The Theme

From street art to street games, Bristol is the world’s first Playable City, known for its playful approach to public spaces, and its drive to get residents and visitors engaged with the city and its creative and cultural future. Now, in partnership with the British Council and Brazilian technology park Porto Digital, Bristol’s Watershed is taking this idea to Recife, in a bid to transform the capital city of Brazil’s Pernambuco state, into the worlds second Playable City.

What is a playable city?
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. It is a place where serendipity is rife and there is permission to be playful in public. Recife: The Playable City is part of Watershed’s on going interest in this important theme, which includes the inaugural Playable City Award, a major commission for a future-facing artwork, which supported development of Hello Lamp Post last summer.

At Watershed, we have also explored the idea of a Playable City in some of our recent projects: 

BikeTag Colour Keepers
A street game for Bristol Temple Quarter by artists Bang & Lee, Tine Bech and Julian Sykes that enabled residents and visitors to explore the city in a completely new way.

Playable City Sprint
In February 2012, 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.

Open City: Guimarães
As part of Guimarães 2012, the European Capital of Culture, Watershed is produced a series of artistic commissions that explored how ‘openness’ in city governance can improve the social, cultural, and economic lives of their inhabitants.

From James Bridle’s citizen street mapping of this medieval city, Charles Leadbeater’s think piece on the importance of hospitality in cities, to a film imagining a technologically enhanced Guimarães of the future, the programme explores the different ways technology can be used to encourage openness in relation to city development.