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Public Streets

New York City, 2020-2021

A chalk drawing kit to claim active and engaging public spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. In collaboration with Street Lab, NYC.


Image of chalk tool set deployment in Red Hook NYC by DAS Lab

Image of chalk tool set deployment in Red Hook NYC by DAS Lab


In May 2020 during the COVID outbreak, the NYC Department of Transportation announced that 100 miles of the city's streets would be closed daily for pedestrian use. Street Lab NYC, a non-profit based in NYC, approached the lab to respond to this opportunity and develop opportunities to adapt their community engagement and education programs for under-served neighborhoods in NYC to accommodate social distancing.

In collaboration with Street Lab, Design Across Scales Lab designed a set of chalk tools with the goal of transforming the surface of the street into a public canvas that would engage and attract pedestrians to the Street Labs community programs. Tools are designed for use by 1, 2, or 3 people. Each tool is informed by social-distancing guidelines through 6’ strings separating the chalk holders or by encouraging collaboration by separate users.

Accompanying the chalk kits is a playbook outlining the basic ‘rules’ for each tool (such as keeping the string tight at all times, ensuring social distancing). The booklet also provides examples of generative operations that could be followed to quickly populate the surface of the street with patterns. The chalk kit is meant to be a tool set to claim the street as temporary public space as well as an activity in and of itself, engaging users in an active and socially-distanced of public space-making

Project Team:
Alexander Kobald (project lead)
Cait McCarthy (research assistant, designer)
Jordan Young (research assistant, designer)
​​​​​​​J. Meejin Yoon

Image and drawings of chalk tool set by DAS Lab

The kit is made up of five tools, to be used by one to three users. The tools are embedded with the CDC's recommendations for social distancing and can be used individually or collaboratively.

Drone footage of chalk tool test

Overhead view of chalk tool test by DAS Lab

Overhead view of a test deployment of the full kit of chalk tools.

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