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Watershed unleashes a pack of wild creatures onto the streets of Bristol

Posted on Tue 15 Sep 2015
Image credit: Paul Blakemore

These are the Urbanimals - winner of the Playable City Award 2015 – created by Polish architects LAX (Laboratory of Architectural Experiments). This magically interactive project invites Bristolians and visitors to play with animated creatures projected in surprising and little-used corners of the city between now and Thu 19 Nov.

Leap with the graceful dolphin, chase a shy rabbit, find the secretive beetle or skip with a cheeky kangaroo. Lurking behind walls, hiding in dark corners, the Urbanimals are waiting in unexpected places across Bristol and are eager to play with passers by.

The locations where you can spot an Urbanimal are:

Outside Watershed, Harbourside

Cathedral Steps, College Green

Clifton Down Shopping Centre

St Catherine’s Shopping Centre, East Street, Bedminster

Near Morrisons, Hartcliffe

Near Marriott Hotel, Temple Circus

Wells Road, Totterdown

As people pass or stop in front of any one of the four different creatures between dusk and midnight, the Urbanimals wake up. 

Playable City seeks to re-use city infrastructure to create surprising interactions - and Urbanimals has been particularly technically complex. The experience requires the creators to precisely measure and then map each location creating a virtual copy of the physical space using CAD software. This virtual space is then exported into a games engine called Unity.

The digital Urbanimals models (which are given attributes and rules to make them realistic and animal-like) are put into the virtual locations and then projected on to the city - so the Urbanimals not only interact with passers-by (via a Kinect camera that can see their movement) they also interact with the real architecture of the city. This clever technology - which is mostly used in games - is what enables the kangaroo to jump up and down real steps.

Urbanimals by LAX was selected from 197 applications received from 60 countries around the world. LAX are an experimental design team based in Poland, who describe themselves as practicing 'at the edge of architecture', testing the boundaries of urban planning, design, psychology and computation. They have been working with Watershed producers across the summer in Bristol exploring their ideas, and developing the technology and today their vision has been brought to life.

 "We are incredibly excited to be finally releasing our pack of Urbanimals on to the streets of Bristol," say Anna Grajper and Sebastian Dobiesz from LAX, "our interest in the Playable City is rooted in the opportunities it provides for people in an urban environment to come together, interact and connect through play. We believe that such spatial interventions are the future of our cities, so working with Watershed to bring our idea to life has been an extraordinary experience and we can't wait to see how the residents of Bristol respond."

Clare Reddington, Executive Producer of the Award, says:

"In the last three years, Watershed's Playable City has grown substantially and we have presented projects in Lagos, Tokyo, the US and more. However, Bristol is the first Playable City, and its home, and so we are delighted to launch Urbanimals as our third Playable City project and get involved in the conversations it inspires."

Find out more about the Playable City Award.