occasion of Participate: Baku Public Art Festival 2013,  Rebar and N55 with Till Wolfer have created a novel evolution of the piece: Parkcycle Swarm!

Parkcycle Swarm is an open source, public space distribution system. Individual pedal powered Parkcyles function as independent subunits, but join together quickly and easily to create an aggregate public space. Parkcycle Swarm is a collaboration between John Bela of Rebar Group and N55 with Till Wolfer. Parkcycle Swarm has the potential to grow exponentially, as people use N55’s open source plans to create their own iterations of the piece.

N55 recently released Parkcycle Swarm for a prototype test run in Copenhagen. The peice performed beautifully, delivering a context for unique social interactions across the famous Danish city known for its bicycle culture.

Till Wolfer demonstrates the conversion from mobile park to stationary open space


Parkcycle Swarm is a fully functional cargo bike, an elaboration of N55‘s groundbreaking XYZ spaceframe vehicle system.  The steering column and seat tube fold away and are concealed under a landscape panel to create a fully inhabitable park surface.

Designed and fabricated in Copenhagen by N55 and Till Wolfer with John Bela of Rebar, the piece has been packed for shipping and is now on its way to Baku, Azerbaijan for the Participate: Baku Public Art Festival 2013 project opening on August 5th.  Swarm on!

Written by John

July 3rd, 2013 at 11:18 pm

Pop-Up Plazas open on San Francisco’s Embarcadero

"Social Circles" invites visitors move their chair.

“Social Circles” at Pier 9-15 invite visitors to move their chairs.

In preparation for the summer of America’s Cup races and final September matches, Rebar and San Francisco’s Exploratorium created two Pop-Up Plazas and public space laboratories called Experiments in People-Watching, which instruments and enlivens the most popular of urban activities—observing others. Funded by the Port of San Francisco and situated at the marginal wharf between the Exploratorium at Pier 15 and Pier 9, and under the Bay Bridge at Pier 24-1/2, these free public spaces are structured around reconfigurable and interactive seating that offers visitors an opportunity to view and explore the dynamics of social behavior. Opening July 1, 2013, for six months*, the site will also feature a collection of activities that will help people—visitors and locals alike—notice and evaluate the social signals given by the people around them. As they enjoy the parade of passers-by along the Embarcadero, they can discover something about those who live, work, and visit here.

The centerpieces of the space are two different constructions of modular lounging, tied together by a bold, graphic pattern painted on the asphalt. One seating configuration consists of two intersecting “social circles” of benches on tracks, which can be slid around for bay-viewing, people-watching, or interaction among sitters. The other construction is a “social spirograph,” which consists of a long main axis from which users can pull out individual arms of benches for solo or group seating. Each arm moves independently from the others, leaving chalk tracings on the ground — recording the way people have chosen to organize their social interactions, including their proximity from others.

The “Social Spirograph” includes two benches that both rotate and travel along a linear axis, allowing people to change the piece’s relationship to a long table. A stylus inside the Spirograph also draws in chalk on the pavement as it’s moved, creating a record of its use.

The installation at Pier 15 and 9 is complemented at the east end of the Embarcadero with a companion space at Pier 24-1/2. Directly under the Bay Bridge, it features generous seating, an elevated perch, and greenery to allow better views and appreciation of the Bay and the social life of the Embarcadero.

Pier 24-1/2 features an elevated Bay viewing platform and areas for lounging.

Pier 24-1/2 features an elevated Bay viewing platform and areas for lounging. Construction tape will come down after the last touches are on.

The design is based on a modular form that will allow pieces for the installation to be transported and re-purposed for a new site, when the duration of the installation is over. The hexagonal deck pods are structurally independent so that they can be moved with a forklift. Materials were chosen for durability and re-use appropriateness, with an eye toward long term use in various locations, depending on how long the installation remains.

The color palette for the ground plane is directly sampled from color spectrography of San Francisco Bay itself, with a couple of additional colors sampled from the skyline of the city of San Francisco.


A HUGE THANKS TO Tyler Pew and his unstoppable crew at LMNOP for a construction tour de force under burly deadlines; Paul Troutman; Diane Oshima and Dan Hodapp at the Port of San Francisco; Ellen Miramontes at BCDC; Rebar alumni Justin Ackermann and Celsa Dockstader for their early design firepower, Ben Davis for getting the ball rolling, Rebar principals John Bela and Matt Passmore for their ideas and brainstorming; and of course our esteemed collaborators Steve Gennrich, Shawn Lani and Eric Dimond in Exploratorium Outdoor Exhibits. The project was led at Rebar by Blaine Merker and managed by Ghigo diTommaso.

* The Port and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) have expressed interest in keeping the installation up longer than its stated end point of October 1, and eventually creating permanent public space improvements on the marginal wharves that are informed by Rebar’s designs. To express your support of these projects and more investment in the design of the Embarcadero’s public spaces, write the leadership of the San Francisco Port and BCDC.

Written by Blaine

July 2nd, 2013 at 12:52 pm

SOAK looks for a site, plus good news from Arup

Do you get excited when you find a quarter under your seat cushion? That’s the feeling you get from talking to the engineers at ARUP when they analyze your design for a rainwater harvesting, solar powered, portable spa and tell you that you can get every watt of energy it needs from the sun. The quarters, in this case, are units of energy and come from heat exchangers and super efficient equipment that squeezes every last drop of solar goodness out to heat and power the “healthy hedonist” experience that is SOAK [see project page]. No guilt needed here: enjoy unwinding knowing that this luxe experience conserves resources with thoughtful engineering. Check out the Sankey diagrams on this baby:

SOAK is entering a major fundraising and site-raising stage, and Rebar is proud to have our design help launch the campaign. If you have a developing parcel with an 18-36 month vacancy window in the Bay Area, get in touch.


Written by Blaine

June 27th, 2013 at 11:39 pm

All these lights

The Grouch & Eligh show up the streets and spaces of the city we love (& work & play in) so well. Hello San Francisco, Hello East Bay. A nice visual shoutout to one of the world’s largest urban art installations as well. Lights, indeed.

YouTube Preview Image

Written by Blaine

June 27th, 2013 at 11:15 pm

Urban Iterations: Upcoming Lecture at LOD67 in Copenhagen

Join John Bela of Rebar and Kristian Koreman of ZUS (NL) to discuss Urban Iteration: new models for urban transformation through activist engagement. LOD67 is a former warehouse and office building being converted into a creative artist and workshop space. John Bela is currently an artist in residence as part of the 2013 CPH AIR program.

Written by John

June 9th, 2013 at 3:04 pm

Posted in Rebar via Blog,Talks