In 2014, the City of Boston's Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics launched the Public Space Invitational (PSI), a civic design competition that aims to reimagine public space in the city. They invited designers, artists, and engineers to make public spaces more beautiful and intuitive, and selected nine winning projects out of more than 70 submissions. Design teams built projects that brought a tidal vibraphone to the Congress Street bridge, provided pop-up learning opportunities for the community on the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and activated the mezzanine of City Hall, a historically unused space, with brightly-colored skateboard tape.
The Invitational was inspired by some of New Urban Mechanics' past work. Their office had been involved with a number of public space interventions, including working with a local startup to install solar-powered benches in the City's parks and City Hall to Go, a project that transformed a former bomb-squad truck to bring citizen services to every neighborhood in Boston.
Once these projects were launched, the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics wanted to expand the ways to source, fund, and implement prototypes on the streetscape. Inspired by the idea of inviting Boston's create community to transform public spaces, the Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics launched the Invitational. Designers were eager to collaborate with City Hall to improve the streetscape, and the challenges of creating durable installations for public space, permitting, and insuring projects led to streamlining City processes and unifying resources for 2016’s Public Space Invitational.