December 17, 2019 | By Julie Garisto
Downtown Clearwater Gets Playful
with International Creative Producers
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The concept of the playground as we knew it growing up — swing set, monkey bars and slides — is seriously flawed, says architectural designer Leticia Lozano, founder/director of Mexico City’s MACIA Estudio.
The Clearwater Redevelopment Agency presented a forum with Lozano and her creative producer cohorts — one a familiar face in Tampa Bay — in conjunction with “Let’s Create a Playable City,” an interactive installation last month at Second Century Studio in Clearwater.
“Running, jumping, rolling down hills, space to move around and ways to spark the imagination” and free play are important for adults and families, too, she says.
Lozano was one of three innovators of urban play — including Tampa’s Ryan Swanson, founder and CEO of The Urban Conga and Anel Moldakhmetova of Kazakhstan — who set up this project. The enterprising threesome gathered to discuss what they’d been working on before collaborating with one another at an international program in England sponsored by the British Council, which sponsored the creative producers’ tour.
Moldakhmetova discussed her projects as creative producer at Cityzen Space studio, exploring what can be accomplished through planned events, open mic pop-ups for kids and enlisting civil activists in city development projects.
Since 2016, Moldakhmetova has been curator and producer of the Archcode Almaty project (research and preservation of the architectural heritage of Almaty, her mid-size homebase in Kazakhstan) and a co-founder of Urban Talks Almaty (an educational and discussion platform for city activists and professionals, promoting changes in the city through professional talks, open lectures, workshops, field research, networking and expertise).
Lozano revealed startling statistics about the lack of space for play in Mexico City’s neighborhoods. She and her peers set up play areas on empty lots and noticed increased citizen engagement outdoors and a decrease in street crime.
Both Moldakhmetova and Lozano fascinated listeners with their trans-disciplinary work, challenging the boundaries between architecture, experience design and applied research.
All three designers behind such creative installations have come up with ways to get us to engage with one another during this age of technological isolation.
While visiting, they took on the challenge of drawing people to downtown Clearwater, inviting city employees and other professionals to participate in playful workshops to spark ideas and conversations on how Clearwater can be more playful.
“The Playable Cities workshop was fascinating, fun, and a refreshing few days in the middle of the week,” says participant and Creative Pinellas Marketing Manager Danny Olda.
“We started each day with a game in a nearby field. It’s genuinely surprising how pleasant that was, how comfortable it made the entire class with each other, and the way it put a pleasant vibe on the rest of the day.
“Also, the workshop prompted us to look at the familiar downtown area in completely new ways as well as about people we may not often interact with. I thoroughly enjoyed it and was sincerely sad when it was over.”
While Urban Conga founder Swanson says he has no specific recommendations for Clearwater points of interest, he’s hoping the exhibit, workshop and talk will initiate conversation between residents and stakeholders.
The CRA, which has leased Second Century Studios through January 2020, worked with The Urban Conga earlier this year for a three-week installation of Oscillation, interactive structures that use light and sound and respond to movement, at Station Square Park in Downtown Clearwater.
Inspired by what they learned about Playable Cities, the City of Clearwater installed The Globe Garden, a maze of lighted orbs that turn on and off and change colors as people walk through, on the corner of Cleveland Street and Osceola Avenue as part of the CRA’s second Holiday Extravaganza, which features shopping, outdoor movies, holiday lights, and events in Downtown Clearwater for the entire family through December 22.