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

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.

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