Architecture and Planning: It’s All Fun and Games


As I work on wrapping up my end-of-the year, I have a handful of links that deserve commentary, but get a structured dump in the interest of making things neat:

Cities as as systems/games and systems literacy 
Thinking in systems can help us make better games, of course. But can thinking about cities as games help us make better games?

Cities are systems, or rather, many systems that interconnect. Like buildings, they can be thought of as having layers, each changing at its own pace. If those layers are loosely coupled, the city — like the building — can adapt.

Recently, new urban layers/systems have started to emerge. They are made up of rapidly proliferating computing power, carried by people and embedded in the environment, used to access vast amounts of data.

At the same time, games have given rise to a new form of literacy —systemic literacy. However, to date, players have mostly inhabited the systems that make up games. They can read them. Writing, on the other hand, is another matter. True systemic literacy means being able tochange the systems you inhabit.

True read/write systemic literacy can be used to craft games, yes. But it can also be used to see that many other problems and challenges in daily life are systemic ones.

Here the author asks a very good question about our need for authenticity in hobby models. His solution is proposed as a project:

A few things collided in my head a while ago:

* How much I like model railway lay-outs (a lot)

* A wondering about why model railway lay-outs always evoke the past – rarely the future

Be sure to follow the blog to keep up to date on the project status, dubbed Lyddle End 2050, or check the tag lyddleend2050 on Delicious  or Flickr .

Reflexive Architecture in Second Life 

Second Life might be getting a little long in the tooth. Still, productive prototypers continue to find uses for the world. In this case, mocking up smart materials that provide a responsive program give a glimpse into the potential beauty, and visual clutter, of the new modern building of tomorrow.

Original Sin  
The New York Times, a little late to the party perhaps, recaps how architects use SL to prototype play and peddle their wares.

When it comes to architecture and fun, you have to keep tabs on Dubai. A review of a recent book on the city state underlines the book's subtitle–"The vulnerability of success".

A collection of papers and the outline of a dissertation in development, all situated in the intersection of games and architecture and focused on spatiality.

And, as always, take a look at the Delicious blog roll. I keep that up to date with promising links of relevant interest.

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Architects Just Wanna Have Fun


I can only imagine what kind of wild parties star architects throw. At least, they give the impression of having a really good time with their amusing structures designed to mask their obvious playfulness with somber theorizing and mannered justifications.

Still, I figure the vast rank and file of environmental designers dream about weird, wild and kooky structures. They just don't get as many obvious chances to express them.
This is the conclusion I come to when thinking about things like the Google SketchUp Gingerbread House Design Competition. On first glance, this is just a bit of seasonal good cheer and some sly marketing fun put on by Google to get its SketchUp community to try some new things. Likewise, this little competition with no prizes touches the exact point I want to make, namely that inside every architect is a child that wants to play with design and make something unabashedly fun.

And Google is not alone in mashing up the architectural competition with holiday food models. (a very eclectic and cool architectural blog I recently stumbled across), has its own portfolio of notable gingerbread homes and points to Bake for a Change , eco-friendly gingerbread house builds .

Now if we could only get the housing industry to put so much creative effort and joy into the production of actual fun domiciles!

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Unusual Buildings


Call them follies, flights of fancy or simply playful disruptions of more staid architectural design. Whatever the label, people continue to build idosynchratic structures that manage to express imagination, whimsy and fun above all else.

The Village of Joy blog rounds up lists of all kinds of wonderment, from crazy ads to optical illusions. Their collection of architectural oddities  ranges all over the topical and geographical map. And while it lacks any clear criteria for lists such as "The 10 Strangest Buildings in the World ", the visual surveys do manage to crack a smile and raise the question–what is it about these buildings that make them attractive, that make them seem like fun?
Also, visit sister site for photo blogging of the same crazy collection of buildings.

See and download the full gallery on posterous

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Mid-Century Modern Gingerbread House


Hmm. Seems like this would be an obvious choice. Making gingerbread houses on modernism lines certainly provides a simple method for organizing regular graham cracker elements into recognizable shapes. But credit this creator for assembling the Eames Case study house as a seasonal, eatable decoration !

As it turns out, it works out pretty well in chocolate too.
And the idea of marrying the clean lines of crackers to modern designs has at least a few followers 

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Art Gallery Game


From the always remarkably smart and interesting Life Without Buildings blog:

A sculptor with a sense of humor (“postmodernist fun,” some have said), Chris Saucedo creates site-specific work that transforms galleries into gameboards and back again. In the above image, a small scale-model of the New Orleans art gallery, Good Children, has been built in the form of one of those get-the-ball-through-the-hole games. Installed next to the model is a scaled depiction of the game’s “ball.” Thus, space becomes an unplayable, implied version of the carefully crafted “game” where visitors actually occupy the board. Saucedo’s installations repurpose and reprogram architecture without actually building anything or changing the space.

What's most interesting here is the implication that a place can be turned into a play space through the manipulation of spatially anchored signs, and even more odd, that the final space becomes "playful" even though you can't actually play with the space, only in the space. This isn't a particularly unusual move, either. When someone decorates their home office after Disney's Haunted Mansion, for example, you don't turn your desk into a ride, but a sign for the ride. The desk becomes playful even though you can't ride it.
The implication here is that we have a set of signs for play and for fun. And despite some notion that play and fun are activities, it seems pretty clear that they are also strong concepts. Putting a poster of some idyllic beach on your office wall isn't just about daydreaming, it is also an invocation of the fun, an invitation to let the mind play at the notion of leisure.
This also reminds me of an event a few years ago promoting Second Life. We were at a bar in San Francisco. On screen was a virtual version of the bar, recreated in Second Life, with various online avatars partying along side in parallel. The superimposition of the real and the virtual was a happy co-incidence rather than anything jarring or stupidly fake.

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