This certainly isn’t what the LADOT installed "Scramble Crosswalks," i.e. "Barnes Dances" i.e. "pedestrian-only diagnol signals" at a handful of intersections. College students playing in the street? I admit that when I first got an email urging me to check out the spectacle known as "30 Seconds of Awesome" I was skeptical. But after talking with the organizer, professor and some of the participants, there was more going on here than just playing in the street. This was a living and moving demonstration that demands open space and embraces the urban form similar to the more recognized events such as Park(ing) Day or Critical Mass.
Krisztina Jozsef, a second year graduate student in UCLA’s architecture department designed what she termed "30 Seconds of Awesome." Basically, during the thirty eight seconds of "pedestrian only" time in the intersection of Westwood and Le Conte, a couple of dozen students run out in the intersection and basically play in the street. First a couple of warm-ups then tug-of-war, water balloons (with a clean-up time), jump rope, hula hoops, limbo and, most impressively, volley ball. The students were in and out of the intersection before regular car traffic resumed, with Professor Mark Mack wearing what looked to be an orange prison jump suit yelling out the remaining time into a mega phone.
She calls it "30 Seconds of Awesome" and a lot of the other participants agreed. You could tell it was a plugged in group…when I referred to it as "30 Seconds of CicLAvia" I got more laughs than confused looks.
At one point, campus police rolled up in a motor-cycle and after talking to the students and professor decided to watch to make sure the demonstration wasn’t interfering with traffic. After two rounds, he was satisfied and sped off. His driving through the crosswalk with a motorcycle during the pedestrian only time was the only law I witnessed being broken the entire afternoon.
Ok, so playing in the street is both fun, and in this case completely legal. But what’s the point? Jozsef explains.
The idea came after a few weeks of research and meetings with Mark
Mack, the studio professor. I am in my second year of graduate studies
at UCLA’s Architecture department, and the studio that Mark Mack
teaches is called "Let the sh*t hit the fan." We looked at new
movements of participatory Urban Activism, and I wanted to come up with
something that has never been done in the "reclaiming public
space/urban active" department. I looked at different types of flash
mobs and flash mob occurrences. I also was interested in the
correlation between the childhood obesity epidemic that is a national
health crisis and the built environment. There have been a few studies
on this topic and I wanted to create something for my studio project
that addressed this issue. The 30 Seconds promotes the use of our
existing urban infrastructure in a more physically engaging way. The
participants were exercising all while occupying a very everyday public
outdoor space. And more importantly, they were having fun, being safe,
and being healthy running around for a little bit.
My favorite: Volleyball. That looks like a lot of work.
The bad news is that there isn’t another round of "30 Seconds of Awesome" being planned. If I get wind that another one is in the works, I’ll let you know. You can catch more videos from Friday at the LA Streetsblog You Tube Page, and pictures at the Flickr Page.