Play the City Team

Dr. Ekim Tan, Founder/Game Designer

Born in Istanbul, I relocated to the Netherlands after having worked and studied in the United States, Syria and Egypt. Being trained as an architect, my growing interest and passion in cities and games led to a doctoral degree at the Delft University of Technology, titled “Negotiation and Design for the Self-organizing City: Gaming as a Method for Urban Design”

In 2008, I founded Play the City, an Amsterdam and Istanbul based city consultancy firm that helps governments and market parties effectively collaborate with stakeholders. Since developing the City Gaming method during my doctoral research at the TU Delft, it has been applied in projects worldwide, among others, in Istanbul, Amsterdam, Tirana, Cape Town and Brussels.

In my role at the Play the City, I stay well-informed about the latest developments in societies and technologies worldwide. This helps me give the right direction to a young and growing firm. Meanwhile, I regularly travel to lecture and give trainings about cities and games; amongst which are the Technical University of Delft, Aleppo University for Arts and Sciences, Rotterdam Architecture Academy, Amsterdam Architecture Academy, Copenhagen Business School, and Middle East Technical University.


Txell Blanco, Project Leader/Game Designer

Born in  Barcelona, I completed my Bachelor's in interior design at the Escola Massana, where I was driven by the social aspect of design. 

To keep learning in an international context I moved to the Netherlands 13 years ago. At the Amsterdam Academy of Architecture I focused on questioning the boundaries that define an “interior” and in the process learned about cities and the way we relate with the public. I obtained my Master's of Architecture with honors with a project that ironically was not a building, but a market square in a sprawl. 

This project inspired me to start a collective of active neighbors and artists called “The Outsiders” in 2013. We create dynamic public spaces and engage citizens to take an active role in exploring the identity of their territory, with a focus on culture, food and the built environment. We also experiment with methods for civic design, placemaking and building improvisation. 

My role as a game designer include leading design teams. Games I have collaborated on include themes of the circular economy, social change, urban transformation, migration and affordable housing. Collaborative urbanism is a powerful tool for territory exploration and city making. I'm inspired by Play the City’s ability to bring multiple stakeholders involved in planning issues together to share knowledge and collaborate towards a common goal.


Chrissy Gaglione, designer

Originally from San Diego, I am a native Californian who has always had an affinity for the design of cities, for both their practical and aesthetic abilities. I believe cities are unique opportunities where the confluence of ideas, cultures, work and play come together. With Los Angeles as my backdrop, I received my bachelor’s degree in Architectural Studies at UCLA.

After working for a few years at a small architectural firm, I relocated to Barcelona to complete my master’s in International Cooperation: Sustainable Emergency Architecture. I have been lucky enough to also study in Cape Town, Geneva and rural India and have learned unique lessons from each of these places.

My background in architecture has contributed greatly to my work and served as a base for understanding creative and innovative solutions. During my studies I became particularly interested in participatory, inclusive design strategies. My research and design work at Play the City has demonstrated to me that games can take complex issues and reframe them to make them accessible for a variety of audiences.


Sjors Martens, researcher

Raised in the vicinity of Rotterdam and currently grounded in Utrecht, I’ve had my share of experiences with cities. Having studied Media studies and Performance Studies with a particular focus on games at Utrecht University, I started specializing more and more into cities, placemaking and urban games.

Since 2015 I am pursuing a PhD at Utrecht University focusing on the fit between the city and the games designed for it. I argue that many games designed for the city do not actually attain the goals they set out for but instead facilitate a cornucopia of other actions. Untangling this fit requires a model of cities and games that I have tested in several cities such as Utrecht, Rotterdam, Copenhagen, Murcia and Boston.

In 2017 I started to work with Play the City as reporter, chronicling the playtests and providing the core team with design recommendations.


Elizaveta  Izvolensky, intern

Born in Russia, I grew up in France from the age of 8. I am currently preparing a Master’s degree in Urban Systems Engineering at the University of Technology of Compiègne.

Since the beginning of my studies, I have developped growing interest for urban diversity and planning issues. Living in France, I became convinced of the necessity of a smoother limit between public space and private property to create a friendlier atmosphere in the streets and avoid emptiness. I am constantly trying to improve my understanding of what cities are, how cultural differences make cities different from one another, what makes streets lively and safe for everyone.

Besides, I believe that interdisciplinary skills are the key to a better understanding of the world we are living in. Therefore being an amateur photographer as well as cultivating interest for ethology and communication are important hobbies for me.

Doing my final internship at Play The City is for me an opportunity to learn more about the complexity of the cities, the interactions between the multiple stakeholders and the benefits of the City Gaming Method.


Local Partners

Shannon Royden-Turner, Partner Cape Town

I’m based in Cape Town, where my greatest interest derives from the question: how to facilitate win-wins among people with conflicting interests? My field of work lies, especially, where ecology meets development.

To understand and heal the relationship between diverse people, and the relationship between people and nature, I established a consulting service that applies deep systems research and design within the urban environment. The aim of my work is to create abundant and flourishing cities throughout Africa. To achieve this I focus on the relationship between urban infrastructure, equality and regenerative development, using biomimicry and lessons learnt form nature as a blueprint for success.

My interest in innovative city-making and critic of top-down decision making has brought me to Play the City, where I work as a Partner for projects in South Africa. I help delivering local services and conduct research for effective stakeholder management in multidisciplinary settings.

Ulas Akin, Partner Istanbul

Born in Istanbul, I applied an international perspective through experiences in neighborhood associations, academia, the private sector, and local governments. Trained as city planner in Istanbul, and specialized in urban management in Rotterdam, my practice captures the training of urban professionals and lectures to graduate students from various disciplines all around the world, namely from North America, Northwest Europe, Asia and Africa. I have been also engaged with several EU projects, and various planning projects addressing ecology, transport, environment, cultural heritage, logistics and capacity building at Istanbul, in the SEE and the EU contexts.

Cross-cultural and dramaturgical perspectives on city making, and complex multi-actor decision-making practices have provided unique insights. In 2015, I will have a PhD from Istanbul Technical University focused on phenomenological aspects of the decade of planning practices from institutional capacity building and innovation dimensions.

I have facilitated workshops, attended project meetings and gave lectures in Austria, Macedonia, Kenya, Somali, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Syria, Cyprus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United States. My greatest motivation is to understand the nature of uncertainty and complexity in order to enable dynamic learning by unifying theory and practice. My role at Play the City is providing support and feedback at the earliest stages, and to expand and tailor Play The City’s approach to the rest of the world – to better build a new generation practicing new, innovative standards in 21st century city making.

Muge Yorganci, Partner Istanbul

Born in Istanbul, I’m trained in City Planning with a double major in Art Management. My Urban Design Master at Yıldız Technical University was supported by a Scholarship from TUBITAK (Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey).

As an urban designer, I rethink conventional strategies and clarify complex urban issues. I am inspired by assignments that challenge development norms and threaten the city, our most durable cultural artifact, as a vehicle for telling stories about the highest aspirations of society. My special interest is in collectively designing urban interventions that challenge city’s expectations.

As an urban design coordinator, I have been working in an architectural firm focused on bringing a designer’s eye to planning challenges, synthesising information on sites and architectural design. Previously, I worked at Arkitera Architecture Center in Istanbul, as an events coordinator addressing international examples of inspirational architectural practice and urban design approaches worldwide.

Joining Play the City in 2009, my role focuses on advising policy aspects, strategic planning, urban design frameworks, and providing input for increasing design quality in Istanbul via the City Gaming approach.