Playful Interventions In Times Of Crisis

 
Impotant: use headphones to fully enjoy the movie.
 
Duration: 3 min and 19 sec

Soundtrack (in order of appearance):
Blue Calx by Alphex Twin.
Tema Del Mercat A La Plaça by Lluis Llach
Title Music From A Clockwork Orange, interpreted by Walter Carlos from Henry Purcell’s ‘Music from the
Funeral of Queen Mary’.

Animated illustrations: fragments taken from Alan Parker’s ‘The Wall’

 

Concept

We exist in a culture that increasingly dictates how we live and behave, providing for our needs and desires, whilst simultaneously creating new of anxieties and concerns.
It can be argued that as consumers we exist in individual and introverted design and communication mediated ‘bubbles’ from where we perceive external factors as invasions or threats to personal space disturbing our perception of reality in our ‘safe’ networks and routines.
The intention of this project is to break and interrupt ‘the routine’, and real-world social introversions, and explore our capacity to play, have fun, be extrovert and physical in an environment where the act of being physical is limited to walking sedately from A to B.
The project manifests itself through a series of urban interventions that exploit existing urban street furniture and present opportunities for physical exuberance. These are installed in several urban locations throughout London, where individuals are encouraged to interact or play with a new set of physical realities that release the participant from the banal movement normally accepted in the city context.

 

This is a no speculative project it was tested in real life with real users whose interactions were recorded without their permission.

OBJECTS

These images show the test prototypes that I used to set up the installations. Most of them were designed in wood combined with rubber paint and ropes. Next stage of development here.

Diagrams and instructions manual PDF

The attachments above were designed in aluminium and the components in steel. The interior is protected with rubber to avoid the gliding through surfaces. The attachment system consists in a combination of ropes and pulleys. See the movie of how it works here. The design is also conceived to increase the applications in order to expand the range of activities, in the image the application is a step to climb.

INSTALLATIONS

They were installed in 4 boroughs around London with the intention to study the impact and the reaction within different social stratum.

Installation 1. This installation took place in a rich residential area in North West London called Gloucester Gate Bridge, between Camden market and Regents Park. There was enough space and urban furniture to install 4 objects: swing, climb steps, double bar and stairs. The duration of the installation took 2 hours.

The user ratio was very varied, 25% were couples, 40% families, 15% small groups of people and 20% individuals. The age ratio was from around 10 to 50 years old, but most of the objects were used by children. The gender ratio was balanced, 50%t man and 50% woman. The ethnical ratio was around 90% white background, 5% afro-caribean and 5% asian. The participation was satisfactory, from 30 to 40 users.

Conclusions:

The locals were aware about health and safety issues and also more rigorous about the regulations and permissions needed in order to install no standardized objects that could potentially generate confusion and disorder, although it was a considerable amount of commuters that interacted satisfactory.
The locals were more careful and less confident to use the objects than in other locations, this makes me think that due to their social status and cultural background they have more layers to remove in order to deal with their basic instincts and to face new realities that could disturb their ‘safe’ structured lives.
This is an area where locals restrict more their self-expression and give more court to the conventional and established.
The police, as physical representation of the local minds and their way of thinking, represented and safeguarded those values.Their attitude was inquisitive and prohibitive.

 

Installation 2. This installation took place in a financial area or working city in Central London called Holborn Viaduct. There is enough space and urban furniture to install 5 objects: swing, climb steps, bar, rings and stairs. The duration of the installation took approx 1,30 hours.

The user ratio wasn’t very varied due to the nature of the location. Just 2% of the users were couples, 0% families, 40% small groups of people, 55% individuals and 5% locals. The age ratio was between 20 and 60 years old, but mostly in their middle 30′s and 40′s. The gender ratio was almost equal, around 50%t man and 50% woman. The ethnical ratio was around 85% white background, 5% afro-caribean and 10% asian. The participation was poor, around 5 users.

Conclusions.

At this location, a financial district, and at that time, around 8 AM, people look to be focused around specific targets. They are starting their daily routines, their minds are stressed, they have a responsibility. ‘It’s so embarrassing to be late at work and also what would my colleagues think if they see me swinging?’. Probably these could be the kind of thoughts that cross their minds in this context, in part because they are trapped in their routines more than ever to full fill their social contracts.
It was determinant for me when the police arrived to understand the ‘real’ reasons of their interest to uninstall the objects, they did’t want anything around the workplace that distract the focused workers from going to work, they discouraged me to do it in the future and also obliged me to delete part of the footage, (I kept some of it without they realize it, you can see it in the movie when they talk while the camera shoots the ground). This evidence shows how the system has mechanisms to abort attempts of self-expression and playfulness in our communities when higher interests are under risk, to keep us under control.

 

Installation 3. This installation took place in a touristic/business area in Central London called Shaftesbury Avenue near Covent Garden. There was enough space and urban furniture to install 4 objects: swing, climb steps, rings and stairs. The duration of the installation took approx 9 hours.

The user ratio was quite mixed, 30% were couples, 20% families, 40% small groups of people, 10% individuals and 0% locals. The age ratio was between 6 and 50 years old. The gender ratio was, around 45%t man and 55% woman. The ethnical ratio was around 70% white background, 20% Afro-caribean and 10% Asian. The participation was satisfactory, around 50 users.

Conclusions

Due to the touristic nature of the area, the users demonstrated to be up to new experiences, overall because they were in a more relaxed scenario where their senses could explore things around them instead of being focused in specific targets. This demonstrates that human minds could be less playful and creative under strict ruled environments.
The police was no present during the installation.

Installation 4
. This installation took place in a crossroad between the heart of the creative industry and the depressed East End, located at the Old Street last stretch towards Shoreditch High Street. There was enough space and urban furniture to install 5 objects alongside the sidewalk: swing, climb steps, rings, bar and stairs. The duration of the installation took approx 6 to 7 hours.

The user ratio was again quite mixed, 30% couples, 5% families, 35% small groups, 30% individuals where around 40% were locals. The age ratio was between 6 and 60 years old. The gender ratio was balanced 50%t man and 50% woman. The ethnical ratio was around 75% white background, 5% Afro-caribean and 20% Asian. The participation was very satisfactory, around 200 users.

Conclusions

This installation was the last one and the most vibrant of them. Some anecdotes and the overall impression made me feel that I was in a completely different London. The installation was used as a ground for the encounter, where users while interacting with the objects created a suitable relaxed atmosphere to build relationships. Some of the users demonstrated to be very creative when interacting with the objects, squeezing their potential and taking the opportunity to be wild and physically exuberant in a space that is usually monotonous. The space was transformed into a celebration a psychedelic abstraction of the rules around, an ‘oasis’ where the users were able to show their inner nature and to play the role they want.
The police appeared when I was installing, but their approach was surprising and refreshing when I found out that they were worried about the urban furniture instead of people, even though suggested me to install also during the nighttime.
Due to the creative ground where the installation took place and the permissive, open atmosphere, minds where relaxed, creative, playful, free to experiment and ready to challenge their boundaries.

 

OTHER PROPOSALS

These drawings show alternative systems to develop the core prototype, the attachments, in order to install a wider range of objects to them.

 

 

These diagrams show the way attachments are installed in the lampposts and its components. Some of them are inspired in systems like the boom in windsurf or the bootski. The components vary from clamps to ropes and materials from fiberglass to aluminium, carbon fibers and bio resins.
These different climb systems are design proposals in order to deliver a range of options to attach the objects into urban lampposts that differ in diameter depending of its location. This study shows some mechanisms that have the aim to deliver a quick and comfortable install and uninstall performance.

 

 

The images below show the proposal to develop the kit that contains the objects that consist in a suitcase which covers unfold as separate swings. See further development here.

 


 

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