Intimate Urbanism: Bristol Lamp Posts to Engage in a £30,000 Conversation This Summer

Via text, no less.

(They’re not these street lamps; these are actually Pieke Bergmans’s “Metamorphosis” series at the Venice Projects booth at Design Miami/ last year).

“Hello Lamp Post!” is both the name of a new city-wide project for Bristol, as well as a perfectly viable future text from a Bristol citizen to one of the city’s public light fixtures. A jury made up of the forever “Garden State” soundtrack-associated singer Imogen Heap, Google Creative Lab creative director Tom Uglow, and Bristol-based art commissioner Claire Doherty recently selected London design firm PAN Studio‘s “Hello Lamp Post!” project as the recipient for the £30,000 ($47,000) Playable City Award. PAN plans to use this money this summer to implement an interactive program between the city’s “street furniture” and citizens. Text a specific mailbox, manhole, or busstop (each is numbered with a unique code so that the city can easily locate and maintain it), and it will actually text you back a question: “How are you?” “What’s your favorite thing to do around here?” or “Did you see what who is having lunch with the mayor? Because that is not his wife.” As more people participate and the program amasses more answers, the texts get more sophisticated and the conversations more intricate: “I hear the fish and chips here rule. Is it true?” Just do be cautious with your answers. That Queen St. lamp post is known to be a total gossip.

The point of this exercise, according to its press release, is to create “an open, hospitable and playful experience which encourages people to notice and interact with what is around them.” And that really resonated with the judges. “I love this for its whispers on the street, guardians in dark corners, humanizing our cities’ appendages whose eyes and ears now have a voice,” effused Heap. “Vessels for an ever-evolving conversation, connecting us together. They were there all along!” Freaky, especially since after this summer, it may be coming to a city near you. [Wired, The Telegraph]

— Janelle Zara