The Playable City is a new term, imagined as a counterpoint to ‘A Smart City’. A Playable City is a city where people, hospitality and openness are key, enabling its residents and visitors to reconfigure and rewrite its services, places and stories.

“Our data-marked world is often represented as benignly utilitarian – filled with smart cities and networked objects – a functional, benefit-led data-driven place […] From the urban spaces of Bristol, Playable City will hopefully be the first of many commissions for contextual art that transcends technology and show us new ways to see the world.”
Tom Uglow  in

“The idea of harnessing cities as playful spaces is an attractive one, especially when it’s about concentrating attention, not on the big buildings and official tourist attractions, but on the little objects that get overlooked.” Keith Stuart, games journalist, The Guardian (referring to Hello Lamp Post project)

Through The Playable Award, an annual conference and a programme of global labs and commissions, Watershed and partners are exploring the notion of a Playable City, how play can influence and engage with city development and how we might create world-wide sustainable networks of creators and commissioners of Playable City works.

Playable City is a deliberately broad and open theme, inviting disparity of opinion and interpretation. These are just a few of the ways in which Watershed and others around the world have been involved in exploring the concept so far:

2014 – Recife: The Playable City
An exciting international initiative that brings together creative practitioners from Pernambuco (Brazil) and the UK, to exchange ideas and develop new works that respond to the theme of The Playable City. It is run in collaboration with Brazilian Technology Park Porto Digital and the British Council.

2013 – Playable City Award 2013
The winner of this inaugural award was Hello Lamp Post by Pan Studio, Tom Armitage and Gyorgyi Galik. It was chose from nearly 100 applications from 24 countries. For inspiration, reference and to avoid duplication, we recommend having a look at the 10 shortlisted concepts from 2013 here.

2013 – Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone: Animating the Zone
From theatrical tours of imagined futures to thousands of points of light floating in space, Watershed, Knowle West Media Centre and MAYK, with support from Bristol City Council and Arts Council England curated a series of artistic interventions in Bristol’s biggest area of urban regeneration.

2012 – The Playable City Sprint
The British Council and Watershed brought together twelve artists and designers from across East Asia and the UK, for a five-day sprint at Watershed’s Pervasive Media Studio around the theme of The Playable City

2012 – Open City: Guimarães
From open balloon mapping with James Bridle, to Design Fiction on the streets of a medieval city, Watershed co-curated a series of live and digital interventions with the people of Guimarães during their year as European Capital of Culture to explore the concept of Openness in relation to city development.