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The Brutalist Playground

The Brutalist Playground

Part sculpture, part architectural installation, all play.

Part sculpture, part architectural installation, all play. The Brutalist Playground is a 2015 RIBA commission currently on tour by Turner Prize winners Assemble and artist Simon Terrill, exploring post-war design for play. It is a free exhibition.

The Brutalist Playground explores the abstract concrete playgrounds that were designed as part of post-war housing estates in the mid-twentieth century. Post-war playgrounds were often made from concrete, cast into sculptural forms, which presented a distinct move away from previous playground design. They were envisaged as a key aspect of the estate layout and design and as such reflect prevailing and social theories and concerns at that time. The original installation drew from a number of London estates: Churchill Gardens, Pimlico; the Brunel Estate, Paddington and the Brownfield Estate, Poplar.

Assemble are a collective of 15 whose work addresses the relationship between people and the built environment. Assemble started working together informally in 2009, and delivered their first project, the Cineroleum, a cinema in a disused petrol station in 2010. Built from borrowed, recycled and industrial material, with around 200 friends, volunteers and passers-by, the Cineroleum became the prototype for a new approach to design. They have since worked on projects including the renovation of a number of houses in the Granby area of Liverpool and a child-led adventure playground in Dalmarnock, East Glasgow. The collective has retained a non-hierarchical structure and interdisciplinary ethos and now works across the UK and abroad, for both independent community groups and public bodies, and on both self-initiated and commissioned projects

Simon Terrill is an Australian artist based in London. His work is primarily a photographic and performance-based engagement with groups, communities, crowds – and the spaces they occupy. As well as sculpture, video, drawing and installation work, his practice often takes the form of large-scale stage-managed events. His Crowd Theory project is centred around an idea of a contrasting and oscillating space between the personal and the public, the individual and the collective and the impact of these fluid definitions on architecture, portraiture and the photograph. Recent exhibitions include Crowd Theory Thamesmead, The Link, Thamesmead (2017) and Nouns of Assembly, Sutton Gallery Melbourne (2016). He currently lectures in history and theory of photography at London Southbank University.

Assemble and Simon Terrill used photographs and archival material in the RIBA's Collections, to recreate play structures cladded in reconstituted foam, creating an interactive playground where the viewer becomes participant and, in this way, completes the work while offering a renewed understanding and critique of the architects' original designs and intentions. Archive images of the original playgrounds were projected on the walls.

Exhibition tour

KunsthallOslo, Norway / 28 September 2019 to 27 January 2019

The Edge GalleryUniversity of Bath, UK / 28 June to 9 September 2017

Vitra Design MuseumWeil am Rhein, Germany / 14 January to 30 April 2017

S1 ArtspaceSheffield, UK / 18 June to 18 September 2016

Peacock Visual ArtsAberdeen, UK / 28 April to 29 May 2016

The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, London, UK / 10 June to 16 August 2015 

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