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SonoGROTTO by Kuth Ranieri Architects

Brad Knipstein

Designed by Kuth Ranieri Architects for the 2016 Market Street Prototyping Festival, SonoGROTTO creates a refuge on one of San Francisco’s busiest sidewalk. Market Street is and has been a primary artery channeling the diverse range of users that call San Francisco “home.”  This constant range of flows along Market Street creates a fascinating rhythm, never hitting the same beat twice. The rate of travel between users fluctuates vastly, while the overall capacity dramatically shifts throughout the day. Reflecting upon these diverse channels of flow and constant flux as well as the immense potential Market Street has to capitalize on these various chords when they are in harmony, SonoGROTTO attempts to capture a brief and fleeting moment of this melody.


SonoGROTTO creates a space of respite and repose on the busy sidewalk. It is composed of hundreds of cardboard tubes fastened together to create a protected but open space. These tubes are carved to create seats, windows, and an oculus to view the sky. The interior of the tubes are brightly painted to be a contrast to the cardboard exterior, and to highlight, through juxtaposition, the calming experience of the sky. The sculpted void within allows users to peer inside, walk through, sit down, or climb on this moment, and explore the diversity it contains.


This created “grotto” provides a much needed enclosure imploring users to take a moment to pause, and contemplate their place within this massive whole. As the day passes, and the sun makes its way through the sky, a revolving array of dappled light and shifting shadows dance in and around the vicinity of the Grotto. This additional, more consistent rhythm contrasts with the more ambiguous flux of the street life and city hubbub yet provides a very tangible and human scale to the constant state of flux. This acts as both a comforting and awe inspiring reminder of what it’s like to live amidst this dense and vibrant environment.


Porous enough to retain a strong connection with surrounding flows, yet enclosed enough to provide a safe haven SonoGROTTO allows for a range of users to explore and rest simultaneously within. Creating enclaves for conversation or a prime place for a spontaneous chance encounter this piece fosters a new flow along the street, a created channel for the curious and adventurous travelers along the street. Catering to a diverse range of ages, users and situations, SonoGROTTO hopes to provide space for reflection, refuge and a myriad of alternate uses which visitors bring to the piece.

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all images © Brad Knipstein