Placemaking Nonprofit Open-Sources Street Furniture

30 free designs for pop-up benches, bookstores and more. 

A pop-up cafe included in Wikiblock's open source design library (Photo by Tim Fitzwater, courtesy of Better Block)

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

Building an outdoor cafe, adding seating to a local dog park, or installing a pedestrian island at a pesky intersection now requires little more than some plywood and a nearby maker space.

The nonprofit Better Block released 30 free, open-source designs for outdoor furniture in its new Wikiblock library Monday. Anyone can download the designs for benches, chairs, tables, fences, kiosks and more, and have them cut from plywood at a maker space using a CNC router, a digitally-aided cutting machine. Most of the designs fit together without requiring glue or nails.

“We’re trying to lower the barrier to entry on fabrication,” says Jason Roberts, founder of the Better Block. “We’re realizing the potential for the every man and every woman. Before, it required an architect, a carpenter, renderings and contractors. At this point, you no longer need all that. You just need your local maker space.”

Some of the designs were tested at Kent State University last month, when College of Architecture and Environmental Design students created kiosks for a Better Block event. The toolkit released today includes five kinds of kiosks tailored to different needs — a bookstore, flower shop, café and even a kayak demonstration stand. More pieces will get a test run in Saint Paul this weekend. A pop-up outdoor theater is being constructed, with a stage, movie screen and more.

Pop-up furniture has become a mainstay of tactical urbanism in recent years. While some lament that the movement is losing its DIY nature as more popular tactics become replicated and codified, researchers have found that street furniture is indeed one of the most significant factors to positively impact pedestrian activity. Street furniture helps keep streets at a human scale, that study suggested.

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at

Follow Jen .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

Tags: placemakingtactical urbanism

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 992 other sustainers such as:

  • Joseph at $5/Month
  • Anonymous in Newburyport, MA at $5/Month
  • John at $10/Month

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $60 or

    Just Action by Leah Rothstein and Richard Rothstein

  • Solutions of the year 2022

    Donate $20 or $5/Month

    2022-2023 Solutions of the Year magazine

  • Brave New Home

    Donate $40 or $10/Month

    Brave New Home by Diana Lind