Back-to-back video calls, constant scrolling on social media and thousands of online shops have made it very easy for us to interact with others and get chores done from the comfort of our couches. But this has also reduced the need to actually go out and interact with people and the environment. The importance of being out was actively felt when the pandemic forced people indoors last year.
There are a lot of ways to create interest in public spaces so that people use them as more than just points to cross on the way home from work. Designs firms across the world have made attempts to revitalize such public places with interventions like LED installations, quirky seating, play areas for adults, and more. Below are a few such examples from Europe where architects have used electric colors, modular elements and, in one case, insects to attract people and make them part of a larger dialogue.
Part of the architectural festival Festarch.lab in 2012, this project activates the main square of the town Terni by adding a dynamic stage. The urban theatre is composed of several colored wooden platforms that can be put together to form a large square or broken apart into separate seating areas, much like pieces of a Tangram. These blocks have different heights, slopes and steps to facilitate different ways for the public to interact with them.
A hangout for families in the day and skating track in the evening, Stairway is one of the biggest 3D interventions in the Byens Hegn – Cool Construction city project. This surreal blue staircase lets users imagine a path to a mythical world beyond the door situated at its end. The path itself is composed of twenty-six blocks that are made of wood and metal. These blocks are created in varying heights to create different surfaces to sit or lie down.
Francesco Lipari and Vanessa Todaro from OFL Architecture used traditional and computer-based machines to create this interactive wooden installation. The form combines Roman Baroque forms with the geometries that are associated with insects. The six spherical ecosystems for insects comprise sensors that monitor environmental changes and visitor patterns to create musical compositions, showing the harmony between humans and insects.
This installation is part of a series created by the studio to increase activity in public spaces. The plastic bubble creates an enclosed space for small concerts or group activities for children. These inflatable modules are meant to act like organisms that invite users to interact with them and change the nature of existing urban pockets.
There was an opportunity to revamp the Targe Węglowy square after the removal of parking spaces there. The studio did this by creating modular cubic blocks that citizens can use to create custom seating and gathering nooks. Patches of grass are also added to create more defined seating areas. The aim of the design was to allow the users to determine how the space could be arranged or modified based on their specific needs, allowing adults to create reading or talking booths, and kids to customize playgrounds.
The Cloud Garden originated as a competition-winning entry in the Festival des Architectures Vives (FAV) 2014 and was later installed in the Aedes Metropolitan Laboratory as part of the Water as Ritual symposium. The installation is a series of cloud-like soft clusters that visitors can play with or sit on. Each cluster is made using inflatable anti-burst PVC spheres that are bundled in a four-way stretch poly mesh to allow movement and flexibility.
A colorful sphere is created using traditional S.João hammers to reference the Festa de São João do Porto – also referred to as the Festival of St John of Porto – where people hit each other with these soft plastic hammers. Instead of being a static décor piece, the installation also inspires play with its hollow cavity that users can occupy as the sphere rotates.
Designed in collaboration with composer Kate Moore, The Stolz Quartet and the dance company LeineRoebana, this installation was part of the Oerol Festival in 2017. A large transparent membrane creates an informal performance space where viewers can circle around performers in the center. The see-through surface also allows users to connect with the environment beyond the bubble. A long white circulation tube with transparent viewing windows connects this bubble with another opaque globule and creates viewing spaces for outdoor performance areas in the middle.
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