1. Social
May 21, 2015updated 29 Jul 2021 12:50pm

Musical crossings, marimba benches and Urbanimals: the Playable City shortlist

By City Monitor Staff

Cities, with their concrete surfaces and faceless crowds, can feel a little impersonal – so the annual Playable City award exists to promote the idea that public spaces can also be, well, fun. 

This year’s shortlist is full of ideas that bring urban furniture and areas to life, and encourage interaction between strangers. The winner, chosen by a panel of industry judges, will be installed somewhere in Bristol later this year. For now, though, here are all the weird and wonderful ideas on the shortlist. 

Bright benches

Happy City Lab has proposed an LED and sensor-covered bench which lights up to attract the attention of passerby. Once you sit down, the lights interact with you.

The orchestra of lights

“Lighting Conductor”, an idea from the delightfully named Strange Thoughts Ltd, allows Bristolians to direct a series of lights in a public park. By flailing their arms, visitors can “send pulses of light shooting along any path they aim at”, according to the project’s creators.

Puffin Jam

The project’s prototype in action.

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Not, in fact, a new and exotic food product, this design from Unsworn Industries involves replacing boring old pedestrian crossing buttons with music boxes. Those waiting on both sides of the street can play musical notes, and engage in “musical chit-chats, flirting, pranks or conversations”. 

Message Clouds

This pun-tastic idea proposes hanging two clouds over the street, which display messages texted in by passerby. As Tine Bech, the company behind the idea, puts it: 

A playful physical manifestation of the digital cloud, the project combines sculpture, sound and technology and plays (ironically) with the concept of cloud computing and privacy.

Musical chairs

The “Why sit when you could play?” project from Urban Conga transforms benches into instruments. The brightly coloured seats would emulate marimbas (a xylaphone-like percussion instrument), which could be played by hand and would also “teach music through colour”. At night, sensors on the bench would trigger LED lights on nearby buildings as individual notes are played. 


This project sees animals appearing in unexpected urban locations. Thinktank LAX would install a dolphin, rabbit, kangaroo and beetle in “places of transition” (think transport links or bus stations), though it’s not clear whether these would be sculptures, holograms, or Banksy-esque murals.

And here, since you asked so nicely, is a video of last year’s winner, “Shadowing”, in action.


Images: via Watershed/The Playable City Award.

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