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Michael Barakat Human Centered Designer‘s

Portfolio 2011





2 I’m Michael Barakat. I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I love three things. Rock and roll Design - and Food. I try to apply myself to any and all socially connected problems that come my way. I make charts, plans, systems, films, animations, and videos. But, my biggest concern is working toward a sustainable society. I believe this means localization.

About the Designer

I’m Michael Barakat. I live in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. I love three things. Rock and roll Design - and Food. I try to apply myself to any and all socially connected problems that come my way. I make charts, plans, systems, films, animations, and videos. But, my biggest concern is working toward a sustainable society. I believe this means localization.

Contact Info

Michael Barakat 12327 E Montgomery Ave Philadelphia, PA 19125 215-519-9164


Project One


Humanizing the South Broad St Concourse (an unfriendly place).

The Philadelphia South Broad Street concourse is unfriendly. The University of the Arts has no common area. Could these two issues be a match for each other? This project was about how community, environment, and culture can provide answers to architectural problems.


The South Broad St Concourse

Could this be the new underground commons?


Underground commons project structure

Historical Study of the Concourse

Observation of users.

Visualizing concepts and interviewing for expert feedback.

Data Mapping

Human Centered Design and Architecture Does the environment shape the man or does the man shape his environment? It’s a question often argued about amongst ,well, everybody. I wanted to put an end to this argument by creating an environment that was based on the ideas and thoughts of the community around the project.


The Concourse is a place fraught with turmoil and confusion. It is fully functional, but distant from the life of center city Philadelphia. In order to connect the South Broad Street Concourse to the life of the city

Isolating key problems of public space in the area.


Presentation of concepts to users and stakeholders. User Engagement

we interviewed experts, the community, and fully embraced the Human Centered Design Process to create new solutions to the problem of a troubled public space.


City Hall

The Project focus is here


A Look at the Concourse

What is the Concourse? What does it do? As you may notice from the photos above, the Concourse is a strange place. It’s normally pretty barren. You can walk through most of the day and see only a few people. It was built to accommodate high volumes of human traffic during peak hours. But, aside from being a concrete shelter from the elements, there is very little to attract users.

The landscape also varies greatly. Some places are well polished and cleaned several times a day. Others see very little use and are sometimes used in ways beyond the originally intended design. You can see this in the picture of the skateboarder on the top right.


Learning the Concourse


m b er of Da

10 min Intervals


Morning Rush Hour

Female Movement Male Movement

Concourse traffic patterns

Broad Street Programs


Learning the Concourse

30 Responses

I Commute through the Concourse times a week. It makes me feel good / bad (circle one). I’m in this area

minutes long. This

space seems dangerous / safe (circle one).


Space Problems around the Concourse: University of the Arts

This is not a bench.

The problems that the South Broad Concourse could Solve. The Concourse has loads of problems, but many of them stem from the lack of steady population. If the Concourse had a population maybe it wouldn’t be such a bad place. But, building a long lasting user group means looking outside the Concourse


for a demographic that will stay. Looking in the area revealed that the University of the Arts had a need for space. We also saw that between Rittenhouse Square and Washington Square park there are no relaxing public leisure spaces.

A better concourse needs to do three things in Center City.

City Hall

MultiFunction Walnut st

Broad St


Adapt Human Centered Design and Architecture To accommodate other users what would the South Broad Street Concourse need to become? It would have to be a place that reflects the needs and desires of the community. The map above is an expression of the different concentrations of the various

businesses and building types in center city. A successful concourse design will have to take these synergies into account. It would have to connect to them, adapt to them, and provide multi-functionality to the users.



Artificial Hills on Broad Street

Artificial Hills on Broad Street

Underground Road for Cars

Who is buying in? Project partners and stakeholders. Project concepts ranged from creating artificial hills onto Broad Street (thus allowing for higher ceilings in the Concourse), inverting the Broad Street and the Concourse (having the roads all underground), to ideas of creating the area into an actual cave. We chose a group of potential stakeholders that could potentially buy-in to developing the South Broad Concourse. These initial


concepts were then visualized in the form of renderings for each stakeholder: Parks Association, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, and For-Profit Development Corporation. These concepts were not solutions to the needs of the City. Later, the feedback we heard from the populace at UArts transformed our final design concept. They looked like the ideal Concourse partner.

Stakeholder Scenarios

Parks Association

Mural Arts Program

For Profit Development


Final Concept

The Underground Commons Humanizing the Concourse meant tying it into the flourishing natural community of its Center City surroundings. The final idea is the UArts Underground Commons. What makes this different than the typical commons, campuses, and other universities is that this space is public and private. Most other universities have an open


campus but often these so-called open campuses are void of anything beyond the universities’ needs. They do not mingle with the surrounding community. This underground commons allows for UArts to have a truly open campus that would enable the surrounding community to feel apart of the community at UArts.

A place for walking Inflatable rooms

Concerts and dancing

Inflatable Bubble Rooms


How Does it Work Deflated Inflation Equipment

Deflated Membrane

Inflatable Rooms There are three components to the system: a path, temporary objects and rooms, and permanent objects and rooms. The path holds the system together. The programs, activities, of the buildings on the street, shape it and its shape reflects the magnitude of the synergies. Along the path are permanent and temporary structures that adapt to the changing path. The structures are inflatable bubbles. The bubbles inflate for use as a room, and can then deflate when more area in the Concourse is needed for other activities. The bubbles contain resources for the University of the Arts. Two of them are permanent, and house a Student Union and a Performance area. The other bubbles are temporal areas that collapse when not in use. Around the area are seating units that can be moved for different vantage points. Around the path are open spaces with features that offer users the ability to treat the space like a typical outdoor park. Full Spectrum light, moss columns, and even artificial grass will bring this natural feeling into the Concourse.




Fully Inflated Membrane

Moss Walls and Columns

Weekly Misting



Moss can drastically change the appearance of a space because it can take the shape of whatever surface it grows on. Thus, it creates a profound texturing. Moss needs four things for successful growth. Fortunately the Concourse has most of these things naturally: Moisture, shade, humidity,

Water Retaining Bonding Agent


and low ph (in the form of concrete). Moss can grow on any hard surface as long as the moss can adhere. This requires a rough surface or bonding agent. One of its best qualities is that it requires very little upkeep. It takes in all its nutrients through its leaves from humidity and moisture. So it only needs a weekly misting.



Response, feedback, reflections, and the future. When the project was presented to the community it was very well received. They had been waiting for an intervention from someone for a long time. But, for many it was still hard to see past the South Broad Street Concourses problems. At this point, the concept could fulfill any potential needs of the University of the Art’s future. In order to enact this project, we realized without the buy in of the local community and constituencies the project, or any project for that matter, would not flourish. The next step would be to present this project to real stakeholders to get more feedback, support, and capital to make the Concourse a better place for everyone.



Project Two


Bringing the Smallest Bird of Prey Back to the City

The American Kestrel is not threatened. It is not extinct. But, it is absent from the cities of Pennsylvania where it should thrive. UrBird is an urban bird initiative to raise awareness, and support the cause of biodiversity in urban places.


The American Kestrel


Why the Kestrel? Why Philly?

There aren’t very many predatory birds in Philadelphia, and the numbers are dwindling. UrBird takes the pastime of birdwatching and adapts it to the urban environment. We are focusing on predatory birds that already have a widely available food source (city rodents and insects). What’s more, Philadelphia has excellent access to two large rivers for drinking.

Biodiversity: Good for birdie and for you too. One focus of Urbird is the issue of Biodiversity in the urban environment. Awareness of biodiversity and the diverse natural world inside Philadelphia serves to inspire, engage, and collectively prioritize human sensitivity and understanding of all life around humanity. The Kestrel is a great example of an animal that can help humans by eliminating pests.


The Nestworks: Brings the Kestrels back and shows people their homes.


Natural Kestrel Habitat

Nesting Boxes

A series of nesting boxes, or nestworks has a dual function: One, it builds an infrastructure or roadway to urban places. And, two, makes a public display of biodiversity where viewers can see birdsv homes. The path seeks to put bird homes on display thus creating an urban museum of nesting boxes. The nestworks uses the walkability of the neighborhoods as a factor in choos-

ing locations. http://www.walkscore. com/ allows UrBird to taylor it’s programming around the offerings (food, public space, transportation) of the various neighborhoods of Philadelphia. Through local partnerships, Podcasts and a Nestworks Guide program the path to nesting locations.


UrBird build workshop.


Found Materials


UrBird: What is your future? The UrBird build workshop was a great success. But, there are still no partners to place the boxes on their buildings. No matter what support from many individuals will be required to bring the American Kestrel back to the city. The next step is to find local partners to keep kestrel boxes on their properties. Then the kestrel will find its way back to cities.



Project Four

Civility in the Streets

Making the Crosswalk safer and friendlier for everyone.

As far as anyone knew, it was just a typical day in Philadelphia. Team Civility knew better. Something was amiss out there. The streets were angry. Cyclists, Motorists, and Pedestrians were all at war with one another.



Civility in the Streets Project Structure

Identifying the needs of the client

Observing the problem areas

Interviewing experts

Finding the right place for making the right impact. The transportation system constantly grows, shrinks and develops. It’s an ongoing system with ongoing problems. What will our transportation system look like in 10 years? Will it be adequate?


How will it look in 20? The Civility in the Streets Project began with these questions.

Experimentation and Conclusions

Analysis Concepting


The transportation system is inadequate.



Collision Count (1990 - 2005)

22 or More


10 - 21 3-9



Area A: 274 - 553 Crashes

Area B: 284 - 517 Cra

BICYCLE or more collisions Collision 22 Count

22 or more collisions

(1990 - 2005)

These interesections are high risk zones.

7 - 13 31-


Cars run yellow and red traffic signals. Pedestrians walk when they’re not 6 supposed to, frequently causing accidents. 2 Cyclists do just about whatever they want. If users of the crosswalk intersection

were more aware of their actions and surroundings then the streets would be a safer place for everyone.






Why do these collisions occur? Interesections are the places where cars, pedestrians and cyclists meet. Places that are shared areas. But, why aren’t they treated like places we share? We didn’t need to go far to find problems in

our transportation infrastructure. Just wait until rush hour (5pm) and walk to any Philadelphia city corner. Misuse and Abuse is rampant.


Experimentation in the Intersection provides new insights.


VINYL CIRCLES Experiements: Different experiments were conducted using simple materials to temporariily increase visibility, foster user engagement and a more interactive environment. Several different experiments were conducted.



SPEAKER BOX Vinyl RIngs: arrows and rings tempt pedestrians to “hop scotch� along the crosswalk.

Human Barrier: Human presence deters cars from edging forward into shared space.

Vinyl Circles: circles make a walkway to deter pedestrians from jaywalking.

SpeakerBox: A speaker shouts commands when users break the rules.


Results: Information for future projects.

Experiements: The experiments were successful in failed to engage users, while others were highlighing some of the problems of clearly temporary solutions. What solutions the crosswalk. And, the data that was can we find next? gathered present new points of entry for further study. Many of the experiements




Michael Barakat Designer University of the Arts 215.519.9164 41

Michael Barakat  

Human Centered Design Portfolio. UX. Human Factors.

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