“This September and October,” a press release announces, “a playful pack of wild beasts will appear in unexpected places across the city of Bristol, waiting for people to play with them.”
This is not, in fact, a warning that there's been a break out at the zoo, or some kind of live action remake of the hit animated movie series Madagascar (if only). No, it's the winner of this year's Playable Cities Award.
That award, you'll recall, is the work of the city's Watershed arts space, and it exists to highlight the fact that urbanism doesn't have to be a dry matter of street furniture and transport infrastructure. It's a reaction, of sorts, to the modernist nightmare vision of “smart cities”, in which a city is nothing more than a machine for living in.
This year no fewer than 197 groups from 60 countries entered the award, which were whittled down to a shortlist of seven.
The winning project, which will get the honour of actually being put into practice, was Urbanimals: a series of animated dolphins, kangaroos, rabbits and so forth, which will interact with passersby in “places of transition, where people often do not contemplate their surroundings”. Places like subways, or bus stations.
Urbanimals is the work of the Polish experimental architectural think tank LAX. Once up and running, to quote the statement again, it’ll use “urban details to highlight the city’s hidden value, in the same manner Banksy gives deeper sense to dilapidated building walls”.
Or, as the group's founders Anna and Sebastian put it:
“...with Urbanimals we want to highlight the city’s hidden value and treasures inspiring residents to consider their environment in new and unexpected ways, we want to stimulate their senses and inject a sense of excitement and wonder into the everyday urban landscape”.
What does that mean, you ask? Well, here’s a gif.
All this will be brought to life on the streets of Bristol this autumn. Another reason, as if any were necessary, to visit the fine English city of Bristol.