My fascination with functional, unsung urban areas and infrastructure is well known. From alleyways to empty lots, concrete corners and utilitarian structures, these anonymous elements of the urban landscape hold vast potential to improve our shared urban landscape. They are the ubiquitous elements of the city we pass and interact with every day, and while they are rarely at the forefront on our attention, I believe that everyone has at least one idea for how they could be improved or put to better use. This is the chance for everyone’s #oneidea to be shared.

MIT CoLab’s #citychat series has been an inspiring chronicle of urban projects and thinking. So it is a great pleasure to work with them to create, as they say, “citychat 2.0” with #oneidea. As MIT CoLab describes the project:

#oneidea is 24-hour Twitter chat in which anyone can offer a single idea for how our cities’ unsung but ubiquitous functional public spaces could be made better places. Over the course of 24 hours, a global visual idea exchange will take place. At the beginning of the 24-hour session, an image will be shown of an urban space and a description of its current use and context. Over the following 24 hours, using the hashtag #oneidea, participants are encouraged to continue the exchange, offering their one idea of how the space could be made better for either its specific use and context, or an idea for how that general type of space could be improved in cities throughout the world.

At the start of the session at 12.00 EST (17.00 GMT) on 5 December, an image of a selected space will be tweeted by myself @scottburnham and @MITCoLab with the hashtag #oneidea. Over the next 24 hours, everyone is invited to share their ideas for the space using the #oneidea hashtag. Ideas can be location-specific to the original image, or more general ideas for how similar areas or objects could be put to better use in every city.

UrfunLab Surat

With a participating audience of designers, architects, and urban enthusiasts following along, people can also take the source image and mock up visuals of their ideas, moodboard them, or share any visual suggestions with the global audience. At the conclusion of the 24-hour session, the original image and all submitted ideas will be posted on the MIT CoLab site, documenting the range of ideas that can be produced in one day, #oneidea at a time, to make the functional spaces of our cities better places.

The seed for the #oneidea initiative was planted while I was having coffee with MIT CoLab’s Alexa Mills, who spoke of her frustrations with the alley her home opens into in Boston. I had some ideas on how to make it better, as did she. But for me, problems are best addressed when they become platforms for idea generation. #oneidea is that platform.

The inaugural space for #oneidea generation will be Boston Alley 424 (above). As Alexa says of her alley:

Every morning I open my door to Public Alley 424. This alley is where cleaners and cooks start their shifts; where rich people park their cars for $400 a month; where college students come and go from their deteriorating apartments; where twice a week a parade of waste pickers sift through trash for valuables before the garbage trucks lumber through; where repairmen of all sorts exchange quick wits before going in to fix whatever is broken; and where rats run amok. Yet people almost never interact in the alley and no one tries to beautify the space. Almost no one even keeps a plant there.

Alexa’s alley is just one of countless overlooked spaces in cities everywhere that hold more value than they currently show. Please join the #oneidea twitter chat on 5 December to take part in a global idea sharing for how to make such ubiquitous urban spaces better.

(For updates and future #oneidea announcements, be sure to follow @scottburnham and/or @MITCoLab)