Supported by A.R.M. Holding, this year’s Urban Commission was awarded to the ‘Yowalah’ project by Beirut-based studio Bits to Atoms, for their proposal responding to the 2021 theme of PLAY!

Inspired by and named after the traditional Emirati dance, Yowalah, the installation aimed to reclaim the public spaces where communities can be reunited and social engagement enacted with public health in mind, Bits to Atoms devised a system that can be configured in public spaces as interactive platforms for all ages.

Similar to the ‘farandole’, an open-chain community dance - variations of which can be found in every culture - the Yowalah installation is a colourful, digitally fabricated, 3D printed chain link system, created in a parametric design using locally sourced recycled plastic.

The structure can be configured to propose sports, leisure and gardening activities for all age groups, created out of recycled polycarbonate elements that are used to form a continuous curved spatial beam, standing on thin steel pillars.

Each element; ladder steps, swing seats, plant pots and exploration tubes are 3D printed with local recycled material, in an original design. The modularity of the design is key in its flexibility to adapt any program or site, but also for easy maintenance and replacement. Parts are fabricated on-demand, without moulds or stocks, reducing further the overall impact on the environment of the initiative.

In this inclusive and welcoming public space intervention, children play, teenagers and adults practice sport, the elderly garden and everyone interacts, weaving the fabric of a healthy society.