On the occasion of Milan Design Week 2023, Italo Rota and CRA-Carlo Ratti Associati unveiled “Walk the Talk”, an installation that dramatically transforms Milan’s Botanical Garden into a 3500 square-meter interactive game. Designed as an accessible “choose your own path” adventure, “Walk the Talk” challenges players to discover and reflect on everyday choices for sustainable mobility. The installation features energy-harvesting tiles that produce dynamic light and sound effects during the day and night.
The “Walk the Talk” path is structured as a metaphorical stroll around Milan, featuring the city’s major landmarks. It is made up of over 400 wooden tiles and 32 different types of icons spread across 3500 square meters. Each one represents either an obstacle or a solution to the game’s theme of urban mobility: from traffic to public transportation and electric car sharing. Players – either alone or in tandem with others – navigate their way through the city by finding sustainable solutions to challenges such as overcrowded neighborhoods or lack of pedestrian areas. Their route depends on the choices they make, as they encounter various crossroads and intersections along the way.
The path’s colored tiles are produced with a combination of special luminescent varnishes and films which harvest and store energy during the day and release a prolonged glow after dusk. This glowing effect is enhanced by a low-intensity lighting system throughout the garden, adding an atmospheric quality to the space and allowing visitors to play the game after dark. The “Walk the Talk” path is designed along with game designer collective Blob Factory Gaming studio, and with graphic design concept by studio FM Milano.
“Walk the Talk” uses the gaming framework to form a dialogue between the visitor and Milan’s much-loved Botanical Garden. It provides a participatory way to engage with this historical location and with the city, as well as an experience that people can share,” says Italo Rota, founder of Italo Rota Building Office.
“The future of mobility presents substantial challenges which require collective understanding and participation,” says Carlo Ratti, founding partner at CRA and director of the MIT Senseable City Lab: “At a time when digital gamification is everywhere, we wanted to experiment with a physical game board – one of the largest ever made. “Walk the Talk” is an accessible experience to help jumpstart an important conversation about the future of mobility.”
CRA has explored the theme of sustainable urban mobility in a variety of projects, both as a design studio and by drawing on research conducted by Carlo Ratti’s MIT Senseable City Lab. Projects include the “New Deal Paris”, an exhibition project envisioning how Paris’ highway might look like in 2050 with the widespread adoption of autonomous mobility; and “Anas Smart Road”, a collaboration with Italy’s leading road agency ANAS to implement a digitally-integrated highway to improve safety conditions and traffic management. In the city of Milan, CRA has designed the master plan for MIND – Milano Innovation District (former site of 2015’s World Expo), featuring offices, research centers, the future Science Campus of the University of Milan, and a neighborhood planned for shared, self-driving shuttles.
The project is developed for global energy company Eni as part of the Design Week’s INTERNI Re-evolution exhibition, and will be open to the public until 26th April 2023.