Speculative Citizen Design
research project

Open Call

Distancing Circles  |  Domino Park

An early response to public health physical distancing guidelines was the installation of DIY guiding systems and floor markings. They often took the shape of taped lines or squares intended to mark positions where it is possible to stand in line or which areas should be kept free of people. Printing businesses soon offered branded, personalised tapes and floor stickers.

A circular version soon emerged: → smaller ones organised queues while bigger circles in public parks and festivals limited the number of visitors while implementing physical distancing. Among the first reported circles were those in Domino Park, New York, which were marked by park director Mike Lampariello and two co-workers on 15th May, 2020. → These circles became individually inhabited for the duration of the visit and became a free space within a rigid system that was interpreted in various ways by single visitors, couples, families or small groups of friends. A circle could become a picnic spot, a workspace, a reading space, a personal gym, a phone booth or public stage.

Simple, intuitive and quickly executed, the system facilitated adaptation to the ‘new normal’. While projecting a surreal quality in the early days of their appearance, distancing circles presented alternative modes of interaction, anonymity and exposure in public space. They also changed the lived experience in previously overcrowded areas, addressing the social issue of the relation between wealth, social inequality and personal space.
Distancing circles have also been adopted as a digital version by security companies and implemented by large companies. They visualize social distancing circles around warehouse workers on screens and issue warnings when they overlap, in order to protect them from infection. This system, however, appears to be more concerned with efficiency than public health.

Urban Planning, Personal Space, Intervention, DIY

Further reading:
Neira, Juliana, “brooklyn's domino park painted circles on the grass to ensure social distancing”, Designboom, 19 May 2020
Cogley, Bridget, “White circles promote social distancing on Domino Park grass in New York City”, Dezeen, 25 May 2020
Soni, Preeti, “A few exemplary citizens of India are showing the rest of the country how to practice social distancing in times of coronavirus”, Business Insider India, 25 March, 2020