Brainstorming about playful cities

The idea and experience of play is a thread that weaves itself through my life and my work. This morning I got thinking about playful cities and allowed myself a quick brainstorm about the possible meanings and actions that could flow from this idea, particularly in relation to my work with Creative Maylands, youth planning for local councils and place making projects. I thought I’d share what I came up with; perhaps there’s a thread in here somewhere that could connect with or inspire your own thinking and work.


Some questions to get you thinking… I’d love to hear your responses:

What would a ‘playful city’ look like to you?
How can the notion of play inform your work with communities or places or something else?
What are the questions you think I/we should be asking about playful cities?

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7 responses to “Brainstorming about playful cities

  1. one of the most playful things I’ve seen lately, playing with the urban environment I guess, is knit bombing. adding a touch of colour to the street.

    does street art count ? there’s a wall next to nouveau casino at 109 rue Oberkampf where they have an artist create something new each week.

    http://maps.google.fr/maps?ll=48.865732,2.377653&spn=0.000436,0.001254&t=h&z=20&layer=c&cbll=48.865732,2.377653&panoid=7vRE50B8nbM_1nJcvywETQ&cbp=12,68.27,,0,0
    Have a look in street view, the one there at the moment is just a poster saying that “i would’ve sooner preferred a blank wall than this shitty poster” but last time i was by there there was a guy painting a giant x-ray bat there.

  2. hey anne, fun thread. my first though is about three things that squash playfulness: over-regulation, homogeneous environments and time pressure. Put in the positive, i suppose the elements that encourage play are freedom, diverse environments and ‘free’ time. We can scan our plans & developments for the negative elements or try to incorporate / foster the positive. Im sure there are other factors too but these are the most obvious to me.

  3. David Engwicht would be proud! I love some of the ideas and also that they could be a blend of low cost and more resource intensive activities. Once the rain stops you’ll have to start experimenting live and am happy to come and play in your sandpit.

  4. Meant to also include this link to a video about Morgan’s Fun Park in the states which has been created as all inclusive universal design with a focus on disability. I love, love, love the sensual nature of the video and light shows in particular…(just grin and bear the 8 second CBS ad at the beginning) http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7374141n&tag=contentMain;contentBody

  5. Hey Anne, thanks for putting me on your mail list. My thought is that we need circuit-breakers – I agree with sistarosa – we always get caught up in things and we have these preconceived ideas about adulthood hammered into us. I think where a community / business / whatever space works is where there is something – whatever it is – that takes one out of auto-mode and makes you pause and reflect, or interact in some positive way. It could be an exhibition, or street art, or music, or something historical or info-based. It also needs to create interaction – why not, for example put a pedestrian bridge OVER or THROUGH a skate park rather than around a fenced-off skate park (thereby separating skaters from other amenity users rather than bringing them together)? It could be major things, but also little small things which just make one stop and consider for a moment. Maybe it’s just a couple of minutes or so, but if it’s something that person takes away with them through the day, then that’s a good thing I think. I guess alot of it is a question of urban planning and council regulation but there are also cultural factors – and there’s a bit of chicken and egg in there …

  6. Hi Anne,

    I am also wondering about segregation at the moment. I remember a day in Geneva, by the beautiful still lake, slightly misty. There was a man walking his stunning doberman, a picture of grace. Later I watched a man in a suit with a briefcase walking along the lake wall, like a child balancing. There was a beautiful playfullness in the atmosphere of the whole day. I think perhaps genuine play is unexpected, but it needs provocation, like those mentioned, space, time, images, opportunity. Most of all premission.

  7. Hi Anne, I love this post and the idea of a playful city. I would love to see people ‘playing freely’ in their environment and I agree with sistarosa about what squashes our playfullness.
    I was recently in London and loved some of the play ideas that were happening on the South Bank – a sandpit, with buckets and shovels for the kids to play, lots of little seaside style huts that had changing installations & performances going on inside, street performers & sculpture that encouraged interaction, an area where young people were allowed to skate & graffiti that wasn’t separated from the general passing public – like Robbie mentions above.

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