Changing a cities image, one swing at a time.

There is no greater power for the creative spirit, than play. Play is what keeps our minds fresh, and our ideas off the wall. Play stokes our curiosities and erases our inhibitions. So when tasked with developing a thesis statement with my partner in crime Kristin Freese, she was all too eager to remind me of such. That life, when taken slightly less seriously, leads to some serious results. Results that cannot be ignored. She challenged me to challenge others to think as such, thus, PlayPhilly was born.

Like all graduate thesis it took many paths. It started as an idea to play, to observe, and soon became a call to action and a brand with a message. It asked you to take play, seriously. It was weird. It was inconsistent. It required road trips to Washington DC and screaming matches about relevance. It had us building cubes and trying and failing regularly. It made us cry. But in the end, we saw. We saw the greatest power ever come to light, giving permission to a perfectly reasonable adult that it is okay to let go and create through play.

It was a simple premise really. Name all of your good childhood moments. Swinging. Playgrounds. Baseball. No matter what the subject, you can probably go into intricate detail of the event. The weather, who was there, what you were wearing. Our brains aren’t so complex in that recell on pleasant (yes and not so pleasant) experiences can trigger all the senses. We are alive. It’s much harder to remember all the stuff in the middle. The mediocre moments, as they don’t inspire much within us. So if we look at life in the city, can we inspire others using the tools around us along with the playfulness of our youth? Can we trigger adults to energize a cityspace with their youth? Green space is all well and good, but there’s a much more devious space left unattended in our cityscapes. Grayspaces. The concrete flatlands that connect our buildings create lifeless spans that we cannot avoid. Where cities fail is in rigorous daily monotony. Monotones and white noise. Our goal is to dissolve the city mediocrity with a little help from its Users and creative class.

The completed thesis

Various projects (okay, experiments) were tasked throughout the 6 month study. Some were more passive, some never made it to the light of day, but all revolved around play, and trying to trigger a moment of storytelling or learning. You can learn more by exploring the projects web site here or the onslaught of Flickr photos here.

Our defense presentation


  • URL :
  • Date : 01/01/2011
  • Project Chair : Beth Van Why
  • Designers : Giacomo Ciminello, Kristin Freese

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