Architectural Invitations to Everyday Imagination

Angela Lai

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Playception​ discovery map

​​Hidden ​narratives embedded within​ our existing​ perceptions ​​​are used to​ uncover new spatial experiences. Delving into practices of urban walking and everyday imagination allows us to understand how the ordinary provokes wonder and intrigue.

Central to this thesis is the experience of the wandering pedestrian and the fundamental need for play within everyday routines to generate creativity and diversity. Walking in the city encounters innumerous moments that hold the potential to be reimagined and transformed to compose more engaging urban journeys. Explorations instigate a drift from the known, expected and conventional systems reflected in the urban built environment​,​ ​which articulate​ our everyday lives.

The work proposes a system, ​Playception​, which superimposes playful scenarios ​onto​ the city. It is presented as a performative and tactical way for the ​city's​ users to project their imagination and desires onto the urban fabric.

​​Playception invites the pedestrian to wander​ into alternate visions of urban space, using ordinary everyday acts to bring about engaging journeys and discover a unique psychogeography of the city. The quotidian act of walking​,​ ​together with​​​ our everyday imagination​,​ ​is​​​ deployed as a revolutionary method to bring about change to the urban condition. This approach ​to​​​ urban reimagination follows the notion that by deconstructing the systems that articulate how we perceive the ordinary, we can uncover alternate routes of navigating everyday life. Michel de ​​​Certeau's​ writings highlight​​ that the unpredictability and indeterminate nature of our desires are what intervenes with​,​ and challenges​,​ the dominant systems of everyday life. the dominant systems of everyday life.

Architectural interventions are​​​​​ made to ​integrate play as a necessary component of urban life. A series of interventions ​​​are​ proposed targeting​ ​the in-between moments of everyday urban routines. They encourage serendipitous encounters and ​enable​ our desires to flourish as opportunities for new urban perception. This integration of play opposes the ​convention of keeping play spaces separate, which​​​​ ​intensif​ies​​​ ​the ​​divide ​between work and play. During a walk in the city, such interventions invite momentary playful engagements,​ and​ a drift away from conventional thought; meanings​​​​​​​ that would usually go unnoticed ​are invigorated from shifts in subject-object perceptions.

Integral to the design process are the methods of collaging, diagramming, modelling and ​creating ​moving imagery to encapsulate the reinterpretation of moments in space, playfully materialising the hidden narrative within encounters as architectural possibilities. ​​​This project navigates​ the realm of possibilities and imagination, acknowledging indeterminacy as an essential characteristic in ​​​theorising​ an experience-focused architectural proposition.



During project development, it was important to maintain a constant reference to reality to ground the scope of the work. The established media process is utilised as a form of site analysis – adopting the notion of disjoined levels of reality in Bernard Tschumi’s ​Manhattan Transcripts ​– where existing elements in space are extracted and recombined to reveal a different reading, constructing a new narrative of the selected site. The outcomes of these analytical media processes generate whimsical architectural propositions to invite playful participation.

​​Playception ​​adopts ​​​the city as a stage for the interventions of reimagined narratives, allowing them to establish a connection and manifest into an experience of place. To motivate active participation and insert adventure into everyday transit, ​Playception ​functions like a game where its players change the city through their playful decision-making. The actions and experiences remain fundamentally indeterminate and open to possibility, whilst the architectural interventions ​act​ as fixed nodes guiding the ​​​game's operation​.

A city in an indeterminate phase provides abundant opportunities to imagine new urban possibilities, ​so​​​ ​Playception ​is especially impactful for Auckland CBD in its ​state of ongoing ​​​change. The intervention of ​Playception ​motivates the pedestrian to wander the streets not only as a​n observer​​​, but also to actively take part in spontaneous creation that ​addresses ​​​social needs and desires. Playful decision-making imprinted upon the city (even if​ only​ ​​temporary) ​has the potential to challenge​​​ urban habits and conditions. As the system develops, it influences the ​​​city's​ path of transformation.​​


Finished Product

The final narrative of ​Playception​ is showcased through an animated film of a ​​​participant​ ​as they interact ​​​with the city through the superimposed system.

Situated in the heart of Auckland city, ​Playception​ offers a whimsical disposition to the urban fabric. The system consists of a central node and satellite nodes. The Purpose Station and Props Depot make up the central node, where prompts and props are dispensed to motivate journeys to interact with various scattered interventions, which are the satellite nodes. ​The ​​​​​prompts and props​​ enable ​​participants to create their own desired paths and moments within the city. These desires are exhibited as staged scenes of fragments and incomplete narratives, further stimulating the imagination of other spectators and inviting possibilities for its completion.

The system develops through use​​ and over​ ​time grows to encompass ​​​more​ interventions and possibilities of play. Its development means a deeper integration within the fabric of its host city. This thesis has developed the core network of ​Playception ​in the selected area of mid-city Auckland, however​,​ there may be individual systems in other areas of the city such as ​​Karangahape ​Road​, ​the ​Waterfront and Learning quarters or inner-city neighbourhoods like Grafton, Ponsonby and Parnell. Through expansion, they will eventually begin to interact with each other, creating a network of systems – a unique secondary geography of the city.

​​Playception​ positions the changing city as an open stage for discovery and play. ​​​By i​nviting playful behaviour to reappropriate urban spaces and stimulate social encounters, it demonstrates the interaction between the city, its inhabitants and their imagination.


Critic's Text

This thesis emerged through a sophisticated design methodology – employing investigative collages, diagrams and study models – to propose an open-ended and experimental speculative design for the city. It examines the life of, and within, cities in contrast to a controlled and controlling perspective of regulated public space. Instead, this work proposes engagement with inhabitants and urban pedestrians to enliven through flux and change. The work is contextualised strongly using ideas drawn from urban walking, psychogeography, and the everyday and positions the work clearly with well considered precedents. The final design, ​Playception​, presents a game for a designed urban system. This is presented through well-drawn and modelled work, in particular intriguing animations – all leading to thoughtful interventions. Rather than offering this as a ​​​'​solution​​​'​, ​Playception ​reveals opportunities for future engagement with events-based organisations to rethink urban living to delight inhabitants.

-Marian Macken, supervisor