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In: Prototyping

How often do you have fun while walking down the street? We hope it happens frequently, which is why the second intervention of Blank Page Plaza is all about games. Public spaces have an untapped potential to evoke a sense of playfulness, engage people in activities and spark social interaction. What better way to meet your fellow neighbours than over a round of giant Jenga or basketball game? In recent years, many cities have been focussing on how to facilitate playfulness in the public realm. From yard Yahtzee to musical swings, to trampoline sidewalks, there are endless ways to creatively transform a public space into a zone dedicated to play.

To implement our Fun and Games intervention, we did four things:

  1. Buy chicken wire, duct tape, wooden dowels and colourful plastic balls to create our own Giant Kerplunk
  2. Set out sidewalk chalk for people to create their own artwork or games
  3. Go to Cowboys Casino to pick up multiple decks of playing cards and tape Intelligent Futures flare onto the outside packaging
  4. Borrow a game of bean bag toss from a generous friend

So far, fun and games seem to successfully engage folks. In the past week, we’ve noticed families joining up for a game of Kerplunk, cowboys tossing bean bags during Stampede, and teenagers creating chalk masterpieces on the sidewalk.

There are indications that the space is being used for late night fun too — after the Canada Day long weekend, we found an empty shot glass and a pack of cigarettes left on one of the #blankpageplaza tables.

We can also report our first incidents of theft — two decks of cards and one wooden stump disappeared from the space on the eve of Stampede (perhaps someone was in need of Stampede props?). Hopefully, this will be the extent of theft that we experience.

Our next intervention will begin next week. Stay tuned for what is coming up, and in the meantime, drop by to Blank Page Plaza to embrace your inner kid!

Intelligent Futures is gearing up for a summer-long urban design experiment, alongside their colleagues at Blank Page Studio. Blank Page Studio, located on Kensington Crescent, is a creative and collaborative space, comprised of small innovative enterprises, from web developers and artists to urbanists and architects. Throughout the summer, the sidewalk space on the east side of the studio will transform into Blank Page Plaza, a dynamic and testable public place for passersby to play games, learn something new, or perhaps just sit down and stay awhile. This project will bring the collaboration and innovation that occurs in Blank Page Studio outdoors for the community to experience and enjoy.

Urban Field Testing

Temporary street design projects have been increasingly more popular over the past few years, with parklets taking over the streets of San Francisco and Vancouver, the book Tactical Urbanism getting swept off bookshelves all around the globe, and car-free, open street initiatives occurring more and more often in cities worldwide.

Short-term public interventions have the potential to create lasting, beneficial shifts within a city. By implementing quick and affordable changes, cities can prototype ideas and gain public feedback during the design process. Take Macon, Georgia as an example — in September 2016, an eight-mile long pop-up bike network was implemented. During this week long bike lane prototype, bicycle usage increased tenfold, demonstrating a demand for cycle paths. Permanent bike lanes have been built since the experiment and city policy in Macon now ensures that any roads being repaved must examine how bike lanes could be added to the existing structure.

First Intervention: The Moveable Chair

For our first intervention, we will create a pleasant place for people to sit and relax.  Public seating creates a useable, comfortable and pedestrian-oriented space, allowing folks to socialize, people-watch or just kick back and relax. Adding seating can be an easy and informal step to creating an active and lively space.

According to William H. Whyte, a late American urbanist and renowned people-observer, the best type of public seating is furniture that can move. Whyte considered the moveable chair “a wonderful invention” that provides people with choice: “a declaration of autonomy, to oneself, and rather satisfying.” Unlike fixed seats, moveable chairs give people the freedom to move closer or farther away from others, and follow or avoid the sun.

Watch this short clip from Whyte’s documentary “Social Life of Small Urban Places” to see how people in New York used chairs that move:

The risk of moveable furniture is that people may take the liberty of moving the chairs a bit too far away (perhaps onto their own patio or front yard at their house). We’re going to take a leap of faith and hope that our new furniture stays put without having to lock anything down. Stay tuned to hear about any thievery and what our next intervention will entail! Use the hashtag #blankpageplaza to follow the adventure on social media.