sonoGROTTO

sonoGROTTO

Kuth Ranieri Architects as Designer, Architect, Builder

Tasked by Yerba Buena Center for the Arts and the San Francisco Planning Department to design new prototypes of spaces and activities on Market Street, to be displayed for three days during the Market Street Prototyping Festival, we created a space of respite on the busy sidewalk. sonoGROTTO is an experiment in using affordable, ubiquitous, and recyclable materials to create new, human-scaled spaces along the cavernous and over-scaled corridor of Market Street.


It is composed of 235 cardboard tubes fastened together. The tubes were packed, trimmed to fit within a 10-foot cube, and carved to create seats, windows, and an oculus to view the sky above. The curved cuts on the linear tubes evoke stalactites and stalagmites, framing the sky while simultaneously filtering out the hustle and bustle at street level. As the day passes, revolving arrays of dappled light and shifting shadows dance in and around the vicinity of the grotto.


Built for $3,500, sonoGROTTO is completely reusable, recyclable, and/or compostable, made entirely of cardboard and steel bolts. Digital design and modeling enabled the production of full-scale surfaces that were used as templates to manually fabricate each individual tube. After each tube was marked, it was cut and assembled by hand in a simultaneously high- and low-tech construction process.


sonoGROTTO proved itself to be successful in engaging the public, fostering interaction, and provided human-scaled space. It is an economical and adaptable system that can be deployed for short-term events and also serve as a template for more permanent urban installations. This prototype structure can be quickly assembled and deployed, creating comfortable places to pause and rest, allowing people to talk to each other or just appreciate the view in dense corridors where most people are too hurried to appreciate their surroundings. It can be placed in urban centers, as a folly in the landscape, within offices spaces, or hospitality environments. After the installation, the project was relocated to a large warehouse office space where it could again provide comfortably sized places to sit and mitigate the scale of the vast and oversized space.


Photography by Brad Knipstein

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