Venture: The Brutalist Playground

This week, we visited the Brutalist Playground exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architecture.

The exhibition draws inspiration from the abstract play spaces that were built into many of the post-war housing estates in and around London. In line with the structures around it, the play areas were largely constructed from cheap industrial materials such as concrete and brick which could be crafted into beautiful shapes and designs to create exciting, modern play areas.

Though architecturally groundbreaking, the word ‘brutal’ does bare a lot of relevance. By the early 1970’s a lot of the playgrounds started to be redeveloped after criticism from the public and child welfare campaigners, deeming them unsuitable for play. Today we are left with very little evidence of their existence leaving them as a “curious footnote in the narrative of post-war reconstruction.”

The exhibition itself, designed by architecture collective Assemble and photographer Simon Terrill, utilises brutalist shapes and structures to re-create elements of Churchill Gardens Estate in Pimlico, taking a wry approach to Britain’s hyper-cautious attitude to play, by constructing the exhibition entirely from pastel coloured foam.

A little more context to the exhibition would have engaged us more fully, however, as a whole, the concept was fun and well executed culminating in a well-deserved and well-produced homage to the often overlooked and controversial aspect of British architectural history.