Plaza Play: 13 Artistic Installations Make Public Squares A Lot More Fun

An infusion of art revives a cold, gray public square like a healing draught, drawing people in and encouraging them to stay a while, interact with each other and see their city from a new point of view. Every day we pass through these public spaces in a rush to get to our destinations, hardly noticing the plazas themselves or each other. These playful interactive installations bring color, movement, activities and fun to underutilized or under-appreciated locations in urban settings.

Red Planet Playground in Shanghai

In a shopping center plaza on one of Shanghai’s busiest streets, a textural red playground installation takes a formerly blank, grey space and turns it into a center of play and interaction. Created by the firm 100Architects, it includes a basketball field and lots of objects to climb, sit on, lay on or slide down. “Our proposal arose from a surreal approach, from the intention of breaking the conventional rules of perception, of what is already conceived as a reality, in order to trigger kids’ imagination and creativity as well as immersing them in a colorful experience.”

Liquid Shard by Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics

A shimmering silver wave spanning 15,000 square feet hovers above Pershing Square in Los Angeles like a colossal sea creature out of its element. ‘Liquid Shard’ by artist Patrick Shearn of Poetic Kinetics is made of holographic mylar and monofilament, shimmering as it’s blown around by the wind. “Like fractals recurring progressively, we feel the currents of air on our skin but do not see the larger movements. I wanted to play in that realm with this technology I have been developing.”

Vieux Port Pavilion by Foster + Partners

Architecture firm Foster + Partners turned a Marseilles square upside-down with this mirrored canopy installation. Vieux Port Pavilion, named for its location, adds a new functional sheltered space with minimal visual impact to encourage pedestrians to gather and linger. It may be subtle, avoiding drastic changes to the character of the square, but it acts like a magnet, drawing people in to gaze up at their reflections.

Impulse: See-Saws at the Place Des Festivals in Montreal

Who could pass by a bunch of illuminated see-saws on the street and just keep walking? Impulse by CS Design and Lateral Office inserted 30 of these objects into the Place Des Festivals in Montreal, and while they’re fun on their own, users are in for an unexpected treat when they get on. “Once in motion the built-in lights and speakers produce a harmonious sequence of sounds and lights, resulting in a constantly evolving ephemeral composition.”

Live Young: Evian Swings Activate a Snow Machine

Bottled water brand Evian challenged adults to find their inner children with a pink playground at Canary Wharf in London. ‘Live Young’ consists of swings and seesaws that activate snow machines for an extra magical effect in the hope of helping locals push through the gloom of post-holiday winter. “Evian’s giant playground installations are the perfect way to help stressed workers get in touch with their ‘Live Young’ spirit by letting go and having fun.”