Introduction: FOGPLANE

Fogplane was an installation that was part of the 2015 Market Street Prototyping Festival in San Francisco. The goal of MSPF is to unite diverse neighborhoods along Market Street, encouraging these vibrant communities to work with designers, artist and makers to build a more connected, beautiful San Francisco. See below for the concept behind Fogplane.

Fogplane focuses on San Francisco’s microclimates and the way its inhabitants relate to, create, recollect in memories their city as they walk through it and experience it. The fog of San Francisco is our inspiration.

Fogplane is an infrastructure that consists of stretchy fabric that is multiplied in layers. In its static form, Fogplane is simple and elegant in its form and material. Its layers inherently mimic the qualities of rolling fog in our city, creating density and depth. Much like fog, there are different levels of transparency and opaqueness against people and objects. The material of the white fabric also helps create gradients of shadows against it as people filter through Fogplane. According to where different people are standing within Fogplane, some people are completely visible, while others appear as shadows against the fabric. The more layers of fabric are in front of a person, the softer their shadows appear. As people interact with it in various capacities, the project itself begins to accumulate traces and memories of people.

Step 1: Materials

The cost to build Fogplane at full scale, including transportation to the installation site and preliminary mock ups was approximately $3000. The materials that we used included the following:

(12) 12' lengths of 2x4

(30) 8' lengths of 2x4

(12) 4'x8' sheets of 3/4" MDF

(10) 7' lengths of 1.5" dia galvanized pipe, cut down to 6'-8" and threaded

(10) Threaded base plates for 1.5" pole

(40) Large screws for anchoring base plates

(5) sets of LED strip lights

(10) 1'x1' sections of 12x4 header

Large box of 2.5" screws

Small box 1.5" screws

90 yards of stretchy spandex blend mesh fabric

(1) tube liquid nails

(1) gallon dark grey exterior paint

(2) cans chrome spray paint

(2) cans white spray paint

(40) sets (loops and hooks) 1.5" dia industrial velcro

(2) epoxy

Step 2: Design

We began our investigation and conversation by zooming out and gathering a larger theoretical conversation about how people relate to and ground themselves into the environments they inhabit. We read and had an exciting conversation about Kevin Lynch's 'Image of the city'. Following our discussion, we had a group exercising bringing this broad topic to apply to our own city. We mapped, drew and annotated our own experiences, memories and thoughts about the given sites. This allowed us to start thinking about what sites we were interested in for our intervention. pulling from our reports and observations, we discussed overall concepts that were relevant and important to us. we were interested in really grounding our concept into a universal San Francisco experience and we discussed how our environment, or more specifically, how microclimates throughout our city define and effect our thoughts about each neighborhood.

Once we had a good idea for how we wanted it to look, we used Rhino to give 3D form to our sketches. In Rhino we modeled multiple iterations until we landed on the design we liked. From there we created our presentation boards.

Software/tools Used:



Adobe Illustrator

Adobe Photoshop

Adobe InDesign

Laser cutter

This thorough design process we took on - from theoretical conversation to a mapping exercise to sketching together - helped us define and root our project into an overall architectural experience and affect that we wanted to create with Fogplane. It was no longer about just creating an interesting form or fun playscape, but a provocative project that addresses our experiences of the city on multiple levels - one that alludes to memories, visceral experiences of the city, bringing the community to interact with strangers and one that puts the high-tech community of our city aside and urges us to reconnect with each other on basic human levels (physical passing, physical touch, encountering one another face to face)

Step 3: Fabrication

For the fabrication of Fogplane, we needed to figure out a way to break the 16'x20' platform into modules so we could build in one of our teammates garages. Space is a limited resource in SF so we broke up the project into as many pieces as possible for easier on site installation. During the work week we met 2-3 times for 2-3 hours each time; on the weekend we would put in 6-8 hours. This lasted for 4-5 weeks, getting more intense as installation day approached.

First build the modules for the platform

1. Cut all 2x4s to lengths shown on platform framing diagram.

2. Put all frames together making sure pole bases fit in spaces.

3. Attached pole bases to 12"x12" blocks.

4. Cut all MDF.

5. Assuming there's space, use a couple screws to connect frame modules together.

6. Make sure bases fit again.

7. Place MDF sheets on top of frame, trimming where necessary.

8. Mark where pole bases hit on MDF; drill holes and use router to remove MDF so metal bases nest into MDF and a pole can be screwed into the base once all assembled. Do this for all MDF panels.

9. Route out tracks for LED light strips and drill hole for LED to poke through from below.

10. With bases in correct place, screw in poles. Take fabric and stretch it between poles to determine lengths, leaving enough fabric to wrap around pole. Mark lengths and cut. Fold small amount of fabric ends over on itself and sew tube into fabric.

11. Remove poles and fabric and set aside for installation.

12. Disassemble frame modules, bases, and mdf panels and paint frame and MDF with charcoal paint.

13. Spray paint poles white.

14. Mark out locations for velcro on fabric.

15. Use epoxy to attach velcro.

Step 4: Installation

Having done as much work as possible before the actual build day, the installation went smoothly, but still took a while. We rented a cargo van and was able to load the entire installation into it. Other smaller things like tools, extension cords, screws, etc. was able to fit in a separate car.

After unloading the frames we positioned them on site and screwed them together. We then put the MDF on top, aligning the edges with the frame as best as possible. Going panel by panel we checked to make sure the bases fit and adjusted the base location in the frame, as needed, to line up with the pole holes in the MDF.

Once all the pole bases were screwed into place (and with MDF removed) we drilled holes in the sides of the framing members to allow the LED wiring/extension cords to pass through. With LEDs plugged in we put the panels back on and screwed them down. We then trimmed a few more MDF panels that still weren't fitting and applied some touch up paint. After that we glued down the LEDs (with liquid nails) into their routed tracks, screwed in the poles, and slipped the fabric over the poles.

Overall the installation took about 14 hours. This includes picking up the cargo van, loading, unloading, meals and short breaks, and complete installation on site. The most time consuming thing was making sure the frames, MDF panels, and bases all lined up so the more space one has to build, the easier it will be. Take into consideration tools needed on site, battery chargers, lights, extra materials, etc.

Step 5: Interaction

We posted two pieces of graphic signage. Sign 1 included a brief description of Fogplane, and some diagrams on how people were supposed to interact with the panels of fabric. Sign 2 included quotes relating to the fog of San Francisco.

The team guides would describe how to interact with Fogplane to visitors, pointing out the Velcro locations on the fabric, and inviting visitors to stick the Velcro pieces together. Sticking two pieces of Velcro together sometimes proved hard for one person to do, which encouraged interaction with multiple people to help others out. After sticking Velcro pieces together, visitors could see how the fabric stretched to form unique spaces based on the Velcro connections.

Visitors started to experiment with the limits of the installation. Though some start timidly, others were bolder with pushing the boundaries of the elastic limits of the fogplane fabric. We observed that the younger the visitor was, the more unrestrained they were in interacting with Fogplane. Adults needed more directions and showed initial hesitation when invited to touch the installation. Interaction evolved as the sun set, where Fogplane took on a new nighttime vibe. The LED lights reflected off the white fabric to create a dramatic experience different from the daytime experience.