Playful Public Space: Investigating Levels of Interaction between People, Objects and their Environment through Playful Design


Can design implemented within public space influence human interaction and experience? This investigation questions if playful and participatory design which unexpectedly intervenes with the everyday setting allows involvement on various levels. Over the past decade playful interactions in the urban realm are occurring more frequently, examples such as the Piano Stairs as part of the Volkswagen Fun Theory, Kurt Perschkes Red Ball Project, Candy Changs Before I Die and Thomas Heatherwicks Spun Installations have infused our public spaces with temporary rich and diverse opportunities for fun and interaction. The study begins with an explanation of the ‘playful interactive experience’ a design methodology for the construction of playful events. Ideally a ‘playful experience’ is a seemingly humorous design unexpectedly intervening with everyday transitional spaces, allowing active participation. Defined as an event ‘where one can be spontaneously involved in a temporary narrative of play permission which is non-habitual in order to increase an experience of place’ it in turn increases social and spatial interactions. Through displayed case studies, the investigation presents a framework for user interaction. The framework demonstrates interactions which occur individually and collaboratively as well as promoting methods of dialogue and visual communication which arise as a consequence. Furthermore, the framework explores potential connections between the user and designer, sociability of strangers and the exploration of the wider spatial setting. Conclusions indicate that humorous outcomes can be enjoyed by all as economic, fun and non-traditional solutions to ‘placemaking,’ thus facilitating needs and desires of users within public space.


Anna Merry
Assistant Professor, Department of Arts and Communication, Frederick University, Cyprus


Presentation Type

Paper Presentation in a Themed Session


Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design


Public Space, Play, User Interaction, Participatory Design

Digital Media


Playful Public Space (Embed)