Core is a modular furniture set that is used to transform underutilized public plazas into active nodes and gathering spaces. The Core online tool allows communities to create custom environments for varying events and purposes while also enabling these same communities to claim ownership of their cities.

  • Category

    Physical & Digital Product

  • Responsibility

    Product Design

  • Date

    May 2016

Case Study: Hammer Theatre Center

After the San José Repertory Theatre filed for bankruptcy, the city turned the vacant plaza and interior space into a collection of pop-up shops for the winter holiday season. Despite a promising experiment, it was removed shortly after the end of the holidays. The Hammer Theatre Center, as it has been renamed, is undergoing a process of revitalization under new management of San José State University. While this space should provide many new opportunities and benefits for the local residents, the plaza adjacent to the theatre remains barren of shade, seating, and activity in general.

Proposed Location

The Hammer Theatre Center is located along one of Downtown San José’s major thoroughfares: the Paseo de San Antonio. Located between the University and transit stops, the theatre’s plaza is an area of high impact where hundreds of people walk through daily.

Studying Pedestrians

In an observational study at the plaza, I mapped out the location and frequency of pedestrians' paths. While it is not surprising that pedestrians walked more often along the designated pathway, it was interesting to find how little people stopped to sit down at the plaza.

Creating a Sense of Place

My objective for the Hammer Theatre Center was to create a recognizable and memorable place for the community. The primary goal was to create an ample amount of seating for users to relax and enjoy themselves; secondly, was to try and create a space that could reflect ideas and activities inside the theatre.

Modular Elements

The elements of the Core plaza are made of simplified hexagonal shapes that align to an isometric grid. These elements are made to join and stack to create different arrangements to allow the local community to have flexibility activating their public spaces.

Creation Tool

This online tool is intended for organizers to preview arrangements and plan different layouts for upcoming events. Users are able to insert four predetermined shapes then move and rotate it until it is a place.


Core is a product that communities can add to their cities as a way to jumpstart the process of activating public spaces. While it is not the end-all solution to a city’s problems, it can hopefully engage communities to create safer and more comforting spaces.'

Credits: Professors Julio Martinez and Ginette Wessel & the SJSU Graphic Design Faculty.