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Turnout NYC

Five sites in the five boroughs: performance-supporting infrastructure and placemaking

Member of the core design team with SITU, and site design and planning / placemaking advisement for the team and site partners.

Turnout NYC is a Mellon Foundation-funded project to bring equitable arts access to all five boroughs, creating the tools and resources, including infrastructure and placemaking, to activate undersupported and/or underutilized public spaces and enable our partner community organizations to create accessible performances and other programming. Local arts access is essential for building, reinforcing, and growing community— enabling thriving, vibrant public spaces.

Turnout's kit of parts has all of the physical parts needed to create an event and invite everyday use by the public— modular elements that create: platforms/stages of varying sizes, ramp, benches, and signage, as well as seating and lighting and audio equipment. Temporary elements can be stored within the modules, and all can be set up simply by non-professional installers. The system is flexible and adaptable for a multitude of uses.

There is one semi-permanent site, at Osborn Plaza in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and the remaining four boroughs shared a traveling kit from June through October, which moved from Alice Austen Park in Staten Island, to Travers Park in Queens, to the 125th Street Park Avenue Underpass in East Harlem, and finally to The Point CDC's Riverside Campus adjoining Hunts Point Riverside Park in the Bronx. We partnered with Brownsville Community Justice Center, Alice Austen House, Queensboro Dance Festival, Uptown Grand Central, and THE POINT Community Development Corporation. 100+ events occurred where over 500 artists were supported.

J. Ember Design collaborated with the team and site and curatorial partners throughout the process: understanding the space and needs with all local partners and communities, working on the design to ensure that the kit would work for each space, and assisting with citywide and local approvals and permitting. In the design process, we worked closely with SITU to imagine, refine, and review the design of the elements of the kit, especially through the lenses of usability, ease of setup, takedown, mobility, and worked to make sure that the elements were both suitable for specific placemaking and programming needs, as well as flexible for the future for all the disparate sites with their disparate challenges. We also encouraged ways that the sites could be consistently activated and show that they are cared for, in order to build and sustain mutual trust within the communities. In addition, we created site plans and procedures for setting up and configuring the modules for each type of event as well as the everyday setup, and we co-led the kit training for each borough and assisted with early event setups. This collaboration resulted in a system that is very adaptable and flexible, low-maintenance, and well-suited to its purpose.

Click on the images in the gallery for more details. Also see the video, "Turnout NYC Episode 1: Designers, Fabrication, and Installation", below, by Turnout NYC Communications and Storytelling Fellow Natalie Romero-Marx. Other partners/collaborators: LSTN Consultants, Alfafa Studio.

Turnout NYC was honored as a finalist in Fast Company's Innovation by Design Awards for 2023 in the Social Justice category.

For more information, see


Design Trust for Public Space
Design Partner

Project Gallery

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