Playing in the Future City

As cities become larger and more dense, we all crave moments of release, euphoria and the chance to play by different sets of rules. Fortunately, a series of trends are defining a new spirit of playfulness in our cities.

Street Art now commands sky-high prices at auctions, parkour pops up in music videos, and flash mobs have moved from activist pranks to carefully orchestrated advertising.

The conceptual strength of urban play is immense, with its subtle reminders of the unspoken rules that inform our civic behaviours. Urban play must be incorporated into the built environment to allow us to reconnect with exhilaration and to be – however temporarily –released from our norms.

Participatory environments

Within our public realm, the old model of authoritative spatial design - and its accompanying map, guide or tour – is being challenged by a new wave of immersive and participatory experiences. ‘Playability’ can manifest in the environment in  meaningful ways, helping  us to uncover a city’s secrets.

London, UK

Planning for a playable future

Artists who understand play and social relations can bring huge value to processes and organisations: building confidence in the power of the collective imagination, and opening up scope for innovation and change. In the master planning process, a playful approach can challenge typical methodologies and reframe the terms on which local communities are engaged.

Great Kneighton Public Art Programme
Cambridge, UK

Everyone can play

The baby boomer generation is refusing to ‘grow old’ in the style of previous generations, and now lives among young people who cannot remember a time when gaming has not been a hugely lucrative industry. Pop-up shops, galleries and quirky creative offices have emerged to meet this interest and to recast the city as a playground.

Carnaby Echoes
London, UK

During the Growing the Future City exhibition at Foyles Gallery we are running a campaign inviting the public to share their ideas, online and on our interactive wall in the exhibition space. Please answer the question: how do we make cities more playful? on Twitter using the hashtags #growingmycity #greening. We’ll feature the best posts in our end-of-show round up.