Transdisciplinary Design, Parsons School of Design
New York, NY
Urban Periscopes are built out of PVC tubes and attached to lamp posts near bus stations in East Harlem, New York. The periscope viewports are built for children ages 7-11 and will allow 360-degree rotation, offering unexpected views of their neighborhood and the city from high altitudes.
Attached to each periscope is a collection of transparent filters that depict scenes of the neighborhood past, present and future etched in minimal silhouette. Adults and siblings may sift through some while the operator slides her favorite into the periscope?perhaps finding where the actual scene and superimposed image align!
East Harlem has a rich history of social movements that are, in many ways, still powerfully relevant today. While historical slides might convey efforts by the Young Lords Party and other Latino groups that organized for civil and economic rights, present-day filters could illustrate moments from the Chicano movement, the Dreamers, and African-American youth who protested stop-and-frisk and police violence. Most of the filters are curated by community members, but others are blank and can be inscribed by passersby. In this way, simple prompts on blank filters will invite people to illustrate or describe the future heroes of the neighborhood.
The periscopes are brightly colored and decorated by local artists. We are imagining vertical text that wraps around the periscopes, inviting people to touch and turn them. The text would read "¡Pa'lante!" an optimistic expression meaning "Keep at it!" and also the title of the historic Young Lords newspaper produced in East Harlem.
By offering such a variety of stimulation, Urban Periscopes engage children and caretakers of all ages in a multitude of perspectives about the places where they live.
- Andrea Morales