Designing the Physical Space for Urban Change

Resurfaced is a temporary initiative to illustrate the economic potential and benefit of incrementally activating currently unproductive spaces while creating a more vibrant downtown that can more quickly realize our city’s latent potential.

The idea focuses on the city as the ultimate user interface, where the residents can enjoy a unique event space curated by some of the most creative minds in our community.

Being the local leader of the Interaction Design Association (IxDA) and someone who is passionate about creating engaging experiences in physical spaces, I saw ReSurfaced as an experimental space for immersive technology and unique ideas that might not typically have an outlet for realization. When I was invited to that first ideation session at The Urban Design Studio, my eyes were almost comically large from the ideas coursing through my brain.

design workshop
June 23rd, 2014, ideation meetup at Urban Design Studio: Photo by Patrick Piuma

Our Community Brainstorming Workshop

As the first step in involving our community, we invited a motley crew to a ‘Space Jam’ workshop inside the 14,000 SF lot in downtown Louisville. We told our fabricators, designers, woodworkers, architects, metal workers, waitresses, musicians, hackers, urban planners, and teachers... “If you could do anything you wanted in this space, what would you do?” We shared ideas and we encouraged everyone to “think big”.

The people who attended the workshop came from a variety of different backgrounds but above all, we are all creative problem solvers and we collectively came up with some huge ideas.

The ‘Space Jam’ accomplished a couple things: it brought together the movers and makers who could get the work done, it garnered the publicity we needed to raise public awareness as well as getting local government officials and press behind us.

Everyone genuinely wanted to be involved, including myself and my teammates.

Divide and conquer

We had Two. Months. to organize, fundraise, clean, build and promote a 14,000 square foot pop-up beer garden and event space. Out of pure necessity, we quickly adopted a lean approach to our project planning as City Collaborative focused on the site buildout and critical needs. We reached out to local art groups and musicians to handle organizing events. My group focused on integrating technology into the space. Collectively, we were able to get an amazing group of supporters together quickly to knock out a tremendous amount of work in a small amount of time.

Where digital design meets physical space

The intersection of ideas and what is possible from a technology standpoint is limited only by time and capital. I had neither time nor capital.

For ReSurfaced; we went for the biggest bang for the smallest buck. We decided to build a laser projected gaming system that would be controlled through body movement.

I was extremely lucky to have a talented and motivated team behind me. While I am great at ideas and project planning and running all over earth for meetings and schmoozing; I didn’t know much about lasers or building an arcade. I got my team what they needed, I helped out with design where I could and turned the rest over to them. And they knocked it out of the park.

I am now the owner of a high powered RGB Laser and an arcade that lives in the back of my Subaru most of the time.

laser and arcade
Custom arcade cabinet in the back of my Subaru

Thousands of people have been to ReSurfaced now. The initiative has been wildly successful. Our gaming system has been a huge hit and we couldn’t be prouder of our community for not only coming out to enjoy the fruit but getting their hands dirty with the pre-vitalization of this space.

For us, ReSurfaced was truly a culmination of passions. We took our love of gaming, of making, of experience design, of tactical urbanism, of encouraging movement through playfulness, of cross-disciplinary collaboration... and we made something amazing.

It wasn’t easy. We made some wrong turns. We had some fights. We hugged it out. Ultimately, we pulled off the biggest collaborative party this town has ever seen and now we get to sit back & watch thousands of people enjoy something that was just a crazy idea just two short months ago.

I hope this is just another notch in a recurring process of improving our communities. I hope it inspires you to resurface a space of your own.


Laser Games from IxDA Louisville on Vimeo.

Supporting Content:

IxDA Twitter:

Arcade Design Video on Instagram:

Laser Animation Testing on Instagram:

Laser Pong Game Design:

Body Puppet Game Design:

Insider Louisville Articles:

before photo
615-621 West Maine Street in downtown Louisville before: Photo by City Collaborative 

work begins
615-621 West Maine Street in downtown Louisville before: Photo by City Collaborative


design layout
Site planning workshop at Urban Design Studio

615-621 West Maine Street in downtown Louisville before: Photo by City Collaborative 

 ReSurfaced image Louisville Ky
Kids playing Laser Puppets at ReSurfaced

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Designing the Physical Space for Urban Change


Deanna Mitchell Senior Visual Designer

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