Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Playces: Architecture That Affords Play

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posted on 2021-12-07, 01:12 authored by Villareal, Karla

This research portfolio examines the nature of play and its relationship with architecture. It researches how play is afforded by, and affords, the design of public space, rendering them places of play: Playces. Although play is an important component of everyone’s lives, this research portfolio focuses on adult play.  Like art, music, dance and literature, play is a way of engaging and expressing our being in the world. It is a pleasurable activity that also serves a biological function. Play nurtures the mind and challenges our physical capabilities. It is a critical component of human development.  Play is largely associated with childhood but maintaining a sense of playfulness is also a critical component of fulfilling adult lives. As we become adults, however, we tend to devalue the significance of play, relegating it to specific times and setting. We usually play in structured settings, solely dedicated to playing, unlike when we were children; we make very little distinction between play and other activities.  A person’s propensity to play depends not only on their physiological and emotional state, but also on their environment. Play, unfortunately, is rarely encouraged in urban spaces and even more seldom is it integrated in the design of architecture. As a result, it has generated a society of disconnection, comfortable in the predictability of their surroundings. Architecture has the potential to design for a ludic environment. It can establish a new and ever-changing relationship with adults and re-engage them to the built environment through design for play. A playful framework can allow spaces to inspire new states of mind and detach adults from their everyday reality. Spaces can invite new relationship with the built environment, one of participation and ambiguity, allowing social interactions to thrive, routine to be interrupted and adults to become spontaneously engaged. These areas are investigated following a research through design methodology to provide an understanding of the qualities that can pave way for the ideas of playful urban design.  Through a design as research methodology, Playces aims to discover how it can design a play-space that is not specifically created to accommodate play but invites players to appropriate that space through play.  Play is explored at four designs phases, which implement a range of playful design techniques. Phase one serves as a preliminary exploration of play through the design of an installation. Phases two and three explore how architecture can possess the same playful interaction in the magnitude of a medium-scale and large-scale public space. The final design is a journey through space where conditions essential for play become evident.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture (Professional)

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code


Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Twose, Simon