Innovation That Matters

The Dynamic Street | Photo source David Pike

Modular paving system creates multipurpose streets

Architecture & Design

A collaborative project has produced a prototype for a modular paving system that can change the use of a street at any time.


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City streets have multiple uses throughout the day, from being host to streams of commuters to offering a leisurely play space to families. Such varied uses of communal spaces require adaptable features to suit multiple needs. With growing populations, it can be difficult to accommodate all demographics but this prototype might be a starting solution. The Dynamic Street is a modular paving system that can seamlessly adapt the uses of a street. Canadian company Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs and Italian innovation practice CRA Carlo Ratti Associati have collaboratively produced a prototype for the design. Sidewalk Labs seeks to combine urban design with the latest advances in technology to create sustainable, affordable and mobile streetscapes.  The inspiration behind the project is the removable urban pavement project by IFSTTAR, a French research group.

The Dynamic Street prototype is on exhibition throughout summer 2018 at Toronto’s Quayside 307. Visitors can use a digital reconfigurator to create their own urban scenarios and explore the uses of the Dynamic Street. The design consists of hexagonal modular pavers. Rearranging these pavers can change the function of a street without causing any disruptions to people using the street.  In addition to being mobile, each paver has an embedded light that can communicate crossings, pick-up zones or other uses. This therefore increases safety for pedestrians and cyclists. Future prototypes may also feature a plug and play element, such as poles, bollards or basketball hoops.

Professor Carlo Ratti, founder of CRA practice and Director of the Senseable City Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says, “The Dynamic Street creates a space for urban experimentation: with this project, we aim to create a streetscape that responds to citizens’ ever-changing needs.”

This prototype is an indicator of a much wider surge in smart city innovation. Springwise have also noted other innovations that seek to modernise cities and solve the evolving  challenges of urban life, such as this anti-noise device that attaches to a window to block out external noise. Others similar to these modular pavers also from Sidewalk Labs are reactive pavements that melt away ice and snow. Such innovations are designed to improve the comfort and accessibility of modern cities according to the changing demands of businesses and residents.




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