Architects at Play (2023) – Review
What is the reason for playing if not to weave relationships with the world? How can creative postures emerge from playing? Originating at the CIVA in Brussels, 2020 and then on show at the Garagem Sul in Lisbon, 2021, the exhibition ‘Architects at Play’, will spend the spring of 2023 at Pavillon Sicli in Geneva.
Based on the doctoral research of David Malaud, architect and the curator of the exhibition, the display is presented as a game situated under the reinforced concrete vaults of the Pavillon Sicli. The building was designed by Constantin Hilberer and Heinz Isler in 1968, who were themselves playful architects. Mixing architectural design approaches with other art forms, the exhibition resonates with the imagination of creative processes that have marked the history of architecture, urbanism, and landscape. It asks, for example, how Archigram’s futuristic cities, Aldo van Eyck’s playgrounds, or Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and Steven Izenour’s ‘Learning from Las Vegas’ expand the margins of cultured architecture? References to all forms of ‘playful projects’ populate the transition in the stages of reality of a work and in its relationship to the legacy of previous experiences.
The feeling of desire that the game introduces is the thread of creativity. Perhaps, today, in the face of the complexity of rules imposed on project sites (but there can be no games without previously established rules), it is even more apparent.
The exhibition offers no universal figure of the player or of the way of playing. It is articulated around four worlds that explore different possibilities of play. Its multiple combinations give way to ‘the labyrinth’, ‘the theatre’, ‘the construction game’, and ‘the strategy game’. There is no start or end point in the scenography and the individual sensibility, the urge to wander guides the experience, matching the imaginary worlds of the works presented, such as: adventure through the movement of the body within the universe of Constant Nieuwenhuys’ ‘New Babylon’, echoing the dérives of the International Situationist; Aldo Rossi’s ‘Città Analoga’ and ‘Teatro del Mondo’ to restore the experience of staging and collage from the sites of memory; the bricolage of Cedric Price’s modular spaces; and finally the strategic development of the world in Buckminster Fuller’s ‘World Game’.
If desire drives creativity, the player’s risk-taking is no less important to maintain the necessary tension in the different phases of the artistic or architectural project. Reading between the lines, it is the figure of the creative genius who belongs to the 20th century’s modernist way of thinking that is shaken up or even replaced by the engaged figure of the playful architect, guarantor of the social function in the conception of space. Out of this creative risk-taking emerge collective forms of play, from citizen participation and sensitive surveys to a range of exploratory ways to grasp the urban condition.
‘Architects at Play’ invites us to rediscover space through the playful imagination.
The Exhibition Architects at Play will be on display at Pavillon Sicli, Geneve from the 27 April to the 11 June 2023.
Mathilde de Laage is an editor and writer on landscape and architecture currently teaching landscape design at the HEPIA Genève.