Playground art at Sheffield’s Park Hill

Art in the park: Brutalist Playground at Park Hill, Sheffield
Art in the park: Brutalist Playground at Park Hill, Sheffield
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The Brutalist Playground, a combination of work of art, architecture and play area, is currently at Sheffield’s S1 Artspace. Grace Hammond reports.

There is still time to catch a fascinating show at S1 Artspace in Sheffield.

The Brutalist Playground exhibition by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble and artist Simon Terrill is at the venue until the middle of next month. And it is the perfect show to enjoy with children while they are still on their summer break.

The Brutalist Playground was originally commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in 2015 and has been reimagined for the Brutalist icon that is the Park Hill estate in Sheffield. It features a newly commissioned addition based on the estate’s original playgrounds built by architects Jack Lynn and Ivor Smith between 1957-61.

The exhibition investigates the visual language of post-warlandscapes through an immersive, climbable and conceptual landscape.

The exhibition is supported by Arts Council England, a Yorkshire Festival Community Commission, Urban Splash, The Elephant Trust, Sheffield School of Architecture and The Sheffield Town Trust.

‘The Brutalist Playground was received enthusiastically by audiences and critics when it opened in London and was enjoyed by over 24,000 visitors of all ages,” says Marie Bak Mortensen, Head of Exhibitions, RIBA. “Its tour to Sheffield is part of RIBA’s commitment to share its collections and public events programme on architecture and design with audiences around the UK. We are delighted that even more people will be able to play on and experience Assemble and Simon Terrill’s inspirational installation.”
Mark Latham, Regeneration Director Urban Splash; “Urban Splash is delighted to be supporting The Brutalist

Playground exhibition at S1 Artspace, Park Hill. There can be few places more suited to hosting this amazing interpretation of post-war playground designs. The original Park Hill was peppered with these modernist sculptural play spaces for children and it’s been fantastic to work with Assemble, Simon Terrill and S1 Artspace to bring a new version and exciting new commission to Sheffield.”

The Brutalist Playground takes its cue from the abstract play spaces that were designed into many post-war housing estates. Championed by architects and urban planners, these playgrounds were supposed to offer a safe place for children’s play, while giving free reign to the imagination and actively moving away from the toy-land whimsy found in conventional playground design. Constructed from wood, brick and mostly concrete, these playgrounds were integrated into the surrounding landscape through their materials and form, often reflecting architectural styles of the time.

However, by the early 1970s, these designs were falling out of favour, receiving criticism from the architectural community and child welfare campaigners. As a result many playgrounds have been lost or redeveloped. A lesser-known aspect of the history of social housing, they stand as a curious footnote in the wider narrative of post-war reconstruction. The Brutalist Playground seeks to establish a contemporary narrative for these objects and ideas.

The exhibition is part of the Year of Making Sheffield 2016 programme and runs at S1 Artspace until Septebmer 11.