Placemaking Lab

August & September 2015 | Governors Island

Sextantworks used a house on Governors Island in New York City to host provocations on architecture, urban exploration, urban planning, real-world game design, cartography, and prankster activism. Masterclasses will covered lock picking, risk assessment, first responder medical training, nautical skills, and jerry rigging.

Special thanks to Kaitlyn Ellison for directing the lab.

Saturday August 8th

3:30 -5pm

Movement Workshop: Kinesthetic Conversations in Crowded Spaces

Every day in New York City we find ourselves interacting in urban space, on crowded streets and subway trains. Crossing paths with strangers, near collisions, conversations without words. How do we decode the grammar to these kinesthetic conversations? Learn how to inject fun, freedom, and a little bit of mischief into your everyday interactions and gain new insights for designing social experiences. This workshop will draw upon diverse disciplines including experience design, social science, martial arts, and choreography. Come ready to move your body. No dance or martial arts background necessary. All are welcome.

Lee-Sean Huang is a New York City-based experience design and educator. He is the cofounder of Foossa, a community-centered design and strategy consultancy, and a faculty member at the School of Visual Arts MFA Design for Social Innovation.

3:30 -5pm

Masterclass: Intro to Knot Tying

Knots are one of the earliest forms of technology, and one of the few forms of technology that will never become obsolete. They are a small miracle of human ingenuity: both simple and complex, elegant and functional.

There exist hundreds of knots, each with a particular function, but you'd be amazed by how much you can do with these basic knots we'll learn or revisit during this workshop: overhand knot, slip knot, blood knot, loop knot, water knot, figure eight knot, bowline, trucker's hitch.

Jean Barberis is an artist and a jack of all trades, self-taught in carpentry, shoemaking and boat building.

Sunday August 9th

2 -5pm

Board Games and Map Gazing

Come play board games and analyze maps on the sunny porch with fellow placemaking fanatics. Bring your own games and maps to add to the mix.

Ida Benedetto is co-founder of Sextantworks.

Saturday August 15th

1-3pm & 3-5pm

Games Workshop: Play-cemaking

The spaces around us are begging to be played with. From rule-bound games to informal rituals, lawn sports to trading cards, Governor's Island needs more play! Using our surroundings (the window sill, the porch, the visitors, the island), we'll work together to create games, activities, or scenarios to engage with the house and the island in playful ways.

The workshop will consist of lightly facilitated design time followed by play-testing in 2-hour sessions. Some traditional game design and craft supplies provided. This is a collaborative workshop -- definitely bring friends. Bonus points for persuading someone on the ferry to join you. Open to all ages.

An archive of activities created will be kept on-site for Placemakers of the future to play.

Toni Pizza is a game designer, educator, and community organizer interested in the intersection of games, play, community, and representation. More about Toni.

Sunday August 16th

3 - 4pm

Movement Workshop: Ecstatic Dance and Dynamic Meditation

A workshop in creating inner space to transform to the space around you.

Ecstatic dance is a form of sacred dance that is akin to practices like Tai Chi, Yoga, and other movement based meditations. What we aspire to create is a light, engaging and intimate environment that allows seekers to explore or tap into their inner stillness. After such an experience the physical space goes from unfamiliar to sacred through the shared experience of the group. This brings into question whether the space solely affects us or if we can transform it ourselves, using our perspective and shared experience.

This course will be open to families, though we will close doors during our practice to create intimacy.

Ereka Duncan creates beautiful accessories from everything she gets her hands on and specializes in making everyone feel good. More about Ereka.

Saturday August 22nd

2pm - 5pm

Masterclass: Between Mind and World

Where does your mind end and the world begin? Our understanding of the world is colored: colored by our senses, by our judgments, and by our desires. How much of what we see around us is projected from within, and how much is part of the world itself? In this 3-hour workshop, we will examine how our perceptions of our surroundings, our moral sentiments, and our understanding of cause and effect blur the line between the inner and the outer. We will read short excerpts from philosophers, living and dead, and use them as jumping-off points for a three-hour discussion of how we interact with the world. This workshop is open to anyone.

Mike Hicks is a philosopher of metaphysics at Rutgers.

3:30pm - 5pm

Workshop: How to Be Awesome Live with Jon Morris, Lynchpin of Ecstatic Revelation

Some think Jon Morris looks like MacGyver but he believes he’s Mighty Mouse. Creative Director and Founder of The Windmill Factory, dedicated to manufacturing the sublime. Loves Speedos & Can dunk. Jon Morris is a conceptual artist; actor, creator, producer, designer, clown, acrobat. In addition to founding and creative directing The Windmill Factory he has performed and created with Fuerzabruta, Cirque du Soleil, and The MET.

With The Windmill Factory Jon has choreographed Nine Inch Nails 2014 Festival Tour, movement directed for David Michalek’s Dries Von Noten Retrospective at La Louvre; created Light Field, a voice activated LED balloon installation for SXSW; created Welcome to You, an interactive installation for the New Museum; created Reflecting the Stars, recreating the night sky in the Hudson River; and crafted many other TWF projects.

He is a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Tennessee Williams Fellow, 6-time All-American Springboard Diver, and holds a B.A. from the University of the South, Sewanee. Jon has also consulted for some of the top creative agencies and has taught master classes at Harvard, NYU, Columbia, Pace, The University of The South, and Vanderbilt.

Jon Morris, 'nuf said.

Sunday August 23rd

3pm - 5pm

Discussion: Law and the City, Our Legal System and Placemaking

Local laws, and the legal system that produces them, are part of the critical infrastructure of cities. In important ways, they shape the development of cities and our lived experiences within them. This interactive workshop will engage people interested in placemaking to explore the legal underpinnings of city life and questions such as the use of public space, how we construct the built environment, including our transportation networks, and how we govern the urban amenities and assets we share in common.  We will explore law as the hidden architecture of place and what that means for our cities and seeing how people respond.

Nestor M. Davidson and Sheila R. Foster are both professors at Fordham Law School and Co-Academic Directors of the Urban Law Center.

2pm - 3:30pm

Masterclass: Professional Rope Swing Construction

Rope swings are a beautiful way to enjoy the outdoors. In this hands on masterclass, we will review rigging techniques to ensure your rope swing can reliably support you and your friends. We'll also demonstrate how to make sure the tree you swing from is as healthy and happy through the process as you are. This is alive demonstration. Climbing is optional. Swinging is not.

Myric Lehner works for Doctors Without Borders by day and runs safety and rigging operations for Sextantworks by night.

Saturday August 29th

2:30pm - 4pm

Discussion: Placemaking in Places of Death

How do you hold immersive events in cemeteries and other places of memorial, and respect those people buried below? This discussion involves experts from the New York City area who have organized mausoleum clubs, tours on forgotten history and the occult, and theater and stargazing events in cemeteries. 

Once burial grounds were central to city life, but now on the edges of the city they can be overlooked, visited once for a funeral, then forgotten. Yet they were designed as places for the living, and as they run out of space for interment, engaging the public in creative ways is essential. Participate in this dialogue on organizing events with the afterlife, and consider the future of our urban burial grounds.

Allison C. Meier organizes cemetery tours and events with Atlas Obscura. She's a staff writer at Hyperallergic, and currently visiting all the greatest trees of New York City. More about Allison.

Chelsea J. Dowell is a historic preservationist dedicated to the use of historic sites in our everyday lives. She plans experiential tours, talks, theater and more at Brooklyn’s Green-Wood Cemetery. More about Chelsea.

Cristiana Peña is an advocate for New York City's historic sites and neighborhoods, in communities from the Upper West Side to Queens, from the Upper East Side to the Bronx. It was in the city's northernmost borough that Cristiana served as the Director of Programs for the historic Woodlawn Cemetery. More about Cristiana.

4pm - 5pm

Workshop: Secret Secrets of New York City

Everything in New York is a secret. That bar on your corner that's packed until 4:00 every night? Totally secret. That weird party all your cool friends are going to? Shhhhh! Don't tell anyone! At least not until the New York Times spread and official website hit. Over the last decade, "Secret New York" has been the subject of books, articles, and a municipally-sponsored TV show. "Secret," in the New York context, has gone beyond being just a meaningless buzzword to being an oxymoron.

So how do we actually find interesting things in New York that are actually are largely inaccessible or unknown? Do they even exist? Don't come to this looking for secrets. Instead, we'll talk about the ways we find places of meaning for ourselves in the age of Google, the barriers that keep things secret or inaccessible, and the appeal of the secret and unknown. And if you want to trade a tip or two, hey, we promise to only tweet it once or twice. 

Moses Gates is an urban planner, licensed New York City tour guide, and visiting assistant professor of demography at the Pratt Institute. His explorations of New York have been featured on the History Channel, the Travel Channel, WNYC, and in the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and The Guardian. More about Moses.

Sunday August 30th

2:30pm - 4pm

Masterclass: Injuries Off the Grid

Danger is the best part of life. Let's make sure you live through it. Find out about the precautions that Sextantworks takes to ensure the safety of guest when exploring abandoned buildings and off the grid locations. Learn your way around a first aid kit. We'll practice treatment for common injuries and discuss how to distinguish serious from not so serious traumas.

Jordan Swartz is a doctor specializing in emergency medicine.

Ida Benedetto is a licensed Wilderness EMT and co-founder of Sextantworks.

Saturday September 5th


2pm - 3:30pm

Workshop: Locative Game Design

Nick Fortugno is recognized around the world as a leading game designer, narrative and story expert. He is Chief Creative Officer of Playmatics and oversees the design and creative vision for the company. Fortugno is the original designer behind the blockbuster hit Diner Dash and a co-founder of the Come Out & Play Festival of outdoor games and events.

3:30pm - 5pm

Workshop: Transcending Windows

What is your relationship with windows? A window is an opening that allows access to some element of the outside world; windows are what allow us our first glimpse into new realms and spaces. In transgressive places, a wayward window may be our front door.

When was the last time you performed an autodefenestration? In this workshop, we will explore types of windows, defining them as broadly as possible, and then we will climb, crawl, squeeeze, and hurl ourselves through them. We will learn and practice different techniques for fitting through awkward spaces.

Albert Kong spent two years developing and teaching a curriculum in parkour, an urban movement discipline that challenges how we interact with the architecture of a city. Informed by parkour's philosophy of transgressive exploration, he has since been involved with the street game design community and urban exploration community in the Bay Area and Brooklyn. More about Albert.

Sunday September 6th

2pm - 3:30pm

Workshop: Vulnerabilities of Modern Physical Security

Historically speaking, humans haven't been the most trustworthy people. To combat this lack of trust, we've created physical barriers that selectively let some people through while denying access to everyone else. As the less-trustworthy types have found methods of bypassing our physical barriers, we've created more secure systems to prevent unauthorized access to our sacred spaces.

Does increased consumer access to digital identification technologies such as RFID, biometric, and facial recognition really make our secured physical spaces harder for uninvited guests to access? If not, what kind of measures should we take to strengthen our physical barriers? Are physical barriers even the best way to combat a pervasive lack of trust?

In this brief workshop we will strengthen our defense against unauthorized physical penetration by examining current and past trends in physical security and by exploiting their vulnerabilities in a hands-on environment. Then we will use this information as a foundation to discuss the wider implications of a social structure built on mechanisms that promote anti-trust approaches to security.

Beau Burrows is a creative technologist.

3:30pm - 5pm

Masterclass: Risk Assessment

Anticipating and recognizing risks are critical to ensure the safety of event organizers and participants. Risks can be eliminated or reduced by various control methods only if they are identified and assessed prior to entry. In this class, we'll examine and analyze common hazards event planners face. We'll list practical control methods as well as hazards best avoided.

Claudie L. Marston Grout, CET, MPH, began assessing risk as a young child playing on dairy farms in Vermont. As a grown-up she body surfs white water rapids and earns her turns telemark skiing in the backcountry. Her day job often includes assessing safety risks for contractors at hazardous waste and/or construction sites. Claudie has helped ensure her colleagues and clients go home healthy and injury-free since 1985.

N.D. Austin is co-founder of Sextantworks.


The Panda Pit

No shoes. No Food. No Nudity.

Find Pam

A crypto-architecture game where players are guided by pandas to decipher secret markings in the house that hold the key to saving Pam.

Adelle Lin explores ways of creating unique experiences that intersect virtual and physical spaces in playful ways. She has recently exhibited at A Maze. Festival, Maker Faire New York, Come Out and Play Festival, Harvestworks Gallery, Different Games Conference and is currently working on a piece for Burning Man. More about Adelle.

Between Two Boroughs: Stories over Water

Water washes away, smoothes over, transports and baptizes, but what kind of things happen OVER water? Share your stories of the mundane and of the profound that happened to happen over water. They will be included in in an audio tour for walking over the Brooklyn Bridge. What kind of story would you go home and tell your roommate? Or a story closer to a moment in time that you wouldn’t think to share — until a curious stranger asked you? Flash mobs, first dates, sleeping on benches, deep thoughts, simple thoughts, personal thoughts. Were you those German guys who planted those white flags last year? No? But you once tripped a little on the uneven slats and it made you think about accidents? Come share that story.

Come talk. Sit in a closet with for a little while and record a memory that took place over water.

Shira Bannerman is making a site-specific audio tour for the Brooklyn Bridge.