Buffalo, New York, a nineteenth-century booming center, experienced a sharp decline in manufacturing, industry, and population in the middle of the last century and finds itself with a surplus of empty lots and oversized car-centric streets. Despite a recent spur of investment and activity, many areas remain unaffected by the positive changes, leaving the city still blighted by poverty and segregation.
Based on observations that spaces of play are rare moments where people from different economic, political and racial backgrounds share experiences, and influenced by the opportunistic infill-urbanism of Aldo van Eyck in post WWII Amsterdam, we propose a network of social infrastructures for playful encounters in the public realm. In a time of grave disunity, these analogue prompts provide a chance to, however briefly, leave the echo chamber of social media and interact with a neighbor. There is an urgency to this approach that considers play as a collective and political form of occupying the city, and playspaces as an essential urban amenity.
Our installation Aldo appropriates van Eyck’s signature climbing-frame and reconfigures three of them to construct a collective space, which visitors are encouraged to occupy and interact with by climbing, leaning, and lounging in it and on it.