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robertogreco : playablecities   1

Playable cities
"In Bristol, the recent conference “Making the City Playable” reveals that being smart isn’t the only attribute to which cities should aspire: publicly playful activities can create a happier, more cohesive and even more effective urban future."



"How do you empower people to transform their cities? It is a question that Usman Haque grapples with at Umbrellium on a daily basis. Trained as an architect, Haque’s interest in the psychology of public space led him to a career building creative response environments, interactive installations, and mass participation initiatives designed to foster a sense of collective creative ownership. With creations such as Burble (in which the public collectively constructs a massive inflatable structure made of balloons containing sensor-controlled LEDs that send crowd-responsive patterns of light rippling through the structure) or Assemblance (which recently filled the Barbican, London’s renowned performing arts center, with an immersive environment of three-dimensional interactive light-structures that encourage people to work together to sculpt and manipulate their form), Haque uses creative technology to explore the decision making frameworks that foster collaboration. “It is not inevitable that technology isolates us,” he argues; instead, he sees it as a call to action to explore its ability to connect us. “What I’d like to see more of is the feeling of belonging and ‘this is ours and we can do great things with it’” he concludes: “I’d like to see more of that sense of ownership, and anything that supports and reinforces that.”"



"As the recent Making the City Playable Conference highlighted, many things must work together to support and reinforce that sense of ownership and engagement. “Real regeneration is about people not buildings; activity not big investment,” affirms Bristol’s mayor—and former architect—George Ferguson. A champion of good urbanism, Ferguson has had a pivotal role in some of Bristol’s largest urban transformation projects and is a strong advocate of the Playable City movement. His support has not only enabled many of the city’s recent playful interventions—from Park and Slide, to a city wide zombie chase game, streets temporarily closed for children’s play, and the Playable City Award’s Hello Lamppost and Shadowing—it has also highlighted the benefits that can be achieved by (and often necessity of) working with local authorities. Nevertheless it is worth noting that playful interventions can come in all sizes and degrees.

To wit, while Bristol has built its reputation as a city willing to try things and be unorthodox, it has not always done so by being the class clown. As both Playable City Award projects show, serendipity and the unexpected are equally as valid as the overt gesture. “At first you have the initial excitement reaction where you have people doing crazy things and having their friends come visit and take videos,” explains Matthew Rosier of Shadowing, the shadow-capturing streetlight he and partner Jonathan Chomko recently unveiled in eight locations throughout Bristol, “but we’re more excited to see how it’s working in a few weeks time, when it has become part of peoples’ routines and we can see how they experience it in their daily lives.” It’s about more than cheeky people doing funny things in the streets.

The Playable City will face some inevitable growing pains. One of its major challenges—as a movement not primarily about economic impact or mass behavior change—is providing quantifiable metrics. Bristol’s relatively small size and progressive city governance present a very unique breeding ground that is not easily replicated. Furthermore the concept of play is not a constant across cultures. Nevertheless, Watershed is determined to drive a global playable city network comprised of 10-20 cities around the world that want to steward the movement. “We’d really like to fund a much more significant global playable city award where we would be able to award another city with funds to pioneer something that we can learn from, be inspired by, and share,” Watershed’s Reddington says. With Hello Lamppost set to travel to Austin, USA, it seems the Playable City movement is gaining ground. Between you, me and the lamppost, I’d join their team."
play  cities  urban  urbanism  kimberliebirks  2014  playablecities  hellolampost  playablecity  clarereddington  umbrellium  usmanhaque  thewatershed  tomuglow  smartcities  bogotá  stockholm  publicspace  burble  ownership  technology  isolation  connection  social  engagement  shadowing  parkandslide  georgeferguson  matthewrosier  jonathanchomko 
october 2014 by robertogreco

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