Playing in Place: What Planners can Learn from Play

Gary Chan's (MCP '14) thesis examines play in the context of planning and place, arguing for play as a component of public participation practice. Public participation, though an integral part of Western contemporary planning practice, is largely viewed as lacking by academics, planning practitioners, and the public at large. The obstacles to more effective planning engagement are abundant: while critique from the lenses of academics and practitioners have been focused in the realm of institutional or structural issues or lack of interest or capacity on the part of the public, this thesis argues that a greater consideration of how people understand and engage with place on an everyday level is necessary. It proposes play as a participation method that creates space for navigating different understandings of the built environment. Playful engagement with the built environment—whether in the form of manipulation of objects or in movement through space—provides a different lens through which participants view their surroundings. This thesis finds that this engagement with the built environment in this space of play allows for a reconciliation of differing understandings of place and a cultivation of agency within