5 Initiatives That Are Creating Colorful Cities [LIST]

Injecting a bit of vibrancy and whimsy to the world’s growing urban centers.

Oct 22, 2014
The colorful city center of Wroclaw, Poland.

The colorful city center of Wroclaw, Poland. [Shutterstock image]

“If you can tell a man by his shoes, you can tell a city by its pavements,” says architect journalist Rowan Moore on London. His quote rings true - most cities have their own distinctive feel, unique only to them. While all cities aren’t created alike, there is a growing trend that unites them all: they are growing significantly, with a projected 6.4 billion people becoming city dwellers by the year 2050.
As cities expand, so does their obligation to accommodate their growing residents’ needs, placing an even stronger emphasis on creating safe, green and colorful cities. Below are five initiatives that are splashing some color into urban centers and neighborhoods – from painting public murals to dancing traffic lights. How can you make your city livelier? Share your ideas about how to create colorful cities in the comments section below.

1. PAINT THE PAVEMENT (PtP)

WHAT: A community building program that brings neighbors together to create public art.
FLASH OF BEAUTY: PtP serves as resource to mobilize citizens to self-organize, in order to design and bring to life their own public murals on low-traffic streets. The initiative not only paints and beautifies public spaces, the murals also serve as a safety measure as they slow traffic down, keeping neighborhoods safe, and giving local ‘hoods their own unique identity.
WHERE: Based in St. Paul, Minnesota and active in multiple cities throughout the United States

Kids taking part in a Paint the Pavements mural in St. Paul Minnesota.

Kids taking part in a Paint the Pavements mural in St. Paul Minnesota. [Image from Paint the Pavements]

2. PLAYABLE CITY AWARD

WHAT: An annual award granted to innovative artists and visionaries whose technologically-based projects make the British city of Bristol more playful and fun.  
A FLASH OF BEAUTY: The Playable City award is the brainchild of Watershed a cross-art form venue and producer. Now in it's second year, the 2014 award went to Shadowing by Jonathan Chomko and Matthew Rosier. The winning idea gives life to streetlights as they trace the shadows of passersby, reanimating their movements by casting a playful shadow for the next person who passes by.
WHERE: Bristol, UK 

The 2014 Playable City winner Shadowing

The 2014 Playable City winner Shadowing. [Image by Farrows Creative]

3. ARTHERE

WHAT: A crowd-sourced platform that connects artist with public spaces.
A FLASH OF BEAUTY: Artists submit proposals seeking places to host exhibitions, and property owners in turn post available spaces in need of an artistic touch. Arthere is the conduit to make the match, resulting in beautiful partnerships with a variety of artful public spaces - from store fronts to rock climbing studios.
WHERE: Arthere is active in multiple cities throughout California and New York.

Successful Arthere matches, creating partnerships between public spaces and works of art.

Successful Arthere matches, creating partnerships between public spaces and works of art. [Screenshot from Arthere]

4. PAVEMENT TO PARKS

WHAT: A government supported program that converts unused public spaces to plazas or parklets.
A FLASH OF BEAUTY: Pavements to Parks finds underutilized roadways and turns them into public spaces by painting the asphalt, installing protective barriers along the periphery and adding greenery and moveable tables and chairs.
WHERE: San Francisco, California

Parking meters become hanging gardens in the streets of San Francisco

Parking meters become hanging gardens in the streets of San Francisco. [Photo from Pavement to Park's Facebook page]

5. SMART – DANCING TRAFFIC LIGHT

WHAT: Car manufacturer smart came up with a groovy way to keep pedestrians safe while crossing busy urban intersections.
FLASH OF BEAUTY: Passersby were invited to dance in a booth provided by smart, which then projected their dancing figures onto the pedestrian traffic light. The Dancing Traffic Light stopped pedestrians in their tracks; instead of impulsively crossing the street, folks were entertained by the shimmying light’s moves. The experiment worked to curb crossings as 81% more people stopped at the red light, and their priceless reactions to the smart ad campaign for safety were recorded.
WHERE: Lisbon, Portugal

The Dancing Traffic Light. [Screenshot from video]