For Raleigh, North Carolina, citizens wondering, "Do I have enough time to walk there?," urban-planning student Matt Tomasulo has the answer. On a rainy night in January, Tomasulo and two fellow schemers positioned 27 signs in three strategic locations across central Raleigh. In bold, authoritative letters, each sign indicates the number of minutes it would take for a pedestrian to reach a particular, popular destination.
And for the directionally challenged, the otherwise spartan signs are equipped with a high-tech surprise. By scanning the signs with a smartphone, pedestrians can receive a specially tailored Google Map that will keep them on the right path.
Tomasulo and his colleagues at City Fabric have dubbed their effort Walk Raleigh, and have submitted the project to the Spontaneous Interventions competition, a contest sponsored by the Institute for Urban Design. In terms of impressing judges, the group is off to a good start: far from being displeased by Tomasulo’s guerrilla antics, the city of Raleigh has expressed interest in permanently incorporating Walk Raleigh’s signs into the city’s landscape.
“A lot of these interventions are about creating a vision for how things could actually operate or function,” Tomasulo said. He was told that getting a permit for the project would take seven to nine months. On Tomasulo’s timeline, the project took a little over a week. More than a month later, the signs are still standing.
--Jenny Slattery / images by Matt Tomasulo
UPDATE: On Wednesday, City Planning Director Mitchell Silver ordered the signs removed. He wrote on Twitter that "I plan to bring this before the Council and hope signs can be back up in a month."
UPDATE: Mitchell Silver met with Matt Tomasulo to discuss a three-month pilot program, in which Tomasulo would donate his signs to the city. Silver then presented this proposal to Raleigh’s city council and a vote is expected on March 6. Tomasulo has collected more than 1,000 signatures in support of the signs.
UPDATE: On March 6, Matt Tomasulo tweeted that Walk Raleigh "just passed unanimously as a pilot project."
Read more: Our follow-up interview with Mitchell Silver.