Introduction: UrbanPlay

How we created a installation made of 200000 eurocents on a 20x40m square in Amsterdam.

Step 1: Concept and Planning

We were invited by the organization Urban Play to create a participatory installation in public space that will change over time. We were assigned the on Waagdragerhof Square and had a project budget of 2000 Euro. We developed the concept quickly: We will take the project budget and put it on the street, and that will be the participatory installation. We started by measuring the space and exchanged the 2000 Euros into 200000 euro cents.

Step 2: Design

The design was based on one of Sagmeister's sentences: "Obsessions make my life worse and my work better". I created the image using Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop. Knowing that our palette would eventually be coins I worked with very few shades of copper.

Step 3: Programming

In order to go from a bitmap image in Illustrator to a template we can actually apply to the 300sqm square I did the following steps:

  • Scale the image so that one pixel equals one coin
  • Save the image to a gif consisting of 4 colors only (4 shades of copper)
  • Run a custom Processing ( to generate tiles (One tile fits 37x37 euro cents)
  • Export a pdf with one page per tile that can be used during the installation

Step 4: Installation

Over the course of 8 days and with the help of more than 100 volunteers, the coins were sorted into 4 different shades, and carefully placed over this 300 sqm area, according to the template master plan. The coin mural spelled out the sentence “Obsessions make my life worse and my work better.”

Step 5: Reality Check

After completion the coins were left free and unguarded for the public to interact with. Less than 20 hours after the grand opening, local residents noticed a person bagging the coins and taking them away. Protective of the design piece they had watched being created, they call the police. After stopping the ‘criminal’ the police–in an effort to ‘preserve the artwork’–swept up every remaining cent and carted them away.