There’s a new term popping up in the world. It’s playborhood and you don’t have to contemplate it long to understand it’s roots. The notion is that by creating walkable urban spaces, people stay healthier. They interact with each other more often. They move. Perhaps, they are even inclined towards greater civic engagement. And yes, they are playful.
On a cold Canadian weekend a couple of weeks ago, my husband and son were playing in Montreal – and they weren’t alone. Despite the fact that it was freezing and close to midnight, the street was full of people enjoying a new city placemaking delight.
The site of the play is the Place Des Festivals in Montreal where an innovative public art display called Impulse encourages passersby to climb up and take a ride. This new art installation is a set of illuminated seesaws that emit sounds when they are moved creating a musical street atmosphere. The project is a collaboration between the lighting design firm, CS Design and the Toronto-based urban infrastructure firm, Lateral Office and won the 6th annual Luminothérapie event this past summer.
Throughout the world, there is a large scale recognition of the value of unstructured outdoor play for children. It is for the betterment of health and it increases the likelihood of happiness. In fact, research indicates that it’s even critical for brain development. But, does it stop with childhood?
Dr. Stuart Brown head of the National Institute for Play says, “Play is something done for its own sake. It’s voluntary, it’s pleasurable, it offers a sense of engagement, it takes you out of time. And the act itself is more important than the outcome.” The outcomes, according to Brown extend way beyond pleasure. Just as play increases resiliency in children, adult play can help build community, keep the mind alert, and is a terrific way to engage with friends and family.
And then there’s the other thing and it IS that pleasure principle. It turns out that we’re a lot more enjoyable to be around if we have a healthy dose of playtime in our lives.
It’s a proverb that we need to exercise in order to keep Jack from getting dull. How do you do it? Is there public art in your area that encourages play?