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Ludic Adventures In Urbanism: Reviving The Prague Transport Basin

Part 2 Project 2001
James Taylor
Mike Shaw
University of Edinburgh Edinburgh UK
Project Culture
-A testing ground for investigating new modes of determining the development of the city.
-A playful inquiry; an endorsement of a particular spirit of conduct.
-Avoids the regimented structures of modernism by offering a playful loosening of ‘the rules’ and an opening up of unforeseen possibilities.

The Site
Located around Prague’s transport basin east of the medieval centre, the ‘site’ was seen not as a contained urban plot, but rather a field of play with which to unlock latent potentials held within the existing fabric of the city.

The Scheme
The proposal incorporates a dense mesh of new programmes that weave within the existing context. The scheme plays upon the existing pedestrian routes between Prague’s four major transport nodes, disturbing their awkward discontinuity into a continuous web of potential connections. This field is conceived as a fluid and continuous process of urban invention; a continually evolving organism of curious tenticular surfaces caught in the flux of the city.

We present an urbanism that is undertaken in the spirit of a ludic adventure. Our belief lies in the joy of doing, the thrill of participation in the moment, and the delight of the continually changing strangeness of the real.

James Taylor
Mike Shaw

This project involved working with notions of 'play' to develop a large-scale speculative urban intervention for Prague. The site, the area around the Florenc transportation interchange in the city, was read as a game board which was then folded out to present this sectionally-complex site as a continuous playing surface.

Onto this, a set of architectural 'counters', drawn from the city, were introduced: the Charles Bridge, the baroque fortifications, the astronomical tower from the Jesuit college, the Palanak housing blocks, etc. A set of games, with gradually evolving rules, were played and recorded, move by move. These were then redescribed in a sequence of computer representations which mapped the movement of the pieces and inscribed them within the board to form a series of mediated topographies which were refolded onto the site: in effect a series of representations which combined figure and ground. This was an arduous process, but was pursued to a wonderfully successful conclusion with great rigour and invention.

The next move was one of the highlights of the class's year. This was the gradual emergence of a huge model which described the way the scheme's refolded game board territories settled into one of the 'seams' which formed the major hinges in the gameboard topography (in this case a linear zone running alongside railway lines) .

The project was then elaborated programmatically and formally in detail to produce a wonderfully sinuous and complex urban assemblage which engaged the city in multiple and continually varying ways. Of special note are the sectional qualities of the architecture which emerge as a play of agitations or knots in the skin of the city. Its involutions speak eloquently of the project's origin as a meditation upon the surface (the surface of the gameboard/the surfaces of the city).

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