Technologies and systems that make cities better for people:

The Future of Shopping

Making responsive retail environments with deployable street furniture, pop-up markets and a digital platform.

Envision the future of shopping in cities, in a retail world struggling with vacant storefronts and online ordering.

Combine foldable, illuminated and interactive furniture, a digital platform for renting vacant storefronts and open-air pop-up markets as a way to revitalize urban shopping streets and bring people together. 
Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD)
Responsive Environments: the Future of Shopping

Allen Sayegh and Stefano Andreani, instructors

Betty Chen, Chien-min Lu and Eric Moed, teammates
Spring 2018


The future of shopping appears increasingly digital: oriented around the convenience of online ordering and focused on making retail more efficient, primarily by minimizing human interaction.

How might we instead use technology in the built environment to encourage entrepreneurship, foster social interactions and revitalize urban streetscapes?

Our design response proposes that deployable furniture — designed to be cheaply manufactured and quickly shipped as a flat-packed product — digital platforms and coporate partnerships might be combined to create pop-up markets and community events that revitalize urban shopping streets worldwide.

A system to revitalize shopping streets

Our project begins with a digital platform that connects local businesses and entrepreneurs to vacant storefronts, allowing cities to carry out short-term rentals. Corporate partnerships are opportunities to transform multiple rentals on one street into a shopping event; with branded souvenirs and flat-pack furniture serving as cheap and effective supporting physical infrastructure and attractions.

A chair in two parts

As a proof of concept, we designed a flat-pack chair, which could be shipped to site as two separate panels and intuitively folded together.

Putting it to the test

In the local shopping area of Harvard Square, we tested our furniture designs for usability and impact. We noticed immediately that light-up, pop-up furniture could make a difference. Even a single stool had the effect of transforming a darker corner or alley into a point of interest.

Still curious? Check out some of my other work:


The New Wave

Putting the human interface for urban tech into the public realm, with sidewalk hailing infrastructure for autonomous vehicles. 

Anchor a new innovation district for Melbourne, Australia with autonomous vehicle technology.

The New Wave, an intuitive sidewalk hailing system for a public-private autonomous vehicle fleet that creates public transit — while improving urban form at the street level.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Digital City Design Workshop with MIT Senseable City Lab
Carlo Ratti, Ricardo Felix and Newsha Ghaeli, instructors


The New Wave consists of three components: a modular sidewalk platform that enables hailing through human gestures, a public-private AV fleet and a coordinating logic for routing. The New Wave begins as a cost-effective interim solution, but scales to reconfigure urban form. 

The New Wave democratizes the interaction between people and autonomous vehicles, by creating public space for currently privatized services. A shift in perception around autonomous vehicles is accompanied by their integration into public transit, leading to new form factors and organizational structures.

The system leverages a suite of fused sensors: computer vision from an IR camera to identify users, load cells to verify seating, wireless device sensors and protocols for detection and payment. On the kiosk, illumination design and a touchscreen offer visual feedback.

Project completed as part of the MIT Senseable City Lab's partnership with Melbourne and the state of Victoria. Prototyping extended to simple CV studies of gesture recognition with a Kinect sensor.


As easy as it used to be

Tasked with exploring possibilities for autonomous vehicles in Melbourne’s new innovation district, Fishermans Bend, I began with a desire to simplify the process of hailing vehicles. Ride-sharing apps allow access from just about anywhere, but the act of using those apps can be difficult. How might autonomous vehicels help us go back to an age of hand gestures and a well-timed whistle?

Solving a problem on the ground

A site visit to Melbourne, coupled with previous analysis, also revealed an urgent need for improved public transportation. While bus and streetcars lines adequately serve most of the city, Fishermans Bend itself was a conspicious transit desert. How might autonomous vehicles help provide public transit for workers and residents of Fishermans Bend?

While Fishermans Bend is a reclaimed industrial site with wide streets and lots of parking, I observed that much of Melbourne’s urban “livability” stemmed from exciting intersections of public transit, pedestrian sidewalks and dynamic storefronts; these ranged from open plaza configurations to tight lanways. How might automobile-centric transit systems in Fishermans Bend preserve or even inspire these kinds of urban activities?

Putting interaction on the sidewalk

By partially deploying autonomous vehicle technology in sidewalk kiosks, I imagined a future where urban infrastructure could become a human-friendly part of a city’s streetscape. The kiosks themselves contained sensors that would allow anyone to wave and hail a vehicle. Screens on the kiosks themselves could provide more precise information or advanced requests. Kiosks also become opportunities for seating, shading and illumination — combining several urban infrastructure elements into one minimal design.

Because this system exists on the street, it is inherently open to all. A combination of public and private autonomous vehicle fleets could be integrated. An expanded range of kiosk designs allows it to accommodate a range of street conditions in Melbourne, matched to vehicle availability and user demand.

Human-computer interaction in the city

A choreographed series of interactions allow users to understand that the system has registered their request for a ride, supported by information displayed on screens.

Initial animations for the kiosk interface demonstrate the look-and-feel of the system in the city. I also prototyped some of the technologies involved, leveraging a Kinect’s computer vision package to demonstrate the feasibility of sensor-driven ride hailing.

Still curious? Check out some of my other work:


Climate Solutions Living Lab

Infrastructure to promote energy independence, community sustainability and climate justice in rural Alaska.

Assist in the expansion of Shishmaref, an Alaska Native community facing the impact of anthropogenic climate change, to a new site.

A proposal for the design, funding and siting of a hybrid wind-diesel renewable microgrid, to create energy independence and broad sustainability benefits for Shishmaref.
Harvard Law School (HLS)  Climate Solutions Living Lab
Wendy Jacobs, instructor
Willow Latham (GSD+HKS), Sidra Fatima (GSD), Paavani Garg (HLS), Mo Earley (HKS+Tuck) and Darya Minovi (HSPH), team members Spring 2018


The Alaska Native community of Shishmaref faces the impact of anthropogenic climate change and global warming. The combined effect of permafrost thaw, increased storm surge and coastal erosion have caused continual land loss for a community situated on a slim barrier island along the Bering Strait in Northwest Alaska. Today, Shishmaref is in danger of falling into the sea.

The community, converted to static settlement as part of historic relationship with the US, most recently the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, continues a fishing- and subsistence-based way of life. Access to the sea is paramount. Expanding Shishmaref to the less vulnerable location of West Tin Creek Hills on the mainland, however, will require signifcant captial expenditure to build new housing and infrastructure. Unfortunately, limited funds are available to support the community as it expands.

As part of an interdiscplinary team in Harvard Law School’s Climate Solutions Living Lab — a course that brings together graduate students from across Harvard University — I helped research a proposal for a hybrid wind-diesel microgrid, intended to provide renewable energy for Shishmaref’s future location and needs. The project aims to identify unique sources of funding, including the sale of greenhouse gas emission offsets to unregulated entities, to enable energy independence, sustainability and broad public and social benefits for Shishmaref. 



Still curious? Check out some of my other work:


Life With the Vacant Lot

Preparing cities and people for climate change and disaster resilience with dynamic zoning.

Using New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina as a case study, find ways to improve the recovery and resilience of cities — before and after disaster.

Life With the Vacant Lot proposes a system of dynamic zoning that incentivizes urban growth for resilience while balancing the needs of planners and residents. 
Yale University
Independent Thesis Keller Easterling, advisor
Spring 2012


Life With the Vacant Lot proposes a new way to plan communities for change and resilience.

New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina suffered an existential crisis: the collision of a precarious environment, degraded infrastructure, social strife, political dysfunction and economic uncertainty. Nothing better symbolizes the cmplexities of this situation than the vacant lot. Years after the storm, as many as an estimated 40,000 vacant lots riddled New Orleans.

Design responses to the vacant lot suffered from being too broad in ambition and too constrained in application. Building resilience into the fabric of a city requires going beyond direct remedies, and understanding the vacant lot as the result of economics, policies and individual decisions as much as natural disaster. A better system should incentivize change — growth, recovery or reduction — in a city before and after disaster, while also respecting the desires of residents and city planners. This kind of system, however, requires new tools to help designers understand the uncertain but probable outcomes of their decisions.

Still curious? Check out some of my other work:


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