The Sydney Design Festival is an annual contemporary design festival that aims to make design accessible and engaging to new audiences, tackle design challenges and address the future of design. This year creatives were asked to respond to the theme ‘Call to Action’. In the context of the festival we saw action as being purpose and movement that is both deliberate and forward-thinking. We also saw that design has a role to play in an ever-changing world and has the potential to solve complex global problems. Having established this, we recognised that Sydney, like any metropolis, has many under-utilised, ugly or unsafe vacant spaces dotted around the city. This led us to ask ourselves – what is a living space? How can these city spots be better utilised to engage communities?
With a collective passion for places and great placemaking Hoyne worked in collaboration with Scott Carver Architects to create The Play Pod, a life-sized ‘Rubik’s Cube’ of outdoor activation for all ages to enjoy. Designed as a solution to activate vacant spaces and act as a magnet for people, the Play Pod is a modular, adaptable structure that can be manipulated to suit the needs of users and easily relocated. And while it’s all fun and games on the surface, this is play with purpose. With the ability to be placed anywhere and support a diversity of activities and activations, the Play Pod is providing a solution to increase the social value of space, by providing a platform for use, day and night. Over the course of the 10-day design festival a series of activities and events were curated for the Play Pod to activate it at key points throughout the day. These activities were designed to engage a diversity of audiences – children and parents; students; and adults. Morning sessions were designed for the under fives. The Play Pod opened up to book-lined shelves and an area that invited kids to participate in book swaps, story time and arts and crafts. At lunchtime, it became a platform of inspiration for students, with interactive sessions and talks from academics at UTS and professionals within the design industry. After dark, we pressed play to open up Sydney’s smallest cinema.
The Play Pod successfully attracted over 350 visitors over the course of the festival, who were unanimously positive in their response. It also received high levels of engagement and attention on social media: each Play Pod Instagram post attracted an average of thirty-two engagements and social media followers increased by 114% during the festival. A further 80+ posts were posted during the festival using the Play Pod hashtag. The Play Pod has since received a great amount of interest from government bodies and developers, looking for a way to activate spaces in their city or to draw visitors to a new development, precinct or suburb. After the festival Hoyne was approached by UTS, who requested to use the Play Pod as part of the library services, utilising it as a Learning Pod to engage students.