Playing Estate Urban Game

Format Alternative Pedagogy Games Mapping

City Lublin, Poland

LSM mass-housing estates, Lublin – Playing Estate Urban Game is an active learning tool geared at children and youth communities. Kids become the 'Indiana Jones' of their own surroundings. Equipped with a map of their neighbourhood and a set of instructions provided by an animator, they are tasked to find all of the indicated spots on the map, and perform the hidden missions at each of them. The sites included in the game are easily recognizable, the participants pass by them on an everyday basis, yet they are usually not accessible to children, or even to the general public at all. Think of libraries and archives, construction sites, abandoned buildings, or government institutions. The game opens up these places to young inhabitants. After finishing the tasks within the set amount of time, all participants make their way back to the end point, and share their experiences with each other.

Playing Estate Urban Game came about as a closing format for the project ‘Tenants: Narratives around cooperative utopias’ (2014) that was implemented in housing cooperative estates that were designed in the 1960s and ‘70s in Warsaw (Przyczółek Grochowski) and Lublin (LSM, the Juliusz Słowacki settlement) by famous Polish architects Zofia and Oskar Hansen. Even though these estates have collaborative living in their DNA, their utopian character waned over time. The project revised the original intentions and assumptions of social housing together with modern architects, and engaged inhabitants of these estates in reviewing the utopian visions of the designers and confronting current needs and challenges in the neighbourhood. The game activates young citizens to become researchers of their own environment, and uses their curiosity to ask the questions that matter.


Get together a group of active inhabitants and representatives of different age groups, and establish intergenerational collaborations. Involve high school students, neighbours and other volunteers in the preparation and production of the game. Map the estate together, and identify interesting sites, such as hidden or closed-off spaces, small businesses, local celebrities, and so on.


Organize a workshop for young participants to prepare them for interviewing local business owners, interesting individuals and passers-by about the spots marked on the map. Go out into the neighbourhood and really listen to their observations; what do the children notice and find important in their surroundings? Collect as much information as possible; this will fuel the tasks for the game.


Talk to small business owners, directors of institutions and owners of construction sites or abandoned buildings; in other words, the people who are in charge of the spaces you want to include in the game. Ask them if it would be possible to make the space accessible for the duration of the game and if they would be willing to host the participating children as they perform a task. Discuss what the possibilities are. If they do not allow you access to the site, be creative and think of different ways to still include it in the game.

Production PREP THE GAME

Select ten to fifteen locations to host site-specific interventions. Ask their hosts or owners to be main actors during the game. Plan activities with them that involve their personal stories. Remember, the game balances on the edge between local reality and creative fiction! Create the map indicating all of the selected spots. Make sure that all tasks are clear and well-prepared on site. If possible, do a test-run to see if everything works.


Combine the launch of the game with a local celebration or activity, for instance the end of the school year. It can be helpful to latch onto existing infrastructures and events in order to reach participants. Alternatively, position yourself at a spot that is frequented by (parents with) children, such as a playground or the entrance of a market, and invite kids to play the game. Potentially, you can combine the game with a different activity taking place at the start or end point of the game, like a workshop.

LSM estates continously provokes discussions between architects and art historians. Some of them seem to forget that the housing estate is not just an architecture or an urban plan. The dozen of interesting forms of blocks are inhabited by several thousands of (no less interesting!) people. In our opinion, residents are the true practitioners of the Open Form theory in housing, and our task is to strengthen their perspectives.

Open Territory Foundation