The Brutalist Playground is a collaboration between Turner Prize winners Assemble and artist Simon Terrill, commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) London. Archival materials from RIBA’s collections are used to recreate demolished Brutalist playgrounds as hybrid architectural installations and walk-through sculptures. The objects are reconstructions at 1:1 scale derived from the architects’ original plans, remade in foam and accompanied by a multi-screen video that contextualises the work in a post-war architectural frame. The structure of the collaboration is open and horizontal, a deliberate choice not to separate out roles or identify specific contributions.
The first exhibition was staged at The Architecture Gallery, RIBA, London, June - August 2015 and has subsequently toured 5 venues internationally (2016 – 2019), accompanied by a range of public programmes. In each venue a new structure is added to the exhibition based on a local reference of a post-war play structure, building the collection and connecting with local audiences.
The interactive work allows visitors to explore the original spatial concepts of Brutalism and adds to broader conversations through a reflection on play, risk, social housing and the welfare state that originally produced the structures. Brutalist structures were defined as much by what surrounded them, the open spaces, walkways, ramps, service areas and playgrounds, as the structures themselves. What form did these spaces take and what purposes were prescribed to them? How does the language of Brutalism manifest in programs such as play? What are the equivalent spaces in recent developments? How does Brutalism’s relationship with play differ internationally? Rather than a museum show that examines and documents, the installation is an active, collaborative, contemporary space designed for use and interaction, where the viewer becomes participant and in this way completes the work.