Getting engaged

I went along to one of the City of Sydney’s Design Excellence forums this week, the topic being Cultural Precinct Planning. This session explored the upcoming cultural precinct development and ways in which it should, if done right, re-energise Sydney, improve visitor experiences and better connect its cultural assets.

One of the recurring themes was connectivity – between cultural precincts and most importantly to the rest of the city. No longer are we talking about isolated ‘islands’ of cultural snobbery, but the word of the evening was: porosity!

Bruce Baird AM, Chair of the Tourism and Transport Forum, made some interesting and ‘on the ground’ observations in the panel that followed. One of the biggest issues for tourism in Sydney is way finding; visitors arrive at Circular Quay and get lost in the labyrinth that is the Sydney CBD, likely missing many of the city’s more memorable landmarks and attractions.

This sounds simple, ‘get more signs’ you cry – but in this international city how many languages should they be in? How many signs are too many? How do we balance the visual clutter?

So the conversation turned to technology – free Wi-Fi in the city, having App’s for tourists to download and use to showcase the best Sydney has to offer with easy-to-follow directions to get there – in every language. In theory this is excellent, but does it rule out the non-technologically advanced demographic? And what happens when technology fails us? All interesting points for further discussion.

But an initiative called ‘Hello Lamp Post’ that kicked off in Bristol is an interesting take on literally engaging with the city. It’s an interactive system offering residents and visitors an opportunity to talk to the locals – all facilitated by physical infrastructure in the city. The aim of ‘Hello Lamp Post’ is to ‘give people the chance to rediscover their local environment, to share personal memories of the city and discover the stories that others leave scattered. The project represents a chance to slow down, reflect and indulge with permission to play’.


‘Hello Lamp Post’, developed by PAN Studio, Tom Armitage and Gyorgyi Galik, won the 2013 Playable City Award. The international award encourages entrants to use creative technologies that surprise, challenge and engage people to explore the city from a different point of view.

Although not directly marketed for tourists, this concept has the potential to aid a tourist’s navigation of the city – the ability to ask questions of the city is also something I’m intrigued about. How interesting/revealing would it be to record the curiosities of international tourists for your city? This could also lead to recognising and solving some of the most common problems tourists face in a city…. the possibilities are endless.

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Banner source: Creative Sydney


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