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RIBA’s Brutalist Playground

As huge fans of the Brutalist architecture scene, we couldn’t of been more excited to hear about Assemble Studio’s project to fill the RIBA gallery with a Brutalist inspired playground made from reconstituted foam – lets just say we wanted to be big kids for the day!

Brutalist architecture was a controversial movement between 1950 to mid 1970’s. The name originates from the French word ‘béton brut’, meaning ‘raw concrete’ – typically Brutalist buildings have a strong character and severe visual style characterised by a dominant concrete structure.

Architectural collective Assemble, who have recently been shortlisted for the 2015 Turner Prize, teamed up with artist Simon Terrill and took inspiration from concrete playgrounds, designed for post-war Brutalist housing estates. Although today the original playgrounds have been demolished or deemed unsuitable for use, the Assemble trio discovered archive photographs in the RIBA’s library that they used to inform the design of their modern-day foam structures.

Obviously with today’s health and safety regulations, a concrete playground is a complete no-go and so pastel coloured, foam objects is what was chosen to represent the Brutalist structures. “It’s a sort of in-joke, that in order for these postwar structures to meet current safety standards, everything has to be squidgy.” said Joe Halligan, Assemble Studio.

One of the aims of the project was to raise questions about the way children are encouraged to play today, suggesting perhaps that the old playgrounds emitted a greater sense of freedom and adventure than most playgrounds today do.

The original structures showcase elements of risk and encourage children to explore the different elements, however the foam objects that have been recreated are unlike anything we have ever seen before in a playground. The two most eye-catching structures that have been replicated come from the Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico; the impressive five-metre-wide flying saucer, that on the original photographs looks as though it has crashed into the ground, and the Brownfield Estate in Poplar; the concrete slide. Concrete mazes and platforms are among the other structures that have been replicated within the gallery, allowing children to freely explore and find their own way around the foam creation.

The branding for the overall project created by ideas agency SB Studio, was also impressive; a collection of shapes that showcase what the structures look like in image form (pictured below)


The Brutalist Playground is located at RIBA (66 Portland Place, London) and is open between 10 June-16 August 2015.

All images courtesy of RIBA and Assemble Studio.