The City as a Tile-Based Game

By Marina Oba, Daniela Moro e Gabriel Tomich

The City as a Tile-Based Game

Alterity is essential to human development. If deprived of a variety of stimuli, the brain is unable to develop, losing plasticity and deteriorating like an atrophied muscle. This reasoning is widely accepted when it comes to social relations or cognitive and physical activities. But what about the stimuli promoted by the built environment?

There was a time when the search for ideal spaces, totally controlled to offer the perfect conditions of safety, comfort, and ergonomics to their users, encouraged an ever-increasing dissociation between internal and external environments. Nowadays, the importance of being in contact with nature, in outdoor spaces, with its intrinsic variables of light, noise, temperature, humidity, scents, textures, colors, elements, and lives, has become more and more clear.

The importance of a wide variety of stimuli has been discussed not only concerning interiors and private spaces but also when it comes to public open spaces. Streets, sidewalks, walkways, gardens, and squares are often so monotonous that it is even hard to distinguish them from each other. By replicating standard solutions for roads, amenities, and furniture throughout the city for the sake of efficiency, opportunities are wasted, both to include different types of stimuli in everyday urban life and to promote diversity, and all its richness, potential, and capacity to inspire curiosity.

Tile-based game - Installation presented to the public during the exhibition Architecture for Curitiba in 2019. Photo : The Authors
Tile-based game - Installation presented to the public during the exhibition Architecture for Curitiba in 2019. Photo : The Authors

How to make the city more stimulating and fun?

This question drove us to propose an association between everyday movements we make when walking around or living in the city and movements encouraged by children's recreational facilities. Considering that both of them have been provided through standard solutions replicated indiscriminately throughout the city, combining the two offers a new possibility of interpreting the experiences of playing and living in the city.

We started with four basic movements, present in standard playground equipment – spinning (merry-go-round), crossing (tunnel), sliding (slide), and climbing (climber) – then we built an interactive 12x12 matrix containing hybrid formal solutions that would offer a greater range of movement possibilities. A greater variety of shapes would allow a more specific appropriation of urban spaces while emphasizing and appreciating diversity.

01 - What if the standard elements of playgrounds would unfold into abstract forms and motor demands?
01 - What if the standard elements of playgrounds would unfold into abstract forms and motor demands?
02 - What if the formal and motor concepts would interact with each other to generate Hybrid elements?
02 - What if the formal and motor concepts would interact with each other to generate Hybrid elements?
03 - What if the hybrid elements would compose a matrix of possibilities of forms and movements?
03 - What if the hybrid elements would compose a matrix of possibilities of forms and movements?

The second stage of the project involved applying these forms to specific contexts. During an exercise of investigation, we identified and selected emblematic open spaces of the city of Curitiba, in southern Brazil. After distorting the scale and fitting them into a topographic tangram, we created a 12x12 board. The abstract shapes contained in the matrix were used for the development of specific projects for each of the base pieces.

04 - What if Curitiba could be interpreted as a board of original spaces with specific demands?
04 - What if Curitiba could be interpreted as a board of original spaces with specific demands?
05 - What if each place in the city was assigned an original and specific project?
05 - What if each place in the city was assigned an original and specific project?

The outcome was materialized in the form of a tile-based game. The abstract matrix was printed on a flat base. On top of it, there are 144 models of specific projects, each one associating a form, and its related movement, to a topographic context. The puzzle is solved by matching each element of the matrix to each project.

Hybrid elements over City board. Photo: The Authors
Hybrid elements over City board. Photo: The Authors

The set is contained in a structure made of wood scraps donated by Tecverde and features a suspended strap made of balsa wood and tracing paper, which lightens up and also contains the description of the work. The installation was presented to the public during the exhibition Architecture for Curitiba in 2019, in collaboration with UFPR - Federal University of Parana technician Marcelo Perussi and students from several schools in the city: Beatriz Dutra, Bernardo Parmigiani, Bianca de Freitas, Gabriela Ribeiro, Gabrielle Stocco, Heinrich Froese, Vitor Ferreira, Matheus Costa, Ana Paula Pavelski, and Matheus Schneider.

Installation presented to the public during the Architecture Exhibition for Curitiba in 2019. Photo : Eduardo Macarios
Installation presented to the public during the Architecture Exhibition for Curitiba in 2019. Photo : Eduardo Macarios