Placemaking is thought of in urban design as the transcendence of space into place through its usage and sociability. (Duduch, 2021) In the search for a solution to the lack of community cohesion felt by refugees in Austria, placemaking becomes an obvious candidate: refugees in Austria often don’t choose where they can live. Though most migrants end up in urban centers, many also find their way to rural towns and villages, and it’s in these populations where resistance to immigration is at its highest. (apolitical, 2018) Suburban or countryside settings in the country are notorious for their private, closed-off communities. It’s hard for a native-born Austrian to move towns, let alone a foreigner who does not speak the language.
Through my observations, rural areas also lack strong public spaces, despite the popularity of community clubs for sports or music. These clubs are not easily accessible to a newcomer to the village.
The Project for Public Spaces published an article titled “What Makes a Successful Place?”, where they diagramed the various aspects and their intersections of which a “Successful Place” is comprised. Generally, they share the following four qualities: they are accessible; people are engaged in activities there; the space is comfortable and has a good image; and finally, it is a sociable place: one where people meet each other and take people when they come to visit. (Project for Public Spaces, n.d.)
A great example of a collaborative placemaking initiative is CollaborateHK in Hong Kong. They organize district-wide placemaking events, mainly focusing on physical locations to realize place-based ideas. Their challenge was that community groups could not sift through the bureaucracy of governmental regulations to transform public spaces. CollaborateHK eased the process by pooling together all of the necessary resources to help the urban transformations. (Chan and Tang, 2021)
In this project, placemaking sets the foundation for a gaming center that allows for the positive interaction and engagement of native and migrant residents of a rural town.
As briefly introduced in Week 7, the idea is to bring collaboration and placemaking through gamification. Gamification applies typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity (Definition from Oxford Languages). In this case, the rural village or town center can be rethought of as an outdoor arcade or gaming station.
Urban gamification not only allows for a positive association to a place but can also boost goal-directed behaviors and motivate citizens to act in an oriented way. Emotional interaction with a place gives people environmental serendipity of unexpected encounters and events. Having a solid attachment to a place and feeling that you are part of that place is considered a basis in collaborative placemaking. (Azali, 2021)
A great example of the gamification of a space is the project ‘Open Code Urban Furniture.’ It was inspired by the game Tetris, and it aimed to create playful spaces and allow people to arrange the area as they needed. It was also a research project in terms of what materials and design to use in public furniture and how to establishing trust and safety. (Lavrinec, 2018)
In this project, a gaming station will be the main point of interaction in an unused town center.
To visually assess how the most basic and familiar gaming space might look for a real-world example, I took my current town of Gaweinstal in Lower Austria as a base for this imaginary project.
There are two distinct town centers here: one of which is the situation in front of two popular local restaurants and another at the intersection of a municipality building, a kindergarten, a butchery, and the town church. Both spaces are unused for most of the year, except a local market which happens on the first Saturday of each month, and on the first of May when the Maibaum (May Pole) is placed behind a statue of Jesus on the cross.
For this project, I decided to use the latter option, as it is further away from traffic and more likely to be used by the public and cause less of a nuisance to the restaurants and their clientele. The grass area in front of the statue could be paved and populated with arcade machines and seating. A chessboard or dance floor could be placed in the middle.
To make this project work and feel less alien to the town’s citizens, its setup would look like this: each resident is assigned a task in a game daily or weekly basis. They would be reminded of this task on their mobile phones, essentially forcing them to visit this gaming station regularly.
Upon visiting the station and finishing their tasks, chance encounters between native residents and migrants would increase drastically. In addition, the light-hearted environment makes for a more relaxed atmosphere, and the stress of being present in such a place would hopefully be nonexistent.
In conclusion, the introduction of gamification as placemaking in the villages of Austria could offer up a new and novel way to efficiently and warmly integrate refugees into their newfound homes, thus increasing the likelihood of successfully building new lives.
The project deck can be seen here:
apolitical (2018). Austria integrates refugees, but can it last? [online] Apolitical. Available at: https://apolitical.co/solution-articles/en/austrias-rural-programs-are-integrating-migrants-but-can-the-gains-last.
Azali, N. (2021). Place-making in the Middle East and North Africa Region View project.
Chan, C. and Tang, T. (2021). A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH TO COMMUNITY-LED PLACEMAKING IN HK. [online] The City at Eye Level. Available at: https://thecityateyelevel.com/stories/a-collaborative-approach-to-community-led-placemaking-in-hk/.
Duduch, T. (2021). What Is Placemaking? [online] ArchDaily. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/961333/what-is-placemaking.
Lavrinec, J. (2018). Playing Games in the Public Space. [online] Metropolis. Available at: https://www.metropolis.dk/en/playing-games-in-the-public-space/ [Accessed 15 Aug. 2021].
Project for Public Spaces (n.d.). What Makes a Successful Place? [online] http://www.pps.org. Available at: https://www.pps.org/article/grplacefeat?utm-medium=website&utm-source=archdaily.com.