Creating a Community Dialogue


412-OCTAVIA is an interactive installation in a community garden that create an engaging tangible interaction experience for all ages. It is a digital communication system that is embedded into an analogue interface. 412-OCTAVIA operates like a telephone and answering machine, but it is for the public. Users can listen to messages left by others in the garden and contribute their own. This allows the sculpture to become a nexus of communication in the neighborhood. Its purpose is two-fold: it creates a delightful experience for users and will help to assess the needs of the community so that future design interventions in the space can be reflective of the particular needs, desires, and lived experiences of community members. While working on this project, we engaged with the principles of place-based design practice. 412-OCTAVIA allows users to become co-creators of the piece, as their narratives continuously form the meaning and value of the work over time.

Our team was tasked with discovering an opportunity for bits, atoms, and digital systems to add value to the way that people interact and connect with the Octopus Garden, a community garden in the Bloomfield neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Previously the site of a burned-down apartment building, the garden is now a thriving community space. When faced with the opportunity to design a technological intervention, we challenged ourselves to create something that enhances the way community members engage with the space without detracting from the existing connection people have with the garden.


Rhythm Agarwal, Helen Hong, Catherine Oldershaw, Jiaqi Wu, and Yueqiao Zhou


Prototyping Lab, Spring 2016, Austin S. Lee


The Octopus Garden (Pittsburgh, PA)


Concept Generation and Ideation, User Flow, Iteration on Design of the Form, Video Filming and Production


Complete Process Documentation

Design Deliverables

What We Made


How We Got There