Innovative Urban Play Space Competition

District of Columbia Office of Planning

Funding Received: 2013
Washington, DC
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months
April 18, 2014

The logo is drawn. The Playable Art DC website is up and running at The word is getting out. Twitter is on fire, and the search is on—not yet for the winning designs, but for the sites where the winning designs to come will go.

First things first.

One of the more exciting things about Washington DC’s international design competition for three playable art structures is that they are not things that will come wrapped with a ribbon only to be dropped in place as gifts to a community. Instead, the communities and neighborhoods must first apply to be considered. They must come together and say, “We want this here. We are stepping forward and will be a part of creating this new and wonderful place for our children and for our people.”

This selection process is now underway. There is a multi-page application that the community leaders are filling out and a special question and answer session for applicants to attend at the DC Office of Planning. By the end of April applications will be due. A week or two later the three Playable Art DC sites will be selected; new information will be developed about those sites and the communities they are in. Only then will the main design competition will begin.

Each and every stage of this process builds upon the previous stage. The hand drawn font used in the logo design was created to speak to designers of the labor of crafting a design. Requiring the communities to self-select and then work for the right to be home to a new piece of playable art is intended to give the designers true clients with whom they can work, to whom they can listen. It also gives them clients that are committed to the project.

The task ahead is not an easy one for the designers. They must come to understand their potential clients and Washington, DC. They must come to understand play. They must figure out how play and art can live in one design. On top of all of that, they must adhere to safety guidelines that are critical when designing for a piece so interactive, engaging and fun. And, they must be sure that it is structurally sound – because it WILL get used and climbed on. If everyone does their part, it will be a special place for all for a long time to come.

It is an exciting time to see a project nurtured for so long finally launch. It is even more exciting to think of all that the finished projects will bring to the people who call the nation’s capital “home.”