When visiting cities, we are always on the lookout for outstanding, unexpected artworks. Cities are the ultimate playgrounds for artists, so why not use the urban canvas wisely to create a huge impact? Through unexpected interventions in public space, city dressing campaigns get people immersed in the story you want to tell. It’s a marketing tool that creates unforgettable experiences in everyday life.

Let’s have a look at these 7 examples of how to have people interact with your story, event or brand.

1. ATTRACT: Universiade Taipei (2017)

City dressing can be used to attract attention to a temporary event. When the Universiade (a kind of Olympics for university athletes) was about to take place in Taiwan in 2017, host city Taipei took their chance to go viral.

By transforming a subway train into a series of sports venues, a playful encounter with sports facilities was created. The purpose of the operation was to bring sports closer to daily life, as lots of people are rather unfamiliar with it. The train car depicting a swimming pool turned out to be the most photogenic. Passengers even turned up in full swim gear to take pictures that were enthusiastically shared on social media.

City Dressing Universiade Taipei 2017

Children in the swimming pool metro train.

2. INVITE: SelgasCano Pavilion, Bruges (2018)

The SelgasCano Pavilion was executed by SelgasCano architects in the city of Bruges for the Bruges Triennial for contemporary art and architecture in 2018. The eye-catching design was used as a temporary venue for activities and get-togethers as well as an invite to go swimming in the canal water of the Coupure in the city center of Bruges. A welcoming gesture to both guests and inhabitants of the famous medieval city.

City Dressing SelgasCano Pavilion Bruges

Triennial Bruges Pavilion by SelgasCano.

3. CELEBRATE: Feestaardvarken by Florentijn Hofman, Arnhem (since 2013)

The Feestaardvarken (Partyaardvark) by Florentijn Hofman was commissioned by the Burgers’ Zoo in Arnhem to celebrate the 100 years anniversary of the zoo. It’s a huge artwork made of concrete, that depicts an aardvark laying in the sand, wearing a golden party hat. It is an appealing object, especially for kids to climb and slide, but also for visitors to take pictures.

While conceived as a temporary act of city dressing to put the anniversary celebrations in the spotlight, the aardvark was such a popular artwork that it got adopted by the city of Arnhem. The Feestaardvarken is now a permanent eyecatcher in the urban landscape.

City Dressing Arnhem Feestaardvarken Florentijn Hofman

Feestaardvark by Florentijn Hofman

4. AMAZE: Yayoi Kusama, New York (2012), London (2012) and Paris (2019)

Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama is world-famous for her dotted sculptures and installations and immersive infinity rooms. Her signature style is appealing to many and calls for magnification. More than once, her work found its way to the metropolitan cityscape, to impress passers-by.

In 2012 Kusama co-created a collection for Louis Vuitton, which led to wrapping the flagship store in New York in her famous dotted pattern. That same year a large statue of the famous artist watched out over Oxford Street in London, while dots took over the interior of the Selfridges department store. For FIAC 2019, Yayoi Kusama set up a gigantic, dotted pumpkin at the Place de Vendôme in Paris.

Yayoi Kusama for Louis Vuitton Yayoi Kusama pumpkin in Paris for FIAC 2019 Yayoi Kusama in Selfridges London

5. SERIOUS PLAY: The Walala Mansion by Camille Walala, Hong Kong (2019)

Visual artist Camille Walala brought some London vibes to Victoria Park in the city of Hong Kong, inviting young and old to play in and around her colorful mansion. The Walala Mansion is a city inside the city. Made out of the same fabric as bouncy castles, it is attractive to both children and grown-ups.

Camille Walala Mansion Hong Kong

6. HONOR: The Stairs to Kriterion by MVRDV, Rotterdam (2016)

The Stairs to Kriterion was an inviting city dressing project that made its mark on the square in front of Rotterdam Central Station in 2016, when Rotterdam was celebrating 75 years of rebuilding the city after World War II.

MVRDV architects chose to embrace one of the best buildings of the reconstruction, the Groot Handelsgebouw, while using scaffoldings to refer to the rebuilding practice that has shaped the city in the past decennia. After climbing the steep stairs, visitors were awarded a temporary viewing deck to marvel over the rebuilt city.

After dismantling the stairs, TTOTT Design recycled the wooden stairs and made benches of it, that were all sold to fans of the project as a souvenir to take home and serve as a legacy to make the idea live on.

Stairs to Kriterion MVRDV 2016 Rotterdam

7. INTERACT: Van Gogh Labyrinth, Amsterdam (2015)

After months of renovating, the Amsterdam Van Gogh Museum was thinking big on celebrating the opening of its new entrance hall: 125.000 sunflowers took over the square in front of the museum during the first weekend of September 2015.

Put up in the shape of a labyrinth, the sunflowers invited visitors to get inspired by the famous painter, as the maze also contained multiple Van Gogh-themed chambers and performances. After the event, visitors could take sunflowers home to enjoy them a little longer.

Van Gogh Museum Sunflower Labyrinth