Introduction: How to Create a Pop-Up Forest!

The Pop-up Forest was an installation created for San Francisco's Market Street Protoyping Festival ( It was designed to produce the visual effect and experience of an infinite forest landscape “popping up” in one of the city's most urban areas. The Pop-Up Forest featured a wooden structure with two acyrlic mirrored walls. Between the mirrors, a selection of trees, native plants, and wood chips were arranged along a path. The Pop-up Forest created a unique and fun “forest” to engage people in a dialogue about the many benefits and importance of trees and plants in urban settings.

Step 1: Identify a Neighborhood With Few Trees or Parks

We chose the intersection of 6th & Market Streets on the border of some of San Francisco's least leafy neighborhoods (Tenderloin and South of Market) to create a Pop-Up Forest. This area has the smallest tree canopy (4%) in practically all of San Francisco.

Step 2: Develop Your Design

What is your vision? How do you want it to look? Develop some renderings and sketches of your Pop-Up. Build a small model to test out how it will work and appear. Be sure to consider all of the construction details. Talk to other builders to get their thoughts and suggestion on how to build the structure so that it doesn't fall down! Getting feedback from a range of designers, professionals and regular people is a crucial step.

Step 3: Measure the Site and Check for Conflicts

Take a measuring tape to the site and chalk out where your design will be. Identify any existing conflicts - bike racks, street furniture, existing street trees etc. Find ways to design around them or incorporate into your final design.

Step 4: Build the Structure ​

Gather and purchase all of your materials before you start. To build the structure for the Pop-Up Forest you'll need 2 x 4s, plywood, acrylic mirrors (4' x 8' panels), hardware (screws, nails, hinges), drills, hammer, adjustable wrench, carriage bolts, etc. Build the Pop-Up in sections. Ours was designed in 4' x 8' panels, with 4' x 4' wing supports on the outside walls. Build each 4' x 8' panel first, then build the 4' x 4' wing walls.

Step 5: Install Onsite With Trees and Plants

Make sure you have a supportive crew to help you install the Pop-Up! Transport all of your plants, trees and woodchips to the site. Then install the plantings and trees to maximize the effect of a mini-forest popping up on the street! Include some interesting and engaging signage as well.

Step 6: Enjoy the Forest!

Now enjoy the forest! The smells, colors, peace and fun of the forest will be felt by all who walk through. Even some birds and butterflies might show up too!