This is a public space design, intended for a busy city street. It is a ritual space, creating a calm, verdant experience for an individual to refresh, relax, and reflect. We provide this instructable for one version of this design, but it can easily be adapted with other kinds of rituals and arrangements. The heart of the design is giving the overwhelmed passer-by a break from the city, guiding them to breathe deep and recharge themselves.
We built a Zen Door on Market Street in the center of San Francisco's financial district as part of the Market St. Prototyping Festival in April 2015.
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Step 1: Materials
To create a Zen Door, there is a shortlist of essential materials:
1) A gazebo or pergola that will be the base of your structure
2) Light fabric for the walls, from shower curtains or window curtains (non-rod style)
3) Shower curtain hooks
5) Turkish cologne
6) Oven bake-able clay in multiple colors
7) Hanging shoe pockets
8) Succulent plants
11) Poster boards
Step 2: Design: Choose Your Target Public Space.
Select a location in public for you to stage your ritual design. It should be with high passer-by traffic, and where people tend to be stressed, overwhelmed, and in a rush. Your target will be to give these people a ritual refresh.
The other factor in choosing is the size & openness to an intervention. Can you construct a structure here? Do you the space and permission to install an intervention here?
Step 3: Design: Create a 3-step Ritual
Considering the space you'll be targeting, choose what 3 actions you will have your users take. These ideally will be small, lightweight, and emotionally-pleasing actions for them to take. They will also be possible to do inside the structure you will construct.
Our 3 step ritual was as follows:
1) Refresh: Spray Turkish lemon cologne on your hands, then rub it on your face, to freshen up.
2) Reflect: Write down a wish on a card and tie it to the strings of others' wishes
3) Open: Ring the bell and get ready to go back outside.
You can map out the 3 steps of the ritual on paper, to ensure you know what actions the ritual step will entail & make sure that it will be possible in your public structure.
We also recommend brainstorming several possible ritual steps before finalizing your plan. Before we decided on Refresh, Reflect, Open, we had played around with some other ritual steps -- including some that involved watering plants, combing stones, tying fabric strips, weaving a blanket, and other small steps borrowing from traditional rituals.
Step 4: Fabricate: Build a Structure That Will House Your Ritual Space
Once you have your desired 3-step ritual set, now think about what kind of structure you can build that will guide your user through these steps. This structure should create an interior that blocks some of the sound, light, and traffic of the city, and that brings the user into a different kind of space. Ideally, you will give your user a sense of being alone even though she is on a busy city street.
For our structure, we hacked a gazebo. We took a traditional roofed gazebo/pergola, with its four posts, roof, and bars in order to use it as a base that could support our rituals.
To make it more of an interior space, hang shower curtains, sheets, or other light fabric from the posts of the structure. Attach them to the structure using shower curtain hooks. Leave an entrance the size of a person's width open, so that the user will know where to enter.
We also chose to leave another panel open -- where our ritual wishes hung on long strings. As users add more wishes to the strings, this panel will also be closed off from the street.
Step 5: Fabricate: Construct Your Rituals
With the structure constructed, now craft the props and stage for the ritual experience. Create the atmosphere that will make your user feel relaxed, open-minded, and recharged.
Plants are useful to create a light and welcoming atmosphere. We made a string garden and a green wall on two different walls of our interior.
Our string garden wall was made using small clay ice-cream cone plant pots. We made these pots by taking bake-able clay from a craft shop, rolling them out into large triangles, shaping the triangles into ice cream cones, and then baking them in the oven til they hardened. Then we took small succulents and planted them into the cone pots, and threaded colored floss through the pots to hang them.
Our green wall was made using hanging shoe pocket holders, that are intended to be used to hold shoes in closets or over the back of a door. Take a mid-size plant, lay it out onto a large square of breatheable fabric, and cover it with rich dirt. Then fold the fabric around the roots and dirt, and bind it together using lots of rubber bands. Then put the fabric-wrapped roots into the shoe-pocket. Repeat til the pockets are all full. Alternate long hanging plants and more upright, tall plants, to show different textures.
To make the reflect ritual, fill a large bowl with blank tags. Then take a smaller bowl and fill it with 6" pieces of ribbon and a ball point pen. Finally, take long pieces of twine and tie them from the top of your structure and to a heavy brick that rests on the floor. The user will take a tag, write their wish on it, and then tie it with a piece of ribbon to the twine, until the twine is filled with wishes.
To make the refresh ritual, buy a small spray bottle of Turkish lemon cologne from a Middle Eastern market. Tie it with a piece of twine to your structure.
To make the open ritual, buy a cow bell or small gong. Tie it with a piece of twine to your structure.
Step 6: Install: Label Your Space and Rituals With Posters
Create signage that welcomes your user into the ritual space & guides them through the steps.
The signage should have the same atmosphere as your rituals -- bright, calm, relaxing.
Make one large sign to print as a poster, to place outside your ritual space that will signal to the passer-by that she should stop and see what is happening. It should not explain too much, so that there is some mystery about what is inside the structure. It should convey a mood and tone of relaxation.
Make separate posters for each of the 3 ritual steps. These should be posted alongside the ritual -- the Refresh sign hung with the cologne, the Reflect sign with the bowls of tags, and the Open sign with the bell. These signs should have a step-by-step explanation of what to do at each ritual station with a small illustration.
Step 7: Install: Situate Your Structure & Rituals in the Public Space
At your public space, install your structure, hang the fabric up around it with the curtain hooks, and install the rituals inside.
String the cologne up, and post the Refresh sign next to it.
String the twine up for wishes to be tied onto. Place the bowls with the tags, ribbons, and pens next to it. Post the Reflect sign next to it.
Tie the bell/gong to the structure. Post the Open sign next to it.
Hang the string garden along one wall.
Hang the plant pockets along another wall.
Put the main sign on the outside of the fabric curtain.
If you have carpets or extra plants, position them outside the structure, leading up to the opening in the curtains. This will be the entry path for your passers-by, to welcome them into the space and gear them up for the ritual.
Step 8: Interaction: Prune, Answer, and Observe
Once you've set up your ritual structure and props, your job is to maintain the space, answer any queries that passers-by might have, and to model the ritual behavior & mood.
Watch as the wishes are being put up -- photograph them to capture them -- if the twine get overloaded, tie some horizontal lines of twine across the vertical ones, and continue to do so as they fill up.
When tags or ribbons run out, refill them.
Water the plants to keep them lively, even when they're in the shade.
Leave the interior empty for the passers-by to enjoy -- hang out on the outside in case anyone needs some more guidance or wants to talk about the experience. Your role is to play the quiet host -- there in case something big comes up, but otherwise let people have a quiet and reflective moment by themselves.