Last summer, artist George Zisiadis started playfully reimagining parts of the urban infrastructure that we usually ignore. What if parking meters could become gumball machines, or subways could turn into rollercoasters? How could the everyday parts of the world around us be more fun, and spark more creativity in the rest of our lives? He published his ideas in a series of sketches called Urban Imagination, and soon was inspired to bring some of the sketches to life.
Up first: A gong hanging under a U-shaped bike rack that acts as an impromptu musical instrument. “I ride my bike around the city a lot, so I’m always using bike racks,” Zisiadis says. “There’s just this very funny space underneath them, empty and unutilized. It was an opportunity for micro-interaction: The things that we do every single day, all the time, are the largest opportunity for positively affecting people’s lives.”
He chose a gong because it fit perfectly in the space and could give pedestrians a peaceful moment as they passed by. “It’s a very cathartic thing,” he says. “Who doesn’t love hitting a gong? It’s an undisputably awesome activity.”
Because the intervention was subtle, many people didn’t notice it, and those that did often weren’t quite sure what to do. “Our physical interactions in the city are so limited ... we feel that we can’t tamper with the things around us,” he says. “This piece was about testing that, and rewarding people’s curiosity.”
He left the gong up just for a couple of hours, but will soon be experimenting with other ideas. “It’s not about turning every bike rack in the city into a bike rack gong," he says. "Rather than any single intervention, this is really about challenging our assumptions more broadly—as it affects the urban environment, and as it affects society at large. What if in all the new urban development that’s happening we can adopt a mindset that puts humans first, and honors the human right to joy?"