New Playable Cities schemes reimagine the future city

The Playable Cities Award has announced the shortlisted designs competing for £30,000 of investment to create a new way to make cities more fun and engaging.

Happy Place, by Uniform
Happy Place, by Uniform

A bus stop encouraging people to talk to each other, signposts which can respond to your mood and a zebra crossing which doubles up as a “30-second party” are among the designs which have been shortlisted for the Playable City Award.

Playable City has announced a shortlist of projects vying for a £30,000 prize and the chance to see their project created on the streets of Bristol before travelling to other global cities such as Lagos and Tokyo.

The Playable City project encourages designers to think about the future city with people and play at the centre.

It was started on the premise that half the world’s population now lives in cities and that despite a focus on transport infrastructure, Playable City says “how city dwellers feel about their journeys, what form they would like them to take and how they spend their time” is rarely considered.

There are eight shortlisted projects in total. Three that caught our eye are:

Happy Place, by Uniform 

Signposts will be integrated with facial recognition technology so that they can detect an expression and respond through an interactive display.

A smile will generate text that begins to appear on the display but will fade away as soon as the smile fades from the person’s face.

The text on the signs will be stories gathered from citizens in the local area in an effort to give new meaning to street signs and bring people together in a playful way.


Mischievous Footprints, by PCT Team 

Designed as an antithesis to walking with your head down using a phone, this installation uses embedded pressure sensors and LED lights to capture footstep data of people walking on the pavement and leaves a trail of glowing footprints.

The footprints can even “break free”, running ahead of their owners of their own free will.

PC Shortlist | Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk | Hirsch and Mann

Stop, Wait, Dance, Walk, by Hirsch and Mann 

This piece takes the stance that we are disconnected from our surroundings but have the ingredients for a “magical moment” all around us.

It sees a pedestrian crossing transformed into a “30-second party”. As a pedestrian crossing button is pushed, lights flash, the crossing becomes a dancefloor and speakers blast out music.

Hirsch and Mann, the studio behind the design, hopes that strangers will be brought together for a “shared moment of fun”.

The other shortlisted entries are:

Conversing Circuit Urban Conga
Conversing Circuit Urban Conga
Dance Step City, by Gigantic Mechanic
Dance Step City, by Gigantic Mechanic
Im[press]ion, by Mobile Studio Architects
Im[press]ion, by Mobile Studio Architects
Make Your Rhythm, by Nushin Samavaki & Elham Souri
Make Your Rhythm, by Nushin Samavaki & Elham Souri
Paths, by Biome Collective
Paths, by Biome Collective

The winner will be announced on 27 October and can use the £30,000 prize money for research and development. They will also have access to professional advice and the facilities of Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol.

Hide Comments (1)Show Comments (1)
  • Simon Heap September 28, 2016 at 10:09 am

    Trouble is it will alienate as many people as engage – although the smile at the signpost idea is nice and should enhance everyday life.
    This looks slightly behind the times already as Pokemon Go achieves a good deal of the aims – gameification of exercise, engagement with the built environment, but without the costs of infrastructure.
    All good ambition though
    Simon Heap, Founder: Rugged Interactive

  • Post a comment

Latest articles

First look at London Design Fair 2019

Much of the work at this year’s event is underpinned by sustainability, with designs from the likes of Mexico, the UAE and Scandinavia all being featured for their eco-friendly credentials.