Friday, 17 February 2012

Reprogramming the city

In 2009 Volkswagen started something called Fun Theory, most of you have probably come across it. The was that the best way to change behaviour is to make something fun and they invited people to put forward ideas, the best of which they made happen. So we got piano stairs, each step playing a different key as you walked up them, encouraging people to take exercise rather than the escalator, and the world's deepest bin to encourage people to be tidy.

Volkswagen's programme is part of a wider trend to make urban spaces more playful, the great Pop-up city blog calls this trend Urbanism Made to Like. Often intended simply to encourage more interaction between people or challenge how we see our surroundings, these projects are growing in number and you can expect to see many more of them in the future. Here are some that are either running right now or very recently.

Currently living in a Selfridges' window in London the Word-a-Coaster fortune dispenser, designed by It's Nice That and Stewdio, contains 30,000 different fortunes for shoppers.

City Swings
21 musical swings installed in downtown Montreal. Each one triggering different notes when in swinging to create a changing soundscape.

Photos by olivierblouin

This Cultural Olympiad art project, currently underway in London , features 30 red and black LED screens placed on the tops of bus-tops and hence visible only from the upper deck of a bus. Anyone can have their idea displayed simply by uploading an animated gif to the website.

photos by 4lfie 

Responsive Railings 
One day these fantastic railings designed by  Cinemod Studio appeared around the corner from our office. Twenty meters of fun.

Finial Response from Cinimod Studio on Vimeo.

These projects are a street level reflection of a general trend for planning fun into cities. You see it in the vogue for giving London buildings silly names; the gherkin, the walkie talkie, the cheese grater, not to mention that there is currently a boat grounded on top of the Southbank.

Perhaps they'll come a point when we stop wanting our cities to be like playgrounds but for the moment we seem happy to for these projects to challenge how we see our everyday surroundings.