Interactive signposts and pedestrian crossing parties: it's this year's Playable Cities shortlist

Make Your Rhythm. Image: Nushin Samavaki & Elham Souri.

The 2016 Playable City Award shortlist has been revealed – and this year, the theme is “journeys”.

 “Certainly from our international work – in Japan, Nigeria, Brazil and so on,” explains Hilary O’Shaughnessy, the award’s producer, “we have noticed that movement and journeying are issues that affect all people, anywhere in the world, and from any demographic. So that’s one of the reasons we chose to make it expressly about journeys this year – to explore that in a bit more depth.”

This year, for the first time the winning award will be announced in London, in a ceremony to be held on 27 October at the Urban Innovation Centre in Clerkenwell. The eight shortlisted projects are:

  • “Happy Place” by Uniform, which will see signposts equipped with interactive displays capable of responding to the facial expressions of viewers;
  • “Im[press]ion” by Mobile Studio Architects, which connects strangers at various transit stops through their sense of touch, a bit like a pin screen toy;

Im[press]ion – click to expand. Image: Mobile Studio Architects. 

  • “Mischievous Footprints” by PCT Team, which relocates our attention from the screens of our smartphones back out on to the street by embedding pressure sensors and LED lights into the floor;
  • “Paths” by Biome Collective, a public space musical instrument and light installation;
  • “The Conversing Circuit” by Urban Conga, which aims to create a conversation between people waiting at bus stop;

The Conversing Circuit. Image: Urban Conga.

  • “Dance Step City” by Gigantic Mechanic, which will “offer a set of dance steps tailored to the environment, that take participants on a playful romp”;
  • “Make Your Rhythm” by Nushin Samavaki & Elham Souri, which transforms the bus stop seat into a swing which moves up and down;
  • “Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk”, by Hirsch & Mann Ltd, which “transforms the pedestrian crossing into a 30-second party”.

Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk. Image: Hirsch & Mann.

O’Shaughnessy says that she is optimistic about this year’s entries, and how the award has developed over the four years. “Because it is the fourth year, and we have received entries from 34 countries, I think the applicants are more aware of what a Playable City might look like, and of the impact it can have,” she says. “They are also aware of how the projects might affect the world or context in which they live, regardless of where that may be.”


She added that there was a “maturation or a depth of thought in the proposals” which she found encouraging. “That’s not to say other years projects were immature – but there is definitely a deeper connection with the central idea of Playable city, of reconfiguration, repurposing, and reimagining, to create deeper social connections.”

The winners will receive a £30,000 award along with practical support and guidance to help realise their project. They will prototype their project at Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol, and publicly test it out in Bristol, before touring other Playable City locations globally.

Despite the award’s global outlook, it remains firmly Bristol based. “The public here are very much behind the projects, and each year we get the request for the next Playable City project. The city administration are also delighted as the award fits in with their goal to promote Bristol as a place of innovation, and a leader in experimentation that is civilly led and minded, which it is. We couldn’t ask for a more supportive environment.” 

Look out for the winner on 27 October in London, and in a Playable City near you soon.

Want more of this stuff? Follow CityMetric on Twitter or Facebook.
 
 
 
 

Do South Hampshire deserve its own metro mayors?

Portsmouth. Image: Getty.

The idea of metro mayors is a good idea. So good, in fact, I think is should be brought to other conurbations, such as the south coast cities of Southampton, Portsmouth and Brighton.

Greater Brighton has already got the idea in motion – although it needs more momentum to make it happen and democratise it. The question is what changes in Hampshire are needed for a Greater Southampton or a Greater Portsmouth to exist?

A small bit of backstory. The government had an idea a few years ago to create a Solent City deal, which included South Hampshire and Isle of Wight. The plan fell flat because Hampshire County Council blocked it.

Hampshire today. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

This was the right thing to do in my opinion. The government’s ambition was to rope together a very diverse area with no clear economic heart – it was always going to be a bad idea. Giving the region an extra few million pound a year may have sounded good for strapped for cash councils in the area, but would have met with a lot of opposition and resentment from locals.

Redrawing the county map

I don't ask for much, just to drastically re-shape Hampshire. Image: author provided.

In order to make this happen, Hampshire's county council should be dismantled and all the councils in the county turned into unitary authorities. Various Hampshire councils have applied to create a Southampton City Region, to qualify for transport funding – but the current proposal doesn't include Romsey and Winchester.

This to me is short sighted and arrogant on Hampshire's part. It’s come about in part because Hampshire doesn't want to lose its "capital", but also because these are wealthy areas and they'd rather they weren’t mixed up with the sorts that live in Soton. We should bin that sort of attitude.

The proposed Southampton City Region. Image: author provided.

Much like Southampton, there is a desire for more cross-border partnership in the Portsmouth City Region (PCR), too. Most of the boroughs are established, though I’d favour a tiny bit of adjustment to create a Waterlooville borough and enlarge Fareham slightly. All that’s necessary requires is the breaking up of Winchester council (again) to be reused.

The current proposal includes the Isle of Wight, which I don’t think is a good idea. The city region proposal focuses purely on Ryde, a single town on a sparse island. The resources required to improve connectivity between the island and the Portsmouth region should be a lower priority when there are more pressing issues in the city-region, such as addressing housing and transport between Gosport and Portsmouth.

The proposed Portsmouth City Region. Image: author provided.

I realise that many in Hampshire do not like change: it’s difficult for a traditionally rural county to embrace its metropolitan potential. However, city mayors lead to greater productivity by improving the distribution of resources. The establishment of metro mayors for these cities will tackle issues that have been affecting Hampshire for quite some time: the poor transport and the inequality between different communities.