2019 RIOS Research Initiative
Toward a Playful City
A playful city is a sustainable city. Play is vital to human development and is a necessary fixture of daily life. In fact, qualities of playfulness should merit attention equal to that of sustainability in terms of urban design and development.
A playful city can be envisioned as a system of spaces or open-ended moments that exist to support exploration and movement within urban life.
What is Play?
Play can occur almost anywhere and in any form if there is an imagination and a space for it to exist. From pre-historic times to current day, play has been a ubiquitous and diverse activity, specific to time and place, societal values, and technology. It continues to evolve with new contents, changing from rural to urban, natural to synthetic, physical to virtual, over time.
Playful design is a strategy that incorporates the spirit of playfulness and freedom, moves away from constraints, and produces joy as a necessity of daily life. There is a need and opportunity for contemporary forms of play in the city, allowing for more possibilities and a deeper connection to living systems.
With the underlying belief that play is simple and can exist wherever there is imagination and space, four individual interventions, each unique in character, represent a kit of parts for integrating play into marginalized urban spaces that possess greater potential for how they engage people. These four prototype interventions create playful moments in small-scale spaces where daily urban life occurs. Using the Los Angeles Metro’s Expo Line as a system of small-scale sites, the prototypes are applied to three site-specific conditions in a series of conceptual design studies.
The Expo Line, as part of a larger vision toward equity and sustainability in Los Angeles, has adapted contemporary urban frameworks for green infrastructure, including the Living Streets Framework. In the future, this proposal maintains that a category for Playful Streets is equally important. Along with the belief that qualities of playfulness should merit attention equal to that of sustainability in terms of urban design and development, playful spaces merit the same level of investment and fit right into these existing frameworks.