Week 12 2017

After several disruptive weeks – pushing child friendly cities and play in media and at events I am back on the PhD research.

The feedback form the Assessor was to use Stevens work as a basis rather than Lefebvre. This led to an revised PhD proposal and contemplation about new research questions.

Project Proposal can be accessed here: PhD Proposal 23 March2017

Maciocco, G. & Tagliagambe, S. (2009). People and Space, New Forms of Interaction in the City Project. Urban and Landscape Perspectives 5; Springer. doi 10.1007/978-1-4020-9879-6_1

The City Project: intermediate Space and Symbol (p.164)

“The loss of the differential quality the city has suffered in its drift towards the “generic city”, a phenomenon of reduction of diversity, standardisation of life and the space produced by shopping, which has become “a primary way of urban life”, “the apotheosis of modernisation” (Chung 2001), the foolish outlet of the doctrine of form (of the city) that follows the (consumer) function in the same way throughout the world, the “unexpected revenge of functionalism” (Chung, 2001).

Chung C. J., Inaba J., Koolhaas R., Tsung Leong S. (2001) Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, Taschen, Cologne.

Linked to the “generic city” is the process of “thematisation” of the city, the transformation of the city as a theme-park, an experience of places that is also the model of the place of pleasure (Jacobs 1998), a model that requires a glance turning everything into a show, that tends to blend in with its surroundings (Caillois, 1984) and that produces an absence of reference point, like the space of a labyrinth, spectacular and supervised, making the contemporary city uniform (Bataille 1970). But it is a desired labyrinth, that represents a complete mosaic of different types of landscape that make up, indeed, the “dark object of desire” of society (Vos and Meekes 1999).

Bataille G. (1970). Le labyrinthe. In: Bataille G. (ed) Oeuvres complètes, Gallimard, Paris. Caillois R. (1984). Mimicry and legendary. Psychastenia, October n 31.
Vos W., Meekes H. (1999) Trends in European cultural landscape development: perspectives for a sustainable future. Landscape and Urban Planning 46 (1-3).

The representations, images, our society creates for itself of landscapes as “desired products” express detachment from reality. In this detachment between reality and representation lies the contemporary incapacity to “represent” the city , to “see it”. What is projected in images aberrant to the point of losing their reference point is nothing more, probably, than the loss of the reference point as such, a loss affecting language, the same loss that affects the inhabitant when he tries to imagine the city (Soutif, 1994). If we do not go to meet the real, in the lived in space, unsettling pairs of opposites like real city/simulacrum city and citizen/non- citizen (de Azua 2003) will become established, where the figure of the “non-citizen” will correspond to the loss of the urban collective conscience and, with it, the loss of the city as a conceptual unit.

Soutif D. (1994) Topes et Tropes Le plan de Ville et la Référence. In: Dethier J., Guiheux A. (eds) La ville Art et architecture en Europe 1870- 1993, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

de Azua F. (2003) La necessidad y el deseo. Sileno nn. 14-15, pp. 13-21

“The space of the mind that gradually develops as the subject understands, in his acting and often after he has acted, the sense of this actions and those of others and that, in this sense, opens up to the world of relations that feeds the collective conscience.” (p.165)

–> Is the post capitalist city a place where symbols are exchanged? “The expressive strength of the symbol is essential for collective gaining of awareness of the elements that preside over our spatial life. ” (p.165)

The symbol represents,  always, “something else”, it refers to something different and never uncodifiable. (p.166)

“A symbol can be understood as a “bridge cast” between the universe of visible phenomena and the invisible, between reality and possible worlds.” (p. 167) –> play is a possibility and create opportunities for reaching out to a different world!

“The active, collective glance at the city makes us feel we belong to a whole, it reveals to us the contemporary public space.” p.13

Brodsky J. (1995) On Grief and Reason: Essays, Farrar straus Giroux, New York.

“The more substantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer- though not necessarily the happier- he is (Brodsky 1995, pp. 49-50).


Week 3 2017

This week I’ve finished the second draft of my assessors response and circulated it to my supervisors.

The draft can be accessed here: assessors-response-ghm-1601

Further on literature:

Appleyard, D., Gerson, S., Lintell, M. (1981). Liveable Streets. University of California Press Berkley. Los Angeles, London.

On the difference of heavier and lighter streets:
despite of the ‘pleasant appearance, its environment was inferior to the slightly less immaculate light street. The ultimate irony was that the rents were higher on the heavy street, probably because of the faster turn over of apartments.’ p. 26

‘Life on the light street, on the other hand, was in some ways idyllic. Residents were much more engaged in the street. They saw it as their own territory. Their children played on the sidewalk and in the street. They had many more friends and acquaintances, and they were generally much more aware of its detailed qualities. The contrast between the two was striking. On the one hand alienation, on the other friendliness and involvement.’ p. 26

On light streets people tend to have more children. The lack of children in the heavy street may be partly explained by the fact that social life was impoverished and many treated the street as a transient hotel than as a residence. p. 27

Ecology of the street graphic p. 31


Controlling driving behaviour depends on understanding and communicating with the driver psychology –> perception, expectation, and attitudes. p. 32

‘The Emmissions from traffic include noise, vibration, air pollution, dirt, trash thrown out of windows, and visual ugliness. Control of these emissions through vehicle redesign is an important way of increasing street livability.’ p. 33



Richard Sennett (1990). The Conscience of the eye. The Design of Social Life of Cities. faber and faber. London & Boston.

‘This divide between inner, subjective experience and outer, physical life expresses in fact a great fear which our civilization has refused to admit, much less to reckon. The space full of people in the modern city are either spaces limited to and carefully orchestrating consumption, like the shopping mall, or spaces limited to and carefully orchestrating the experience of tourism. This reduction and trivializing of the city as a stage of life is no accident.’ p. xii

He sees a profound “spiritual” reason behind why people are willing to  tolerate such a bland scene for their lives. Further he notes that the way cities look reflects a great fear of exposure. ‘”Exposure” more connotes the likelihood of being hurt than of being stimulated.’ p. xii

Cities remove the “threat” of social contact through intervention such as street walls faced in sheets of plate glass, highways that cut of poor neighbourhoods from the rest of the city, dormitory housing developments. p. xii

Christianity set Western culture upon the course that built a wall between the inner and outer experience. p. xii

Further Sennett argues that ” attempts to unify the inner and outer dimensions simply by tearing down the wall, making the inner and outer one organic whole, have not proved successful, unity can be gained only at the price of complexity. p. xiii

–> He wrote this book in 1990, prior the advent of the smart phone technology. Through modern technology this wall has somewhat shifted or might be even broken. Sennett considers the next big task: how to revive the reality of the outside as a dimension of human experience. p.xiii

Sennett suggest that this battle on the street of witnessing diversity and difficulty can only be won, by an changes of ones orientation. In other word by keeping the balance. The Greeks referred to it as sophrosyne (grace or poise). This person today would be considered as ‘centered’. ‘A city  ought to be a school for learing how to lead a centered life. Through exposure to others, we might learn how to weight what is important and what is not. We need to see differences on the streets or in other people neither as threats nor as sentimental invitations, rather as necessary visions. They are necessary for us to learn how to navigate life with balance, both individually and collectively.’ p. xiii

Donal Olsen in his book “The city as a work of art” argues that creative powers take a humane form and turn people outwards. He suggests that our culture is in need for an art of exposure; this art won’t make us victims one another. Instead it allows for more balanced adults, capable of coping with and learning from complexity. p. xiv

‘theory’ comes from the Greek word ‘theoria’ –> meaning ‘look at’  ‘seeing’. –> physical experience in light with understanding  or ‘illumination’. p. 8

In relation to feelings, truth and the street:
Experiences such as ‘love become disturbed because feelings are kept insight, invisible- the realm where truth is kept. And places people live in become puzzling. The street is a scene of outside life, and what is to be seen on the street are beggars, tourists, merchants, students, children playing, old people resting- a scene of human difference. ‘ p. 9

Lao-tzu: “The true reality of a room is not its walls but the emptiness they contain.” quoted in Paul Zucker, Town and Square (New York: Colombia University Press, 1959) p. 94.

Medieval city builders were not concerned with order- instead they created contrast between order and disordered spaces with no need to understand it. p. 14

The discontinuity was created by permitted random houses and squares. Their sprouting created the ‘necessary contrast to make clarity speak as an experience of faith’. p. 14

The parvis (the space in front of a church was part of the zone of immunity), was a place of public ritual, plays, and political speech. The open space sanctuary resolved itself into gardens- transition zones that function as silence at the center. p. 17

This parvis protected the people from the city. p.19

–> similar to Gozo, Xhara Play in front of the church, festival in the piazza.

‘This dualism between inside and outside became first visible as urban form in the medieval way of marking territory.’ p. 18

Medieval builders protected the spirits within the church and walls from the street. p.21

Ferdinand Tönnies – distinguished between ‘Gemeinschaft’ and ‘Gesellschaft’. For him ‘Gemeinschaft’ encompasses a face to face relationship in a place that ‘was small and socially enclosed.’ p. 23
A ‘Gesellschaft’ was a more exposed mute exchange.

Sennett creates an example evolving around a pot. Buying a pot at a local market, involving haggling was an experience associated with ‘Gemeinschaft’. Compared to buying a pot in a department shop in silence as an operations, which is associated with ‘Gesellschaft’. p. 23- 24.

‘The more enclosed and inward in each is supposedly the more sociable. Images of people touching and talking, their communion as their bond, are scenes of subjective life at last established and opened up: Gemeinschaft could literally be translated as “sharing what is within me.’ p.24

Sanctuary in western culture is associated with the possibility of psychological development. p.24

According to Freud- human development is about gradual unfolding, physical, mental and psychological, each step consequent for the future. p.30

The stimulation of the street as a place to develop lacked the sequential order of internal rooms of an house and self-development became opposed in visual terms. p.31

Sennett made the remark, ‘an early Chrsitan would read the modern design as bound to fail because our culture is in pursuit of self-development rather than a faith transcending the self.’ p. 31

One may argue in order to evolve we need to stop self- development and start focusing on enabling environments where we can transcend ourself’s.

Further Sennett argues in relation to western culture and space, that a space of authority, has developed as a place for precision: ‘that is the guidance it gives to others’. p. 36

‘Today the secular spaces of authority is empty; it looks like the side street of the Rockefeller Center.’ p. 37

‘The visual forms of legibility in urban design or space no longer suggests much about subjective life or heal the wounds of those in need. The sanctuary of the Christian city has been reduced to a sense of comfort in well-designed places where other people do not intrude. Safe because empty: safe because clearly marked. Authority is divorced from community: this is the conundrum of sanctuary as it has evolved in the city.’ p. 37

‘The planner sees who designs neutral, sterile environments. The planner never meant to, of course. Still, it is curious how the designers of parking lots, malls and public plazas seem to be endowed with a positive genius for sterility, in the use of materials and in details, as well as in overall planning. This compulsive neutralizing of the environment is rooted in part in an old unhappiness, the fear of pleasure, which led people to treat their surroundings as neutrally as possible. The modern urbanist is in the grip of Protestant ethic of space.’ p. 42

The Protestant imagination of space is expressed as a desire for power. An obsessive inner struggle with a deep hostility towards the need of others through a resentment in their pure presence. For example homeless people on the street ‘they are resented because they, who are obviously needy, are visible. p. 45

In accrodance to Sennett this implies a cultural problem visible through impersonality, it’s alienating scale and it’s coldness resulting in a lack of value. p. 46

The acceptance of visual denial in everyday life becomes the new ‘normal’. In fact more than that as Sennett points out as reassurance with ‘nothing as important as the inner struggle to account. Therefore, one can deal with the outside in purely instrumental, manipulative terms, since nothing outside “really” matters. In this modulated form, neutrality becomes an instrument of power.’ p. 46

Street grids –> an expression of culture. A rationality of city life. ‘No physical design, however, dictates a permanent meaning. Grids, like any other design, become whatever particular society make them represent.’ p. 48

‘The grid has been used in modern times as a plan that neutralizes the environment.’ p. 48
The loss of a center is the second way to neutralise a space. p. 49

In the modern context citizens ‘are a complicated instrument of offices and restaurants and shops for the conduct of business.’ p. 52

The grid is a ‘weapon to be used against environmental character’ p. 52

The grid as a place for economic competition, to be played upon like  a chessboard. It was a space of neutrality,  a neutrality achieved by denying to the environment any value of its own.’ p. 55

‘Places without centers or boundaries, spaces of endless, mindless geometric divisions. This was the Protestant ethic of space.’ p. 55

‘The refraction of power is as true of modern architects as it was of early capitalist who sought to take control of the world through detachment.’ p. 62

‘The spiritual struggle in its form as Protestant ethic denies the outside a reality in itself; denies the value of being present in the world.’ p. 65- 66

‘Control is a meaningless word uptown; here it is a synonym for anxiety.’ p. 66

‘The material abundance aroused by the division of labor were to be frustrated in the course of the industrial revolution, as in the home this principle of division of labour was to create an environment of emotional isolation. … It was indeed in those inventions which aimed to unify, rather than those which aimed to divide, that the Enlightenment showed true genius. This genius marked the Enlightenment’s planning of the physical environment, indeed shaped the very conception of the “outside”. For instance, the Enlightenment of the gardener sought to aid Nature in provisioning the pleasures of walking. Flâner means in French “to stroll along, observing,” a flâneur one who delights in doing so.’ p. 74

‘Consciousness that one is viewing an illusion is a heightened state of subjective self-awareness, and yet this was for Enlightenment no barrier to looking outwards.’ p.77

culture in opposition to civilization
‘culture represented for them the force of wholeness in society, while civilization represented a certain kind of acceptance of difference.’ p.79

‘Few planners who have pursued this path in the last generation would want to argue that “the people” best know their own needs; whether or not that is true, it is beside the point. In a society threatened by passivity and withdrawal, to encourage ordinary citizens to talk about social realities is to make the speakers care about one another.’ p.87-88.

‘The city is not only a civitas- a place of communication. It is alson on urbs,’ physical places that connect us. p.89

‘the is a conflict between building and people. the value of a building as a form is at odds with the value of a building in use. changing historical needs are seen as threats to he integrity of the original form, as through time were a source of impurity.’ p.98

‘ But in time enthusiasm arouse by experiences of unity between inside and outside subsided;”unity” came to refer to what objects were in themselves.’ p.99

The modern cult of the object is about what is left when the artist no longer strives to arouse that momentary sympathetic union between people and their environment. He or she seeks only for the sublime effect- the seizure, the shock in itself, for itself. At that moment anti-social art is born.’ p. 103








Week 46: 27th- 30th December 2016

If play originates from a temporary situational joyful and socially inclusive sensational experience and situations are just products of what we are, how is it that there is so few public places truly socially inclusive designed.

Situation- a set of circumstances in which one finds oneself; a state of affairs. Or the location and surroundings of a place.

Spontaneous-  performed or occurring as a result of a sudden impulse or inclination and without premeditation or external stimulus.

Play – engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.


Play origin

Old English:

plegain – to exercise

plega –brisk movement


Middle dutch:

Pleien- leap for joy, dance


Theoretical thinking


Further thinking on spaces based on the reading of Lefebvre’s “Production of space”. Aim of this exercise is to create a response to the assessors feedback.

Energy needs to be wasted. Energy is not constant.

Energy produces space, too much space speeds up the process until disconnection is reached. The process implodes and creates a new opportunity through rebirth.


We create in our minds spaces (representational space). These spaces can be transformed through energy into symbols reaching out beyond the individual identity. Symbols can be transformed into action. These actions have effects on objects in space. Through a surplus of energy we can modify these objects. This process of producing these spaces can be described as ‘lived space’ (Lefebvre,p. 236) as it embodies both spaces (mentally and physically) and has a strictly symbolic existence. The results of the produced spaces effect other identities adding further energy and shared interpretation of objects. This shared interpretation in conjunction with actions in space can be called co-production of space. This co- production can just occur as long there is a surplus of energy available. Once this energy ceases, transformation occurs and changes into the space of memory. Complete is the cycle of space creation. This transformational process from co-production into the representational space, as Lefebvre referred it to, and opens up bridge to consciousness that creates the opportunity to elevate self- consciousness.

How does this relate to play?

Play lends itself as the perfect vehicle to this theory.

Lefebvre eloquently described this in his book “The production of space” and talks about a triad of spaces.

The representation of space (maps)

The representational space (memory).

The lived space (absolute space).


His thoughts originate from Marxist thinking about the value creation through labor,….

I agree with Lefebvre that “knowledge falls into a trap when it makes representation of space the basis for the study of ‘life’ for is doing so it reduces the lived experience”.  There is a great need to verify and test a priori against a posteriori (empirical evidence research approach. As Kant outlined the nature of a priori as transcendental and enables a better understanding of different forms of all possible experiences. I believe that both need to work with each other. A priori can be understood as a guiding light asking to be contested and verified by the a posteriori approach.


Urban Designers should strive to understand all three dimension of spaces if we want to create healthier environments for people. Play can be one of the vehicle to understand the interplay and harness indicators that create a fertile ground for carefully inserted changes in space enabling further playful experiences.


With that in mind, the study of play supports the notion for this research project to collect data in a posteriori manner and use abductive reasoning, to find the logical inference from observation to the most likely explanation (theory).

Play in the street


Week 45: 19th- 23rd December 2016

Reviewed and reflected on the feedback from Assessors report and prepared a draft response as a basis for discussion on the 21 December 2016 with my supervisors.

Discussion Report can be accessed here: Draft Response Assessors Report

Supervisor arrangements

Andrew- will take a step back in 2017 for own research and swapped positions with Milica.

From 1st January 2017 Milica will be primary supervisor until Andrew returns. However, regular meetings with Andrew are scheduled.

Definition of play

Over the weekend I’ve revised the definition and created a figure to support the theoretical write up.


 Supervisor meeting 21st December 2016


Link between Lefebvre

explain production of space

how is each element linked to play

Small review of quality of space literature in relation to play and why is play important part of it.

Why can a behaviour approach can be used in the context
Be careful with mixing resolving something and explorational pursuit

Explain the three examples more. –> explain the behavioural study

Explain a bit more the diagram and the definition.



Is play in us or in the environment?  –> hypothesis

Health and well-being needs to be more clearly linked.

Hypothesis exercise

end up being a traditional PhD.


Brainstorming after meeting

research and explain the

Social cognition and interpersonal perception

Situationist –> alternative life experiences through the construction of situations,


Lefebvre, H. (1991). Production of space.

“A society is a space and an architecture of concepts, forms and laws whose abstract truth is imposed on the reality of the senses, of bodies, of wishes and desires.” p. 139

“Metaphor and metonymy are not figures of speech – at least not at the outset. They become figures of speech. In principle, they are acts. (…) they bring fourth form  the depths not what is there but what is sayable, what is suceptible of figureartion- in short, language.”  p. 139

“Symbols always imply an emotional investment, an affective charge…and thereafter ‘represented’ for the benefit of everybody elsewhere.” p. 141

He speaks of reading of space.. which is possible. “Space is at once result and cause, product and producer; it is also a stake, the locus of projects and actions deployed as part of specific strategies, and hence also the object of wagers on the future- wagers which are articulated, if never completely.  p. 142-143

“In produced space, acts reproduce ‘meanings’ even if no ‘one’ gives and account of them. Repressive space wreaks repression and terror even though it may be strewn with ostensible signs of the contrary (of contentment, amusement or delight). This tendency has gone so far that some architects have even begun to call either for a return to ambiguity, in the sense of a confused and not immediate interpretable message, or else a diversification of space which would be consistent with a liberal and pluralistic society.” p.144-145.

Robert Venturi –> architect wanted to make space dialectical (1966). He saw the space not as an empty and neutral milieu occupied by dead objects, but rather as a field of force full of tensions and distortions.” p. 145

Lefebvre’s  conclusion “We have seen that the visual space of transparency and readability has a content -a content that it is design to conceal: namely, the phallic realm of (supposed) virility. It is at the same time a repressive space: nothing in it escapes the surveillance of power. Everything opaque, all kinds of partitions, even walls simplified to the point of mere drapery, are destined to disappear.” p, 147

He also suggests based on the notion that we are designing now buildings with steel and glass that “private life ought to be enclosed, and have a finite, or finished, aspect. Public space, by contrast, ought to be an opening outwards. What we see happening is just the opposite.” p.147

Space related to:

Form, structure and function -> structural or functional  analysis p. 147

aegis–> public areas (the spaces of social relationships and actions) are connected up the private areas (spaces for contemplation, isolation and retreat) via ‘mixed’ areas (linking thoroughfares)

shin-gyo-sho embraces three levels bound together by relationships of reciprocal implications: spatial and temporal, mental and social. p. 153

It is not about decoding a system –> rather creating one. Differences between Japanese philosophy and western civilisation. p. 156

Its about bringing the realms into harmony and not through use of sign and its analytical proclivities. p. 156









Week 42: 28th November – 2nd December 2016

Work on narrowing and defining the street environment:

Also  I’ve been thinking about my research approach, based on the work Stevens has done. The next logical step is to create a tool (mechanism) how to measure play in urban streets. This can not just reveal the tension between consumption and production of space, but help to give designers a tool to assessing  play in cities.

Defining the problem in context of the street (why street):

  • street has a movement function as well as a place function.
  • sections can be confined
  • easy to observe people (public space)

Traditionally (pre- industrialisation) the street had a high place or production function. In particular with the advent of the car the street was given more a movement function. While acknowledging that the street can and have to cater for both there needs to be a balance achieved in order to enable healthier neighbourhood (e.g. social inclusion, cohesion, air quality, noise, perception of safety etc.).

One may argue that the place function in streets is increasing lost. Speculation and thoughts around causes lead to change in perception of safety, volume and speed of vehicles (movement function), less objects that attract (physical attributes that appear to people), quality of micro- climates.

Urban design literature has investigated numerous ways to increase the quality of spaces through amenity. Steven argues that we need to shift towards a more holistic approach. In his book he elaborated through a discourse analysis on the dialectic of play in the city.

I believe an empirical approach through precise classifications (tool) of play behaviour in urban streets may add value to his approach.

Stevens: ” The propability of play also appears to be enhanced by greater connectivity and permeability  in the circulation network a a whole (p. 69).

When a street system is densely interconnected, any particular street or site which may be a destination in itself is also a secondary or incidental destination within many other orbits of activity (Alexander 1965).

Conclusion –> By creating a  empirical tool  that can assess the quality for play in a street –> this may be a way forward to improve health and well-being.

Heuristic inquiry through observation

Revisiting research question (test writing without play):

What makes place optimal for people( fun) in cities?
What are the environmental triggers that support improved outcomes for people (fun) in cities?
How can our cognitive behaviour (fun) contribute or create health co-benefits in cities?

Test now with the amended questions from week 41:

  • What are the aspects of peoples cognitive behaviour (fun) that reveal and facilitate change in the urban social spaces?
  • What are the  health co-benefits of fun?
  • How can this device be used to inform optimal urban experiences?

Next steps revisit my classification of play and investigate place theories?

Elements of play:


Most common play behaviour’s assessed in Potsdam (under old definition):

  1. playing around
  2. Putting something into play
  3. making play with someone
  4. playing up on words
  5. playing tricks
  6. playing for time

Callois four categories:


  1. Cycling
  2. loosing weight (jogging, running)
  3. bike racing
  4. twisting/ rotating


  1. pets (walking the dog)
  2. using computer devices (smart phone/ internet/ virtual reality)
  3. listening to music
  4. imagination/ day dreaming (holding hands)
  5. window shopping
  6. photography / reading and writing
  7. toys (playing with sticks, loose material


  1. joking
  2. speech play
  3. playing with metaphors
  4. playing music/ voices


  1. collection (coin machine)
  2. bike racing
  3. jogging

Attempt to use the results of my test phase to inform the development of the classification. However note, that these classification sit under the assumption that play is an intrinsic induced activity, that constitutes freedom, based on the acceptance of risk in its temporary transformational nature.

Note: Look into situationists, political activism and concept of ‘leisure’, habitus, place theory (what makes a place)

Consumptive street spaces

measures of elements which are examples of play:

  • distances (object to subject and subject to subject)
  • level and sorts of playful social interactions
  • movement through space (speeds)
  • level of risk/ perceived safety
  • active frontages
  • commercial use of the space (outside dinning, display of commercial goods and services)


Merleau- Ponty. (1958). Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge Classics. London and New York.

‘It requires that two perceoved lines, like two real lines, should be equal or unequal, that a perceived crystal should have a definite number of sides, without realizing that the perceived, by its nature, admits of the ambiguous, the shifting, and is shaped by its context. p.13

Müller-Lyer’s illission, one of the lines ceases to be equal to the other without becoming ‘unequal’: it becomes ‘different’. That is to say, an isolated, objective line, and the same line takes in a figure, cease to be, for perception, ‘the same’. p.13

The word perception indicates a direction rather than a primitive function. p.13

A shape is nothing but a sum of limited views, and the consciousness of a shape is a collective entity. The sensible elements of which it is made up cannot lose the opacity which defines them as sensory given, and open themselves to some intrinsic connection, to some law of conformation governing them all. p.16

‘Memory is built out of the progressive and continuous passing of one instant into another, and the interlocking of each one, with its whole horizon, in the thickness of its successor. The same continuous transition implies the object as it is out there, with, in short, its ‘real’ size as I should see it if I were beside it, in the perception that I have of it from here.’ p. 309-310.

‘Movement is merely an accidental attribute of the moving body, and it is not, so to speak, seen in the stone. It can be only a change in the relations between the stone and its surroundings.’ p.312

‘The phenomenon of ‘shift’, and implies the idea of a spatial and temporal position always identifiable in itself.’ p.313

Gestalttheorie –> Wertheimer talks of Erscheinungen and Darstellung p.318

‘Consciousness is removed from being, and from its own being, and at the same time united with them, by the thickness of the world. … The consciousness of the world is not based on self-consciousness: they are strictly contemporary. There is a world for me because I am not unaware of myself; and I am not concealed from myself because I have a world.’ p. 347








Week 41: 21st- 25th November 2016

After the comments of the assessor’s at the confirmation seminar last week, I took the opportunity to reflect and go through my own comments. Unpacking the session with my supervisors was helpful in order to contexcualise aspects. Valuable were the following:

  • keep narrowing down;
  • revisit research question and my aim as tools to narrow the scope further;
  • stick to my methodology and methods.
  • as it is not about existentialism or discourse analysis rather an observation of a phenomena providing insights into the dynamics and tension of the triad of spaces in light of the the affordance theory form Gibson and Flow. The tension can be made visible through the heuristic device of play explaining transformational change in time space of public urban spaces (streets environments)
  • This research is not traditional phenomenology (Merleau- Ponty) – environmental psychology based on Gibson and Kaplan
  • unpack further the meaning of play in the context of my research
  • justify further why the street (go back to Appleyard)
  • read again Lefebvre in order to explain the context of time when he wrote this and compare to the contemporary environments
  • the concept of “Right to the city” was seen from Andrew as an opportunity to dive further into as a basis to root this tension of space through play.

send email off the HDR waiting for feedback on the confirmation seminar that I can proceed.

Notes from literature work (23 Nov):

Henri Lefebvre “critique of Everyday Life” 1947 (translated 1991)

Since Marx and through the notion of making alienation a key concept in analysing the human situation Lefebvre was the first philosopher who connected philosophy to action. P. x

“Man must be everyday, or he will not be at all” p. xix

Own observation/ reflection

The tension in urban public spaces between the production of space and the regulation accompanied by the consumption of spaces is evident and even more prominent in the contemporary context of humans and the urban condition.

City governments around the world aim for the creation of equitable and just places, as it is supported by the New Urban Agenda. However, the current condition shows inconsistencies and tensions. Urban designers and architects aim to deliver under the promise of vibrancy and vitality quality urban spaces for all. Contemporary urban renewal processes focus strongly on objects in combination with land value capture propositions and increase liveability. Urban vibrancy is increasingly delivered under the paradigm of consumption and productivity. This not just reflects the neoliberal zeitgeist, but also raises questions around alienation and correlation to mental health issues in urban systems. These tensions can be made visual through play as a heuristic device.

Alienation leads to impoverishment, to the ‘despoliation’ of everyday life. However, Lefebvres everyday life is not reduced to inauthenticity of Alltäglichkeit, as in Heidegger or Lukács. P. xxiv

Modernity which has despoiled the everyday life of former times, which never appeared save in its metamorphoses, as in festival, which embodied a genuine ‘auto-critique’ of the everyday; it is modernity which has caused everyday life to degenerate into ‘the everyday’ p. xxvi

Modernity is the movement towards the new, the deployment of technology and rationality (which Lefebvre calls ‘modernism’), but it is also the absence of any real transformation of social relations, and leads from the human towards the inhuman, towards barbarity. P. xxvii

–> play behaviour mobile phone in public space –> transformation of the mind?? Less ‘real’ social interaction –> interactions of the minds –> disconnected from the ‘real’ –> but there is Pokemon Go??

Habermas distinction between System and Lebenswelt informed the work and impacted the debate in the second half of the 20th century in Europe.

Naïve, physically adept but spiritually innocent – Charlie Chaplin

Visually comic moments when Chaplin when he cannot adept create laughter and assure that humor never becomes awkward or embarrassing. Like pleasure, like harmony in music, laughter is stimulated by a series of resolved tensions, in which moments of relaxation are followed by even higher tension. P.10

Strangeness –> alienation

Through deviation through disorientation and strangeness, Chaplin reconciles us on a higher level, with ourselves, with things and with the humanized world of things. P.11

Restricting access to these pressures urban spaces.

“there are plenty of reasons for thinking that descriptions and cross-sections of this kind, through they may well supply  inventories of what exist in space, or even generate a discourse on space, cannot ever give rise to  a knowledge of space. And, without such a knowledge, we are bound to transfer onto the level of mental space – a large portion of the attributes and ‘properties’ of what is actually social space.” p.7

the physical experience in cities occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of the imagination such as projects and projections, symbols and utopias. p.11

space of social practice

focus on dialectic rather codes –> highlighting contents inherent to the forms under consideration. p. 18

25 Nov.

After reading several papers on Lefebvre and the context of his work it became clearer why his work is relevant in the contemporary urban academic debates.

The social space development within the triad of spaces can reflect the state of development of societies. Therefore it serves not just as an instrument for space observation (play) but may explain certain transformation of social conditions in cities. –> concepts that are non instrumental, spatial separated and public.

Conflicts can be made visual through the heuristic device of play. Stevens rightly pointed our that there is to date very little empirical evidence and understanding in the “non-functional” use and design of public space. He references Lennard and Lennard (1984), Dargan and Zeitlin (1990) as well as Borden (2001). Also he indicated that Gehl and Whytes work are mostly space- centred investigating general categories of everyday behaviour.

Stevens draw on observations of a range of cities over a long period. Critique point from him is that urban design foundation is amenity, but this can draw some people away. another issue is that we thrive to figure out how  spatial characteristics  shape people’s experiences and behaviours. Amentity again is being seen as the solution to a desired outcome that share the physical environment. However people understanding, their actions is well understood and fixed.

–> play and the city –> discover of the potential of urban streets.

–> development of an tool or a play ‘lense’ that can be used to make this tension visible and help to find solutions for urban design interventions.

Revised research question:

  • What are the aspects of play that reveal and facilitate change in the urban social spaces?
  • What are the  health co-benefits of play?
  • How can this device be used to inform optimal urban experiences?

Finding a way how to look beyond some of the limits of urban design thinking and practice.

Week 28: 22nd – 26th August 2016

PhD overview (500 words)

The phenomena of play in cities

Play is an intrinsic induced activity, that constitutes freedom, based on the acceptance of risk in its temporary transformational nature. It includes attributes such as spontaneity, curiosity, voluntary and creative processes that occur outside of the ordinary. This purposeless activity is necessary to the human identity as an exploratory pursuit of pleasure and comfort outside of social purpose.

Until now the dialectic between play across the lifespan and the city has not been understood well. Western research tradition excepts play as phenomena in opposition to or as a negation of resisting order of things. Play is perceived as secondary state of reality granted and justified from bottom up in context of children or animals. In contrast, eastern cultures consider play as top down phenomena, the highest form of ontological state. Play as the primary form of knowing is given alternative states of reality higher status. Only a small number of researchers theorised play as the highest ontological state of being. The identified research gap and unique epistemological contribution on play is placed beyond targeting child participation and their right to play, but also by interrogating change based on playful activity as an optimal experience in adults and elderly people.

This research adopts Stevens (2007) exploration of play in a theoretical context and by using Lefebvre’s theories (1991) on the production of space to theorise playful behaviour in cities. The researcher will focus on the novel approach of exploring the phenomena of play and its varieties in cities in an international cross cultural context in the nexus of street environments as a place for optimal experience that can improve health and well-being.

Based on the theoretical context and through deployment of different qualitative methods on a single revelatory case study, the author explores the following set of questions:

Why do people prefer certain environments to play in cities?

What are the co-health benefits of play?

Where does play as an optimal experience occur in streets?

What makes these places meaningful to play and how do these places feel like?

What are the environmental triggers that support play in cities outdoors?

How can cities become places where play is recognised as a design consideration?

Three different street environments comprising of pedestrian zones, shared spaces/path and residential street serve as subunits to the case study. Validating the essence of our human existence through connecting the subject – internal experience- with the object – material world around us. A transpersonal inquiry into human experiences includes object to subject and subject to subject relationship on three levels. The first phase will investigate physical traces. The second level phase will use observational study ranging from outsider, marginal participant to full participant. The third phase includes a short unstructured interview to gain further insights in relation to the degree of optimal experience in the realm of memory.

This research intends to provide empirical evidence of how playful activity can engender a more conscious human centred urban design approach of cities that enables more often opportunities for optimal experiences through playful activity across all ages and cultures. Subsequently the research may assist in improving the overall health and well-being of people and the liveability of cities.


Lefebvre, H. (1991). The production of space. Cambridge, Mass., USA;Oxford, OX, UK;: Blackwell.

Stevens, Q. (2007). The ludic city : exploring the potential of public spaces. London; New York: Routledge.

Supervisor meeting

Supervisor meeting on 22nd was very helpful in revisiting my research question. Need to refine and reduce amount. I may not be able to answer all of them.

Also stated the exercise to create a matrix that helps me to assess the urban design component in the lead up to the fieldwork test in Germany mid September.

The discussion with Steve reminded me of the need to focus on the everyday life in cities, as designers are easily drawn to top down approach. I do not intent to make my topic a power struggle approach after Foucault. I’d rather focus on the ontological state offside power. Also the meeting was useful in a sense that he believed that we with our narrow perception create nature, the environment through symbols (e.g. language). Some languages have more words other create nuanced wording. At the end of the day he agreed that we are unable to perceive the external reality in a correct manner.

He also kindly offered to attend the confirmation seminar and be an advisor to my topic.

Maurice Merleau- Ponty is useful to explain the phenomenological approach in the beginning in relation to our perception of the environment. To a degree he may offer a good pathway into the constructionism approach.

New lead question: What are the health co-benefits of play in cities?

Revised sub-questions: What makes places optimal for play in cities? What are the environmental triggers that support play in cities?

PhD Proposal 240816

Friday note:

Developed and refined the environmental assessment and play behaviour assessment matrix further for testing as suggested by Andrew.
Printed all Ethics forms and posters in order to be able to test research on the ground while I am in Germany.

Suggested process:

  1. Site observation, environmental assessment, documentation for traces, validating section for spatial vantage points for observation.
  2. Observational study on 5 days each in setting (during observation, note keeping and potential engagement, reflexion and self assessment to validate findings. Carrying out unstructured interviews where possible.
  3. Evenings: review of recordings during day time and fill in Matrix plus storage of qualitative observations and interview recordings (once agreed by subject)

Andrew suggested at yesterdays meeting to drop the suburban street context in Canberra. reason one: very different parameters at play
reason two: two street types better as it is more manageable