PhD Spotlight #2: Play as a Design Tool



The concept of ‘Play as a Design Tool’ was first introduced by Liane Lefaivre and Döll Architects (Ground up City, 2007). By unpacking the Amsterdam post-war playground model, created by Aldo van Eyck in 1947, Lefaivre and Döll developed an urban design strategy for play networks in Rotterdam. The outcome highlighted that the effective design of public space can bring people together and reconnect a city through play.

My PhD research takes the model of ‘play’ as an urban design strategy to explore the potential of ‘play’ as a tool for gathering information, to support the design of public space. My original contribution to knowledge will be a playful design methodology that can be applied to the (re)design of the urban environment. The design model will serve as a tool for urban designers and planners to help engage users of all ages in the (re)design of emergent public space.


Through my involvement in three urban design projects (to date) the research practice has designed, tested and observed playful methodologies as tools to engage communities in the (re)design of the urban environment. The projects had varying degrees of success that through analysis have supported the development of the playful design methodology. The ‘Play as a Design Tool’ model will be tested using a final bespoke, tailored methodology in the form of an urban (re)design project.

My research demonstrates that working playfully with people as creators and/or users of space helps establish ownership. Play becomes the tool to engage all ages of the community, create effective communication within society and gather information to support the urban (re)design process.

Following completion of my PhD the design methodology will be applied to other urban projects to encourage the advancement of playful design processes that engage communities in the (re)design of emergent public space.






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