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Exploring creative practice as catalyst for adult public play in the city

School of the Built Environment

Applications accepted all year round Self-Funded PhD Students Only

About the Project

Play is ‘about creating a truly playable city where the inherent playfulness of people of all ages can be expressed’ (Mahdjoubi and Spencer, 2015, p. 147).

Up until the nineteenth century, in the West, play was embedded within the ordinary life of the city, disrupting routine activities rather than creating urban spaces for it to unfold. By contrast, the twentieth century separated play from the flow of ordinary life by creating the division between work (useful) and play (useless). Emerging research in the fields of psychology, urban sociology and cultural studies are challenging this notion of the ‘uselessness’ of play.

However, the primary focus on play has steered towards providing suitable spaces for children as an essential ingredient to their wellbeing and healthy psychological development, whilst adult play tends to be considered a frivolous concern, only available to those with the money to afford leisure. This notion undermines the fundamental right to the city and the right to play of all children and all adults for the enjoyment of freedom, self-expression and acts of individual and collective socio-cultural recreation. For adults, being seen playing in public can become a “political act”, as making a statement about who they are and who they choose to interact with rather than a “normal” everyday public behaviour. Nonetheless, the positive effects of play on adults’ physical, mental and general wellbeing have been acknowledged by the World Health Organisation (Donoff and Bridgman, 2017, p. 297).

This research aims to investigate theories and methods for reimagining the city as a playable space for all adults through collaborative urban ludic interventions initiated by creative practitioners (artists, designers, architects). It aims to explore their potential for enabling novel forms of encounters and explorations with strangers in the city by transforming urban spaces into playable-spaces for intergenerational socialisation and leisure in the 21st century. This multidisciplinary research project is located in the intersection between cultural studies, urban sociology and architecture, informed by Dr Penélope Plaza’s urban activism in Venezuela, as co-founder of the not-for-profit CollectiVoX and active member of the playful-urban-protest collective Ser Urbano.

Funding Notes

"Candidates require a first class or 2.1 degree and/or Masters degree (or equivalent) in an appropriate subject.
Good command of English and good academic writing skills. "


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