The Brutalist Playground at RIBA by Turner Prize nominees Assemble and artist Simon Terrill


Credit: Assemble / Simon Terrill

This summer the RIBA will present The Brutalist Playground – an exhibition that is part sculpture, part architectural installation, which invites people of all ages to come and play, the Brutalist way. Occupying the entire Architecture Gallery, the immersive landscape is a new commission by Turner Prize nominated design and architecture collective Assemble and artist Simon Terrill. It explores the abstract concrete playgrounds that were designed as part of post-war housing estates in the mid-twentieth century, but which no longer exist. They became playgrounds unsuitable for play.

The exhibition draws on features from a number of London estates including Churchill Gardens, Pimlico; the Brunel Estate, Paddington and the Brownfield Estate in Poplar. The 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 the preoccupations and social theories of society at that time.

Assemble and Simon Terrill have drawn inspiration from photographs and visual material in the RIBA’s collections, documenting the playgrounds when they were newly built and in use. The exhibition installation will recreate visual elements from the playgrounds in reconstituted foam, creating an interactive, contemporary space where the viewer becomes participant and in this way completes the work. Archive images of the original playgrounds will be projected on the walls.

Assemble on the creation of the installation:

“The challenge of reconstructing elements of now forgotten Brutalist play structures within the RIBA gallery is an exciting opportunity for us to explore contemporary issues surrounding play, by looking at the often surreal objects from the past. Working closely with the RIBA collections and the artist Simon Terrill, the interpretation of these spaces has allowed us to ask questions around materiality and the nature of risk in play, while also giving greater visibility to the incredible original images of the playgrounds that can be found in the collections.”

Artist Simon Terrill:

“The original playgrounds evoke a disappearing world of concrete mazes and windswept walkways. Like a Brechtian stage set rendered in concrete, they speak to a time before soft play and highly regulated public space. The recreation of these forms is a kind of inverted hyper-Brutalism. Playable structures reveling in the sharp edged bush hammered concrete forms they reference. The surreal edges of the Brutalist aesthetic are seen here in the form of the playground.”

The Brutalist Playground will be accompanied by a public programme of talks, debates and film screenings as well as workshops and events for families. 

Part of the London Festival of Architecture.

Notes to editors:

1. For further information contact Beatrice Cooke in the RIBA Press Office:; 020 7307 3813.

2. Press images of the original post-war playgrounds can be downloaded here:

3. Press/Private view: Tuesday 9 June, 6-10pm, Tuesday Late ‘Welcome to the Playground’. An evening of talks and films with Assemble, Simon Terrill and others:

4. The Architecture Gallery at RIBA is open from 10am – 5pm Monday to Sunday and until 8pm every Tuesday. Free entrance. RIBA is at 66 Portland Place, London, W1B 1AD. Nearest tubes are Oxford Circus, Regent’s Park and Great Portland Street. The exhibition is part of a RIBA season of wide ranging events and workshops, designed for all ages and experience levels. For further information go to

The Architecture Gallery opened in February 2014 in the RIBA’s Grade II* listed Art Deco HQ. Through regular, free exhibitions that explore the past, present and future of our built environment the gallery programme will help visitors discover and explore architecture. The gallery offers the opportunity for the RIBA to display its world class collections contained in the British Architectural Library. To explore the RIBA collections online go to:

5. About the artists:

Assemble are a London based design and architecture collective founded in 2010. Assemble design and build interventions as a way of critically addressing the typical disconnect between the public and the process by which spaces are made. Championing a working practice that is interdependent and collaborative, they seek to actively involve the public as both participant and accomplice in the on-going realisation of the work.

Artist Simon Terrill works with groups and crowds through the photographic medium, involving large scale orchestrated gatherings of communities in specific sites. The focus on the crowd 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.

6. Supported using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

7. RIBA champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular RIBA updates

The RIBA is a registered charity and it relies on the generosity of individuals, companies, trusts and foundations to preserve its world-class collections, to maintain free public access to its exhibitions and develop a diverse and exciting public events programme.


Posted on Friday 5th June 2015

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