This 200-level, process-driven, practical course entitled "The Playful City" takes as a point of departure the concept of “Homo Ludens” (freely translated as the playful human), which was first coined by Dutch historian Johan Huizinga (1872-1945) in his homonymous book. To Huizinga, play should be understood an essential (and ubiquitous) feature of flourishing societies. In this course, we will research how play can be applied to the contemporary ideal of “learning cities” formulated by Unesco ( Play is arguably what nature developed to be the fastest, most integral, biologically sound way to learn. It is a form of lively engagement that fosters agency and creates spaces for convivial collaboration and the development of deep and meaningful social relationships.

We will do so by conducting practical experiments to observe and test how playfulness can be mapped, stimulated and enhanced in public space, under which conditions it can emerge and evolve. We will also identify and visualise potential threats to a playful, learning and inclusive city. Through community fieldwork and on site prototyping (= making models to test ideas) we will engage in collective, experimental learning. Thus, in a five-week video assignment and a seven-week, self-directed “action-research” project you will develop a hands-on understanding of how a playful, learning society could be stimulated and nurtured.

Guest interventions from UCR faculty, alumni, local partners, and invited artists and designers will add a diversity of perspectives on the course work; fragments of books and conversations will lend a reflective framework for the hands-on work in class. Self-study time will be dedicated to keeping track of and reflecting on your process in your sketchbook, which you will use as a ‘visual research logbook’, and as a basis for the start of a personal portfolio.

Additional costs p.p.: 75 euro (Dutch design week field trip including guest workshop) + 100 euro (personal materialisation budget, this amount is subject to variation depending on your project)