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Rebar joins Public Interest Design 100

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

Kaleidoscape: A Study in Double Symmetry

Kaleidoscape – plan symmetry. Photo courtesy BAM/PFA.


We are pleased to announce Kaleidoscape, our latest museum exhibition and social furniture project, which we recently installed at the Berkeley Art Museum for a three-year exhibition in the museum’s main atrium.

Led by Rebar principal/founder Matthew Passmore and Associate Designer Elizabeth Marley, Kaleidoscape is an interactive sculpture system created to explore the tension between the system of order implied by a radial “plan view” symmetry and the soft symmetry of social use patterns that change over time or emerge spontaneously. Exhibiting this unique form of double symmetry, Kaleidoscape can be enjoyed visually from galleries high above the atrium floor, as well as by museum visitors in search of a comfortable place to sit, relax, or collaborate to build a wide variety of social spaces. While the formal elements of the piece imply a system of radial order, the emergent use patterns will provide another structure – an informal “social symmetry” given by the improvised and evolving requirements of Kaleidoscape’s users. In this regard (and borrowing a page from the work of Henri Lefebvre) the piece can be thought of as an expression of the inherent tension between a “conceived” ordering system designed at a privileged distance from the experience of the space, and the “perceived” properties of the space, based upon the complex and evolving needs of the user; the tension between a radial, plan-view kaleidoscopic symmetry and an emergent and chaotic social symmetry of ever-changing use patterns.

All that and a video:

Social symmetry. Photo courtesy BAM/PFA.

Kaleidoscape was, like many Rebar projects, an intensely collaborative effort. We benefited greatly from the contributions of Joel Rose, fabricator extraordinaire, the expert upholstery design of Joona Creates, with clutch collaboration from Sasha Vermel Designs, and intrepid Rebar Apprentices Paul Andam and George Zisiadis.

The piece is on display at the museum through December 2015 and, if all goes well, it will continue to live at the new Berkeley Art Museum, designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which is slated to open in 2016.

Stay tuned for future Kaleidoscape events, including a presentation by lead artist/Rebar founder Matthew Passmore on July 26, 2013, competitive kaleidoscapic races later in the year, and other events to come.

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


The social symmetry of installation

Written by Matthew

June 4th, 2013 at 11:14 pm

Roads were not built for cars

At Rebar we are always trying to re-imagine our city’s car-centric streets by turning them into mobile parkstemporary public spaces, new bike lanes, and now city-permitted parklets. We think this public space is not just for automobiles and history supports this. Check out this new book,  to be published in August 2013:

Roads Were Not Built For Cars was crowd-funded on Kickstarter and is going to be available for free digitally and for purchase in print.

Written by Rebar

May 2nd, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Merchants Exchange Building

Rebar designed and installed a wintertime display of interactive public art at the Merchants Exchange Building in San Francisco. The array of 60 stylized “icicles” pulsed with color and rhythm that evoked heat and frost simultaneously, enlivening this venerable space with wonder and a mysterious beauty. In collaboration with Zak Brazen.

Check out Zak’s video of the piece here.

Written by Blaine

January 9th, 2013 at 9:17 pm

Posted in Rebar via Blog

DETOUR 2012: Design Renegade

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

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

State of the Commons



An increasing share of the Internet’s visual resources are now locked away in private cabinets, untagged and unsearchable, shared with a public no wider than the photographer’s personal sphere…Hundreds of millions of people who have photographed culturally significant events, people, buildings and landscapes, and who would happily give their work to the commons if they were prompted, are locked into sites that don’t even provide the option. The Internet (and the mobile appverse) is becoming a chain of walled gardens that trap even the most civic-minded person behind the hedges, with no view of the outside world.


Josh Wallaert, “State of the Commons,” Design Observer, November 8, 2012.

Written by Rebar

November 12th, 2012 at 10:02 am

Bridge in Paris


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

Preview of Sky-Fi at ZERO1

Rebar has created two projects for the 2012 ZERO1 Biennial in San Jose, California. Here’s a preview of Sky-Fi, a collaboration with architect Christopher Haas.  Sky-Fi is a streetscape canopy that spans S. 1st Street in San Jose’s SoFa district. The tensioned lines are made of EL wire wrapped in a white mesh textile and are suspended among the light posts, palms and jacaranda trees that line the block.  Sky-Fi stretches streams of light back and forth across the street, its filaments converging at the ZERO1 Garage; the exhibition hub for public programs.

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The Biennial’s theme, Seeking Silicon Valley, proposes that contemporary art practice can re-imagine the idea, the place, and the experience of Silicon Valley. Please join us  at the exhibition opening on September 13, 2012 at the ZERO1 Garage.


And stay tuned for news about Rebar’s second ZERO1 project, The Great Room!  Here’s what’s stirring in the Rebar shop:

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Written by Rebar

September 12th, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Posted in Announcements

Reporting from OPENkitch’n in DC


OPENkitch’n is a collaboration between Rebar and the D.C. Office of Planning (DCOP), curator Justine Topfer, the 14th Uptown Business Association (14-UBA), neighborhood residents, local restaurant owners, D.C.-based artists, and funded by an ArtPlace grant. Rebar worked with these partners to produce a progressive dinner and culture crawl that represented the diverse restaurants and businesses of Central 14th Street NW.

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The crawl made stops at three gathering points along 14th from Shepherd Street NW to Spring Street NW, sampling local flavors and accompanied by performance art, live music, and mural painting. This event, open to the public, was an intimate neighborhood tour that brought out both local residents and visitors from all over the city, drawing attention to the existing businesses of the corridor. Revenue from event ticket sales will be reinvested back into the corridor, managed by the 14-UBA, to support local business development and seed economic initiatives.

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If you’re in the D.C. area, be sure to check out the incredible restaurants, businesses and artists that participated in this event:


00 Genesis

Margot MacDonald

International Capoeira-Angola Foundation

Chukwuma Agubokwu

Tim Conlon

DECOY and Chanel Compton from Albus Cavus


The Red Derby – 3718 14th Street NW

Rib Pit – 3905 14th Street NW

Washington Pizza – 1353 Randolph St NW

Sisy’s Restaurant – 3911 14th St NW

Susana’s Pupuseria – 3801 14th St NW

Carolina Restaurant – 3700 14th St NW

14th Mini Market – 3904 14th Street, NW

Dffrnt Wrld Deli

D.C. Barber Center3817 14th St NW

OPENkitch’n was the third event of Rebar’s collaboration, following Public Art: It’s a Verb! back in April and the recent Street Furniture Design Build. These events and interventions support DCOP’s long-term Small Area Plan by prototyping experiences such as outdoor gathering, sociability and street life while testing specific designs for streetscapes and sidewalk furniture.

Written by Rebar

August 28th, 2012 at 12:53 pm

Posted in Announcements

The ‘parklet’ wave is about to hit Chicago

Look out Windy City! What started with Park(ing) Day and became a household name in SF is rolling out in Chicago.

Written by Blaine

August 20th, 2012 at 3:48 pm

Posted in Noticed

Urban Prototyping Festival 2012


Rebar is pleased to announce our participation in creating UP: 2012 Urban Prototyping Festival!

UP: San Francisco will center around Placemaking Through Prototyping: How Citizen Experiments Reimagine the Public Realm. The festival will foster a wide array of new creative projects which blend the digital and physical to explore new possibilities in public space. Every project produced will be open source, publicly documented, and replicable in any city in the world.

UP: San Francisco culminates in a weekend Make-a-thon in September and a final exhibition in October.

And there is an OPEN CALL for projects, and the deadline is August 20th, so submit your project idea now and help lift our city UP!

UP: San Francisco is a collaboration among some stellar organizations, including:

Gray Area Foundation for the Arts
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco Mayor’s Office of Civic Innovation

L.A.S.E.R. tag by Graffitti Research Lab

L.A.S.E.R. tag by Graffitti Research Lab

Written by Matthew

August 8th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

Posted in Announcements