project overview

Redesign ChinaTown Gateway

This project focuses on the process of user research and design for the community. The outcome of this project is a conceptual design proposal to the client. 

Project: Redesign ChinaTown kiosk to improve way-finding for locals and tourists.

Solution: An iconic sculpture with a digital interface.  

Timeline: 2 months

Team: Azu Roma, Scott Cowell, Young Jang

Stakeholder: New York Department of Transportation

My role: I played a huge role in leading the project as I am able to talk to the people in their own language which helped significantly in understanding the community. 

Outcome: Our team was selected as the winning team for the pitch. 


Project goal

The project goal is to redesign the kiosk in ChinaTown to help way-finding for tourists or local residents in the area.  We were approached by the New York Department of Transportation to redesign the ChinaTown kiosk with a digital solution that could achieve the below requirements. 

Project Requirement

  • Improve public realm
  • Enhance way finding 
  • Engage community 
  • Reinvigorate ChinaTown 
  • Spur economic development

research process

Identify user's need

Field research & interviews

Over the course of our research, we conducted five field visits to ChinaTown to gain an understanding of the neighborhood, examine the current kiosk, visit gateways. While we were there we spoke with tourists, first and second generation residents and business owners.

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Stakeholder interviews


Local female resident
“Ohh the kiosk. I guess I walk past it everyday and don’t really notice it. It just kind of sits there taking up space.”

First generation
“I’ve been living here 40 years. This has been my home away from home, but I can see it changing. Even in my children and the people the cultures are mixing”

Second generation
“People need to know Chinatown will change eventually, it’s not about preserving the old, but imagining the future of Chinatown.” 

Director of Museum of Chinese Americans
“Chinatown needs a marker anyone will recognize, visibility is key, many people get off the subway and stand on the corner for 10 minutes just trying to figure out where to go.” 

Director of Chinatown Partnership
"Chinatown is a center of different neighborhoods, there are Little Italy, wall street; we need to include them as well. " 


design opportunity

Meaningful to locals and tourists

"How might we reimagine the kiosk as a symbolic entrance to ChinaTown that is meaningful for locals and drives more tourism to ChinaTown?"

Iconic symbol in the city

We believe having an iconic symbol enhances familiarity with a neighborhood and can become a recognizable tourist destination over time. Also, popular icons or places can also have transformative economic impacts like we've seen with the high line park and west side of Manhattan. 

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Design principles

A representation of ChinaTown

Based on our insights and the opportunity we see to create an icon for ChinaTown, we formed the design principles for our solution.

Our goal was to create a Recognizable icon that represents the identity of ChinaTown and can serve as a transformational project that helps draw attention and visitors to the area. 

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the solution

The Circle

An iconic sculpture represent inclusivness

Our solution is called "The Circle". The circle in Chinese culture is a symbol of oneness, fulfillment, unity and connection. Meaning China Town is not just about China, but also include Little Italy and embrace the diversity of different cultures.


An inclusive representation of the neighborhood

Whether for tourists, local resident or greater New Yorkers we feel ChinaTown needs a place that not only distinguishes itself as a defined destination, but also as neighborhood and a cultural district mixing Little Italy and other communities. 

Our design strategy is intended to create a distinct iconic, sculptural landmark that can be seen from a distance. 

Digital content about local culture

The sculpture itself features an integrated digital interface. Displayed content can be features from a variety of sources and in varying formats. Content can be Artwork, cultural and historical depictions from institutions such as MOCA as well as data for other localized information. 

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We imagine the gateway will become a spot for tourist to visit in ChinaTown and a stop for local to meet up friends. Visitors can see the different scenes on social media with the hashtag #ChinaTownCircle.

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Understand the community

In this project, I played a huge role in conducting user interviews. Knowing how to speak Cantonese (Chinatown has a huge population of Cantonese speakers) helped to connect with the locals, they were more willing to speak. I have learned that only by immersing yourself with the community (we even went to a local bar talked to the bartender) that gives you real insights than observation.   


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