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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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[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

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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

Pop-Up Plazas open on San Francisco’s Embarcadero

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"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

Urban Iterations: Upcoming Lecture at LOD67 in Copenhagen

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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

Rebar joins Public Interest Design 100

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Rebar is honored to announce that we’ve been included in the Inaugural Public Interest Design 100. We now join a an international group of designers and thinkers working globally in the public interest.

We are pleased to appear as #7 in the list. A full list of the other selected members can be seen and explored through the online interactive info graphic.

Special thanks to John Cary and Public Interest Design for assembling this list of changemakers operating at the intersection of design and service.

Written by John

June 9th, 2013 at 2:41 pm

DETOUR 2012: Design Renegade

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Wan Chai Police Headquarters, Gloucester Road, Hong Kong

Detour 2012 Vernissage

Thursday, November 29, 4pm at the vacant lot of the former Wan Chai Police Married Quarters, Jaffe Road, Hong Kong

Exhibition Dates: November 29 – December 16, 2012

 An art and design exhibition featuring playful and experimental interventions that guide the public towards a more compassionate urban experience.


DETOUR 2012: Design Renegade


Co-curated by John Bela and Justine Topfer

Detour 2012: Design Renegade directs the attention of the public to explore our “right to the city.”[1] An outstanding group of artists and designers from Hong Kong and around the globe have been rallied to imagine how Hong Kong’s public space would look and feel if it were designed for our health and wellbeing, to support the sharing of resources and generosity, versus competition and profit.  The exhibition’s curators have challenged artists, designers and the public to seek niches and loopholes in the social and spatial fabric of the city and to exploit these loopholes for public benefit, benevolence and delight. The exhibition’s participants become agents of urban change: design renegades.

Site-specific installations are on display at the central exhibition space at the former Wan Chai Police Married Quarters. From this base, artists deploy works throughout the public realm, instigating guerrilla art and tactical design. From subversive and emotive maps and street signs, DIY cargo bikes, snake dances through the street, to contemporary interpretations of the classic Pai Dong, Design Renegade provokes new ways of behaving and engaging in public.

Design Renegade is about using small scale and temporary moves to test new ideas, informing Hong Kong’s long-term urban planning efforts. Playful and experimental interventions spark new possibilities and guide us toward a more compassionate urban experience.  Through the cultural collision of local and international participants, the artists of Design Renegade expand our ways of reading and understanding the city.  This powerful collective vision is likely to engage and challenge exhibition visitors as never before.

[1]David Harvey (2008). “The Right to the City”. New Left Review 53: pp.23-40.


About the Curators

John Bela, Rebar, Co-Curator

John is a landscape architect, artist, curator and teacher with over a decade of experience creating public space, public art and community participation projects. A passionate urbanist, John focuses on catalyzing social and spatial innovation to create socially just and ecologically resilient environments. John combines insight, humor, wit and rigor to create eye-opening events, spaces and experiences. As a Rebar founder and principal, he has spearheaded the evolution of the practice from tactical interventions to innovation in strategic planning processes to shaping city policy. John lectures and teaches worldwide, is a senior lecturer at the California College of Arts in San Francisco and a Distinguished Lecturer at the University of California, Berkeley. John studied Landscape Architecture and Environmental Design at the University of California, Berkeley, Biochemistry at the University of Massachusetts and sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.


Justine Topfer, Out of the Box Projects, Co-Curator

Justine Topfer is an Australian-born curator with a particular interest in public art. For five years she has been working collaboratively with a broad spectrum of contemporary artists, art organizations, and institutes of higher education. She has worked closely with government bodies, the corporate sector and a diverse array of external stakeholders to realize innovative exhibitions. Justine is currently a curator with the Public Art Program at the San Francisco Arts Commission. Previously, she was the Public Art Producer for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial, where she oversaw the largely expanded public art component and associated programming of this year’s Biennial. In 2011/12 Justine was selected by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities as one of the curators for The 5×5 Project, which featured twenty-five temporary art projects that activated and enlivened publicly accessible spaces and added an ephemeral layer of creativity and artistic expression to neighborhoods across the District. Justine keeps her ties with her motherland: In 2011 she co-curated the City of Sydneys Laneway Art Project, commissioning internationally renowned artists to enliven Sydney’s side streets and public spaces through temporary public art.


Aidan Li, Creative Director


About the Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design (HKAoD)

Established in 2006, Hong Kong Ambassadors of Design (HKAoD) aims to stimulate exchange between the local and international design community and the public, through a series of imaginative and unconventional initiatives channeling creative energies from both street and studio. It is founded as a non-profit and registered charity by a group of individuals from Hong Kong’s design community. Working with its sister organization, the Hong Kong Design Centre, HKAoD presents diversified and educational initiatives and strives towards the common goal of promoting design and culture and generating enthusiasm for creative ventures.


Detour 2012 Artists and Satellite Exhibitions

Civic Center

The Cave

Andrew Kudless + Riyad Joucka

Otto Li

Tim Li

Caroline Mak


Start from Zero

Kacey Wong


Wong Tin Yan


2012 Hong Kong Design Year

Michael Lau

The University of Hong Kong Department of Architecture

PolyU Jockey Club Design Institute for Social Innovation

Alliance of Designers, Japan (AODJ)


Central Oasis Gallery

Makers’ Fair

Written by Rebar

November 27th, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Rapha Parklet Coming Soon

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For the Cycle Club San Francisco, Rapha and design studio Rebar have deconstructed an iconic Rapha Citroën H-Van in order to create a ‘bookended’ public space. Known as a ‘parklet’, our design blends the cultural history of road racing’s support caravan with the contemporary cycling scene of San Francisco’s Marina District. Serving as a gathering place for group rides and the tales told upon return, our parklet is open to anyone, regardless of their bicycle persuasion.     via

Stay tuned for announcements about the opening party later this week.

Written by Rebar

November 13th, 2012 at 12:11 pm

Bridge in Paris

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Paris-based architecture firm Atelier Zündel Cristea (AZC) has proposed an unusual pedestrian bridge on the Seine that dares us to reconsider our public behavior and our conventions for moving through urban terrain. Why walk (snooze) when you can bounce?

Designed for the competition brief, A Bridge in Paris, AZC’s uncanny renderings show three inflatable donuts that are nearly 100 feet in diameter, which span the river and carry leaping passengers on trampoline-like netting: “Our intention is to invite its visitors and inhabitants to engage on a newer and more playful path…An inflatable bridge equipped with giant trampolines, dedicated to the joyful release from gravity as one bounces above the river.” 1

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Written by Rebar

October 22nd, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Posted in Announcements