Back to Trust in Play Homepage

Stories from the world of Urban Play


Hey @Kavita, what an interesting story! I wonder what happened to the project once you left - did they carry on with your design proposal? I find it extremely bizarre to see how an organization would like to have you make a project of a space without a sort of consultation and participatory process already at the competition stage, and then win the money and have you left. There’s something really wrong with the sequence of things in this story :slight_smile: I guess the competition is also flawed here, as obviously in a limited time you can only provide with a certain amount of inclusion in the process - do you feel like the funders were aware that awarding you would only kick start a whole process of participatory design that might change things dramatically? Or they would expect you to realise the space the way you presented it first?

Also interesting to see whom do you call a client here! Usually they’d be called stakeholders, but in this case, you considered the local community your client, rather than… well, the donor maybe?

Sorry if these are obvious things, but as a non-architect, but a lover of the subject, I’d be happy to learn a little bit more about the inner workings of the profession.


Hey @natalia_skoczylas, thanks for that! You have asked some pertinent questions—which i was hoping to shy away from but in the spirit of trust:slight_smile: I will answer below.

In the earlier post, I mentioned my own personal experience. However, I should clarify a few things :slight_smile:

  • This org, at the time, consisted of 3-4 ambitious young people(<35 years) including me, dealing with difficult issues of mental health, sexual assault, intersectional marginalisation…
  • This took place more than 5 years ago! We were more friends than employees, at the time. We would all do things differently now.

When I was part of the non-profit org, we decided to pitch but they didn’t expect to actually win. Once we won, I was keen to drive the project with a community participation but that became problematic for reasons mentioned in the earlier post. Once I left the organisation, within a few months the project lost funding and the proposal never saw the light of day. I am not clear why but my guess is that the competition organisers realised that the org was short-staffed and there was noone to hold fort. The competition organisers are firm believers in participatory design and there would have been due process, so I wouldn’t worry about that aspect.

This experience taught me a lot, took me on a lot of adventures and I will forever be grateful for it. I do believe that what happened was noone’s fault and how things played out were products of earlier experiences. And that we have all learnt a thing or two about the value of trust.

As for terms such as ‘client’ and ‘stakeholder’, they now make me gag as it takes away agency from people/communities and creates silos of roles. I see them now as ‘collaborators’ or ‘co-creators’ in the design process- who in my opinion are more in tune with their needs and wants, but are perhaps lacking a process or skills to realise their vision. My role as a designer is to fill that gap.

Happy to connect with you here and chat some more. :slight_smile:


Hi! are you interested also in urban places that are heavily controlled, or hostile to other use except planed, like disrupting them with play ? best, miljena


hey @omarieclaire - you made me curious here! Can I ask you a question about what made the game such a harsh experience to you? I have some ideas, working with people on complex issues can indeed burn a lot of oil - but I’m very much interested in this particular story and how did you, you know, kept on going for the duration of the project?

Very nice meeting you and welcome to the club!


ha, hey @tomo_kihara, looks like we have some friends in common - do you know Miha Tursic? :slight_smile: I bet you do :))

I am really curious about the debating game - does it actually work as a money-making tool for homeless people? How many of them do it, and how is it in their experience? I like the idea but I also find it very challenging to imagine to work in real life - but if it does, it probably has a lot of value, especially by establishing interaction between homeless people, mostly overlooked. It would be wonderful to have it working in Berlin as well. If you can write a brief description and some of your insights, I’d be very grateful!
welcome to the TIP :slight_smile:


Hi Everyone!

This is Pelin,
I’m writing from Izmir, Turkey. I studied bachelor of architecture in Izmir, Turkey. During my study, i took place in several EU projects as a participant and a facilitator. I attended various architecture and design workshops as well. After my bachelor, in order to widen my horizon, i decided to move to Istanbul and study further in a different discipline. I got accepted to master of industrial product design in Istanbul Technical University. Meanwhile to my master, i worked in several phases of multiple projects in different architecture and design offices. In these projects i gained experience where i realized potential of my social and organizational skills: building survey, interior design, construction, production, exhibition design, event design, photography and video editing. I went to TU Delft as an exchange research student for 7 months. After i returned back to Turkey, i moved to Izmir to work for Izmir Tarih Project commissioned by Metropolitan Municipality of Izmir. Since 2015, i work for Izmir Tarih(History) Project’s Design Workshop which is a department of Izmir Metropolitan Municipality under the project is called Izmir Tarih Project. I collaborate with urban planners, graphic designers, architects, archeologists, sociologists, industrial product designers, landscape designers, and engineers. Our goal is to unearth the historical potential of the area. We organize events in order to gather locals, academicians, students and other professionals with local administrators and draw their attention. We work with mostly women and children who live in the neighborhood and create projects to improve their socio-economical status for creating an impact on them to feel belonging to the place they live in. We also strive to create social interactions amongst people with different backgrounds and restore the historical image of the area by creating various scaled projects. So far, i’ve gained a lot of knowledge related to my previous working experiences from design to production and in every one of them, i used my skills in communication that i still improve. Nowadays, i’m in the phase of changing my department and will hopefully start working in FabLab of the municipality. Apart from work, i take various roles in different NGOS; giving workshops & speeches and organize events personally related to art and cultural scene of Izmir. I’m supporting HEY! Imaginable Guidelines game for its development which is an urban city game.

As a social person, i’m interested in many things which cultivates me in professional and personal life. I have skills in fields of design, urban design, architecture and i am good at socializing, communicating, facilitating, idea generating, networking, organizing.

In my daily life, i like cooking experimental, dancing lindy hop, photographing moments, improvising situations, creating games, organizing events and traveling to people learn their stories and discover new cultures. I am an easy going person and great both in groups and individualistically. I love playing games and encourage everyone around me to strength their connections with their inner children. Adding to that, i took creative drama lessons, and i’m still taking lessons on painting, dancing, writing and Tai Chi in order to engage my body with mind and soul. Also, I am practicing various tools and materials in communication including games to build mutual trust in every group I am involved.

I’m very excited that i will get to know you.


Hello Trust in Play members!
I’m Olesya from Moscow.
I have been always working with graphic design, and always in traiding companies. I am not leader but I am trying to be more social :slight_smile:
I think its time to change something.
I am inspired by a city game called Run city. It is more about history of your city, exploring not touristic places in cities. Once I have made a small game in Staritsa town for my friends, based on this Run city game. They needed to guess riddles and to find out the name or the address of some historical objects. This game is directed on learn new, but I would like to make more wide games, aimed at society improvement of mindfulness, to awake people, that they can improve their city themselves and make things around them working for themselves and for another people (like, Public gardens, urban relaxing areas, meetings of neighboors to keep good relations, things exchanges). I dont know how it can be possible to work, because you need to have a permission from local government to change something in you city, and they not always go for it, if they see it will not make any profit and money for them, even if it is good for residents. But what I have seen in EU cities - it is way where we, russians, need to aim.


Hello to you all!

First of all, very inspiring to read your stories and take a look at your work.

My name is Jorrit Albers and I am an Urban Planner & City Enthousiast from the city of Groningen/The Netherlands. I’ve finished my Masters at University of Groningen and recently co-founded a creative urban advisory firm called Bureau Buitendienst.

With Bureau Buitendienst we try to contribute to experimental and more inclusive urban development, with a focus on public space. We combine research with experiments and interventions in public space in order to prototype how urban developments or alterations in space will turn out.
I´m very interested in combining our urban environment with physical/digital/virtual components to add an ‘imaginative layer’ to our everyday spaces and influence the way we use or see places.

Currently researching/exploring: The way people experience places with all their senses - Developing Arduino programming skills to combine sensortechnology with interventions in public space.


Hi, my name is Max Willis.
I am an international artist and interaction designer hoping to join you in Athens. I am currently finishing up my PhD in Information and Communication Technology (ICT) at University of Trento, Italy. Yes this is a technology engineering degree, but my thesis is about agonistic design, a kind of democratic principle of creative conflict that is enacted through game and play. I’ve been lucky to follow my interests in Design Activism, Co-Creation, Games and Play through the PhD, and doing Research through Design, I’ve been learning how to use my creative practices, such as performance and interactive multimedia storytelling to do research. For me urban game design overlaps social innovation and creative inquiry, and it’s curious trying to make sense of game and play in the public sphere from both perspectives. From what I have experienced so far, the school organizers always gather super-interesting groups of people together. That leads to so many new and interesting possibilities and ideas, so I am enthusiastic to join the Athens training school. Especially as the brief suggests we should develop a game together with a small group over a year, that sounds like we could make something meaningful!

Another relevant fact about me, I’m big into wheels: skateboarding, cycling and touring, on the road and in the backcountry. Last winter my partner and I rode our mountain bikes up and around Mt. Etna in Sicily (blizzards, earthquakes and ash clouds) and some years ago I skated a longboard 1400km across the Tibetan Highlands! Recently we have been learning to rollerskate, and imagine this as a great way to investigate the city, once we have learned to confidently slow down and stop =) and fall. learning to fall properly is important.

I’d like to share with you a short (ok not so short) story not about urban play, but about an interactive media artwork, and the unique collaboration that brought it into being.

‘Fragments of Privacy’
Max Willis May, 2019

When I first moved to Italy to begin my PhD studies, I met a woman on a dating site. Her name was Masha Starec, she was Serbian originally, Italian, witha couple of young teenagers and a fascinating story similar to mine, of art and technology and participating in the rise of digital things over our lifetimes. We didn’t really have a dating thing, we texted or called infrequently and gradually discovered a lot in common. We both came from a time before technology, and ended up in tech arts, and lived between the city and the nature. We both like to ride mountain bikes, and all the vegetarian nature organic things. So we took a risk to meet the first time, to make that transition from digital to real, and I travelled down to Venice to meet. Masha showed me around the Accademia di Belle Arti di Venezia, a prestigious art school where she was teaching computer arts, incidentally in a wing of the school that was previously an insane asylum. We laughed that the practices of media art and psychiatric therapy might actually be linked. Over time, our friendship grew, and I would take my bike on the train a few hours, and stay weekends at her place on the eastern edge of Italy. We would ride meandering paths criss-crossing the border with Slovenia, take long walks with the dog, discuss media art, and began to formulate a collaboration.

Masha had been invited to join a group exhibition in Budapest. She had a basic idea what she wanted to do, but not how, and we worked out the details, and created together a work of media art. The exhibition was headlined ‘Bartok’ and invited a clutch of artists, designers and performers to create works concerning Bella Bartok, an influential Hungarian composer, sometimes referred to as the grandfather of ethnomusicology, as he studied and incorporated elements of traditional folk music into his own music. But why Bartok? And why Masha? It turns out, that Masha’s great grandmother was Bella Bartok’s aunt. When Bartok died, his home furniture was shipped to Masha’s family house in Belgrade, and it was this, cared for and revered furniture, that she grew up playing on as a child. Masha’s plan was to use this furniture in a short video series, interspersed with photo series from the different epochs of her own life. We decided to somehow pack it into an old radio from Bartok’s time, and make it an interactive audio video object that museum visitors could play with by cycling through the different ‘channels’ and bandwidths of Masha’s life.

We made this thing together. Masha shot the video at her family home, and brought an old radio from a second hand store in Belgrade. I programmed an audio, photo and video swapping mechanism in MAXMSP; we stripped out the electronics from the radio, replaced several of the knob sensors, and I fixed a little arduino board to control it (though I have to admit it was Masha who eventually figured out the analog channel numbers for the big radio buttons!). This construction took place over three weekend visits, and what resulted, then to be exhibited in Budapest, pretty much mirrored the original vision. The radio was mounted on a podest with a projector and mac mini exhibition machine, and in its resting state randomly played a radio channel. When visitors to the exhibition approach the radio, changed channels, and turned the big reception dial, a flashing photo slideshow cycled on the wall behind the podest. Certain segments of the bandwidth held the video clips, which depicted grandchildren playing on Bartok’s green leather sitting room couch, grandmother smoking a cigarette in a cloud of smoke in his state chair, the current family dog curled up under the coffee table and other visions of life lived around these remnants of Bartok’s world. Each radio channel shared photos from Masha’s experience, in the times of Yugoslavia, her transition to Italy, in the 90’s developing tech in Milan, the coming and going of family members, and to present the ages of her children. Playing on the radio was a selection of short wave radio transmissions recorded from Belgrade, talk radio, political speech and news, local and popular Balkan music, a soundtrack of people’s everyday.


Masha travelled to Budapest, and installed ‘Fragments of Privacy’ at the Ludwigs Museum, the largest and most prestigious venue either of us had exhibited at. I was sending her code updates over the phone from the train while she was onsite, debugging last minute. The installation, and the exhibit was a success, and although I didn’t get the opportunity to visit, it sounded like all of the works there combined to phrase a really complex and interesting interpretation of Bartok and his work, and our contribution was well received. The exhibition ran from Oct 08, 2016 to Jan 28, 2017, and we texted shortly after, and congratulated eachother, in a hopeful upbeat exchange that would end up to be our last.

Masha Starec died shortly after, though I would not find out until sometime later, when her brother in his grief was reading her old texts, and responded to an old message I’d sent to her. She had been ill. That was then. And throughout the time I knew her, she was on the mend and living an active life. Until her illness returned. She had shared this with me, but not I believe, the true urgency of that fact. I realised then the true import of what we had done together. ‘Fragments of Privacy’ was Masha’s farewell, her interpretation and reflection on a life well lived, leaving. Her passing accented so many moments in my memory of our time together, typing testing soldering, burning out resistors in a plume of smoke, and roaming through her collections of family photos. She described each, the when and where and how and why and told me her story, together to make this thing and share that with a broader public.

‘Fragments of Privacy’ celebrated Masha’s life in a way that she lived hers, and how I live mine: making art, taking risks, searching out collaborations, to make and share new meanings. An ancient radio cabinet, updated with contemporary sensors, recycled copper cable and code; visitors at the controls, navigating a life in pictures and sound; a public watching and listening to the channels of age and youth lounging on Bartok’s sofa, transitioning the real and the digital. And then she was gone. The story is hers, really hers, and the privilege is mine, really mine, to have known Masha and had the chance to engage with a new dear friend, together to weave one, final narrative.

‘Fragments of Privacy’
Max Willis May, 2019


@ Kavita with a background in Applied Theatre, I definitely feel this way when I am designing a participatory experience…its almost impossible to craft on my own, and the creative expectations need to be clear with everyone involved in the making process.


@jyow I love how compact and player ready it is - you can take that little box anywhere!


Hi Bronwin,
I am totally into making experiences that invite urban dwelling humans to connect with the planet, nature and where/how they fit into that relationship!!
Living in London, it often feels like advertisements and every day transactions encourage little to no connection to how a city exists in an ecological sense of production and cost…and then something surprising comes up, like discovering all the hidden parks that exist along disused railways and the nature app competition that encourages people to track wild life sitings…or someone scattering wildflowers in a little patch of earth in an alley…or even someone making sculptures out of broccoli on Brick Lane!

Where do you live in the grey misted faerie land of the UK? :slight_smile: It would be great to chat more about ideas…
-Balloon (Francine)


Hey Francine, yay, good to connect.
For a long time I was living in the Lakes District and then Scotland, For the next few months I’m staying in the midlands - (and heading to a (free) workshop in Birmingham this weekend on women reclaiming AI, if that’s of interest…details on the BOM website) …currently listening to the sustainability podcast (in terms of making a living…) thinking there’s a lot of options to retell new versions of well known but copyright free IP (which is a strategy that Lance Weiler recommends, and in the webinar Tim also shares his own experience that this is one of the best ways to attract audiences to interactive play) either using Conductrr, or simply location triggered audio. (I’m a big fan of Alice in Wonderland btw and thinks there’s still LOADS that can be done with that - including “Alice Wild”)


Hello @mitrzikl
Thanks for the comment on Escape the Smart City.
I do want to develop the next version with this community somehow :wink:

Hello @natalia_skoczylas
Yes I know Miha, he is my colleague at Waag.
Street debater works in some parts of the city like London.
One homeless person managed to get off the street with it by doing it for over three month.
However it really does depend on the culture of the city.
I have not tried in Berlin yet, but I might soon!


Howdy hodwy!!

My name is Dew! I also go by dewdle bop, or dew drop! and I LOVE PLAY!! I’ll tell you how much, I like play so much that I have two scheduled play days every week just to devote some time to keep my artistic practice engaged with a sense of whimsy around it’s failures, and not steadfast to a schedule.

Some things I like to do to play are drawing, coloring, making up scenarios, thinking of new jokes and toys and confusing people!! One of the first things I ever made when I was still a math student in sculpture class was a sculpture of a wooden army many I cut my hand a bunch making with a parachute made out of a plastic grocery bag to be placed in a tree in a park for someone to go up and find.

Right now I’m really interested in creating toys which can be less actively played with mentally, but very physically stimulating, a sort of stim toy if you’re familiar with those!! anyways, great to e-meet! let’s be friiieieendss!!!



Hello everyone, greeting to all people! I am Kuangfan Chen, a PhD candidate from the Urban Informatics Lab at the Queensland University of Technology.

My background is Architecture and urban planning. I have a Bachelor of architecture at Harbin University of Science and Technology in China and a master degree of architecture at the University of Liverpool and have two-years-working experience as an architect and public space designer in China. I was always thinking about the contemporary way to redefine public space, especially in the Chinese context. When I was studying in the UK, I noticed many interesting Playable City projects and read the book of ‘Playable Cities’. I realized the Play will be a fantastic start point and a good opportunity to refurbish our urban space. Therefore, I start my PhD research with Urban Play consideration.

My current research is focusing on creating a model for playful interaction in public space for engaging more young people to play within the urban public space. I am currently constructing the typology of different gamified mechanisms in public space with aspects of space, users’ experience, and technology aspects. The whole research is grounded on the fun framework and motivation theories. In the final part of my PhD, I will also design playful and gamified spatial strategies in a specific Chinese contextualized traditional public space. Hence, I am very keen to communicate with designers with different culture and thinking and obtain knowledge and skill from interdisciplinary fellows!

I am very excited to meet you all. And looking forward to improving a global playful city network with you all.


Hi Natalia, I could not include 2 files in my application for Trust in play. I therefore only submitted my CV and no portfolio of work. Please, can you give me the email address where I can send portfolio? Many thanks! Cheers, Teja


Hey everybody, How are you?

I am Soly, visual artist, designer, photographer and architect from the Czech Republic, based in Burkina Faso since 2012. Together with a choreographer Ladji Kone, we co-direct a dance company called Ciel K. My research on aesthetics allows me to explore (re-)new materials, methods and media with dancers on stage and in public space.

I graduated from architecture in Prague, passing also by schools in Lyon and Paris. Already during my student years, internships and curiosity led me to discover the set design and visual art in Morocco, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. In light design I got trained alongside Simon Schroter from Berlin. In 2012, I joined the team of JCA - Jakub Cigler Architekti and since 2013 I have been running their experimental and pro-bono activities in Ethiopia, Mauritania and Burkina Faso.

Today with artists, designers and makers from JUMP we develop a project called The Pocket Park - it is a pilot project for a broader program to promote greenery, community linkages, security and sanitation of illegal urban landfills. The Pocket Park is a public interactive installation that consists of a large-scale landscape creation of greenery and street furniture from recycled materials. It will be designed during open workshops “with the people for the people” so that local people can explore, learn and experience art as a city-constructive tool.

I don’t have much experience with urban games. I might only mention that once I organized a Treasure Hunt for students of International Summer University in Mekelle, Northern Ethiopia. But I am excited about the idea to implement it into our practice and integrate it as city making tool. I can imagine that the urban games fit the content of our projects and I would love to discover more about it besides creators like you are!

Have an excellent day!

Warm regards from Ouagadougou


I agree with the challenges of designing a participatory experience. While a ‘team’ so to speak will have overlapping skillsets, role definition is critical—especially when it is crunch time, team-members need to do what comes easiest to them and then contribute to parts that they are unfamiliar with.
Your story of partnership is interesting and inspirational- games design, applied theatre and marriage!!! Congratulations!!!


@maxwillis- I am sorry for the loss and grief you feel. And that you have ‘Fragments of Privacy’ to celebrate your connection. And as Neil Gaiman would concur, in any situation, as you rightfully did, make art.