Bik Van der Pol
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Take Part
The city of San Francisco is a living form, constantly changing and evolving: from its genesis as a leading gold rush destination to its contemporary status as the technology and information capital of the world. Yet as current dynamics accelerate and the city is becoming a hub for global capital, notions of civic participation and inclusion in San Francisco have undergone profound changes.

Take Part, a project by Bik Van der Pol, seeks to create a shared public vision of the city by anchoring discussions about its past, present and future, to the tangible: a 1000 square foot detailed wooden scale model of the city built in the late 1930s by the WPA under the New Deal program. It was displayed in sections in 1939, and as a whole in 1940-1941 in City Hall. The model was used as an urban planning tool through the 1960s. In 1968, the downtown portion became a teaching and research tool at UC Berkeley. The model has not been on public view in its entirety, since 1941. Take Part reimagines San Francisco by way of its people through a program of public events that involves the participation of librarians, urban planners, cartographers, social geographers, historians, students, and many others to experience the model, reflect on their relationship to the city, and to imagine the city’s possibilities. Take Part comes from “Taking Part”, community planning workshop processes created in the 1970s by Lawrence and Anna Halprin. These workshops encouraged collective
Take Part
creativity, to work together to solve complex problems. Take Part unfolds in three phases:
1. Cleaning: the model was photographed, and cleaned and assessed by community members, librarians, city planners, writers, students, scholars, artists and friends, discussions on the character, changes and futures of neighbourhoods, and the city as a whole.
2. Bringing the Neighbourhood to the Neighbourhood: January-March 2019, the model is exhibited in the 27 SFPublic Library branches, Main Branch and the Public Knowledge Library at SFMOMA. More than 100 events focus on publicness and civic participation in Reading the Model (informal gatherings around the model) and Modeling the City (moderated conversations on urgent subjects)), site-specific storytelling, town hall discussions, history nights, mini-city tours, neighbourhood walks, bike rides, and mapmaking. Roadmap/poster designed by Mathew Kneebone and Joanna Rosso. David Rumsey published the WPA model as a large map, 158 parts to the model, and on his blog, and Kitchen Sisters podcasts 120, 121, and 123.
3. Making Room For San Francisco will put the scale model on public display in its entirety, working together with different audiences and participants to come together to imagine, perform, and participate in shaping, formulating, and speculating what living in this city should be. Scheduled for 2020, cancelled due to corona. Sign petition here