How to create a playable city

Technology may be reshaping how we engage with urban spaces, but does it risk sucking the life out of them in the process? We explore some of the creative projects that are making our cities more playful

The birth of the internet has, unsurprisingly, had a huge impact on how we live our everyday lives. From communicating via our smartphones to streaming hours of boxsets on our tablets, to even how we interact with the public spaces that we encounter on a daily basis. Over the last couple of decades urban planners around the world have become obsessed with what is known as the ‘smart city’, where new technologies are used to improve everything from parking to waste management to crime detection in our rapidly growing urban spaces.

While many of our cities are now smarter than ever, the continuous streamlining of public spaces can often have the ill-intended side effect of stripping away their soul. This was the problem Bristol-based studio Watershed hoped to tackle back in 2012, when it co-curated a series of interactive pieces exploring the idea of ‘openness’ in the Portuguese city of Guimarães, during its year as European Capital of Culture.

Shadowing by Matthew Rosier and Jonathan Chomko was the winner of the 2014 Playable City Award