Ludic City


Musings on the politics of space and the necessities of play…

Engaging with our environment is a challenging activity in the city. The city centre is a place of power and wealth and the austerity of many public spaces demand a particular type of public interaction.

However if our cities are going to be safe and more harmonious then arguably we should open up the ways in which we can interact with the city. I am taking my cues here from a couple of different sources. Firstly the argument that cities will work better if they incorporate play requires that people modify what they expect civic behaviour to encompass. Certainly the idea of parkour being an acceptable form of city play may also require city people to surrender their instincts about what they regard as risky or threatening behaviour. Our sense of propriety about how people should act is arguably a bigger barrier to the ludic city than architecture itself?

Skateboarding has long been an acceptable style and activity at large, but such tolerance is revoked when the activity encroaches into public space that is to be shared by workers and pedestrians. Skateparks are too noisy for city centres and are positioned on the margins. A recent trend has been to build skateparks which replicate the plaza styles of office blocks and shopping malls that skateboarder have been banned from. City space stripped from the city? A strange discursive loop (a environ is built for public use - potential is seen for play - play is outlawed - a specific play place is build that mirrors it out of its original context) then occurs.

Too often the play that is allowed in cityspace is simply the play of consumpiton. Drinking, eating, and shopping seem to be the chief ways in which people want to play in the city. Public parks for recreation are often excellently designed with a plethora of ammenities…but too often these are stadardaised and curtained off from the rest of the city. Shouldn’t a shopping mall or an office block be accesible for cyclists, skateboarders, joggers, and even for those who want to do parkour in their trasnit to work.

Perhaps the question about play in the city is better addressed simply as how do we, as adults allow ourselves to play?

There is plenty of great writing about the ludic city. Michel de Certeau’s ‘The practice of everyday life’ is in itself a playful work, but also pursue ‘the ludic city’ by Quentin Stevens.

Lupe Fiasco - Kick Push.

Another song about skateboarding by the beautiful, sexy, intelligent and talented Mr Fiasco.