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The Brutalist Playground

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by Tom Fieldhouse (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer, living in Bath with my wife and son. I love my city, and love to live here. I write about Bath a lot, and sometimes about travels in Ireland and France.
Event: -
Playground for the imagination

"Part Sculpture. Part Architecture. All Play". So say the curators of The Brutalist Playground, which is currently in situ in the University of Bath's THE EDGE exhibition space. It is a fantastic combination of art exhibition and children's soft play, in a safe and fun environment. As children (and adults) explore and play on the massive foam-clad structures in the space, others can enjoy an ever-moving slideshow of the history of this unusual form of architecture, projected on to the walls. This exhibition has so much going for it, whether you are an expert in Brutalist architecture or know absolutely nothing about it (or are somewhere in between like myself).

Follow the arrow to fun

Play area
Play equipment with projectors in the background

Created in Post-War Britain in urban areas, Brutalism sought to create open, functional and social-minded residential areas. Using predominantly concrete in giant moulds, it has an impressive, blocky and almost space-like quality to it. This exhibition celebrates its aims to create positive living places and spaces for people, where they could live, rest and play. The playground is the culmination of a collaboration between Turner prizewinners 'Assemble', and the Australian artist Simon Terrill. True to the intrinsic aims of Brutalism, it has free entry and is very inclusive. Although a relatively small space, with a capacity of up to 50, it has rarely been overcrowded. Although free entry, The Edge ask visitors to book timed ticket slots online before their visit.

Loads to leap upon

Despite its obvious play allure, I found the playground to be fascinating for its insight into this unusual architectural movement. All of the play equipment set pieces are 1:1 mimics of original Brutalist play areas, many of them sadly now demolished. There is an excellent free booklet for visitors to peruse, and the vast array of images projected on the walls show everything from the original blueprints of the buildings to the playgrounds in their finished states. The fact that few of these behemoth projects are still standing and unchanged makes this experience even more special.

An original, next to its foam counterpart

Family Fun
Space to play and learn

The exhibition has something for all visitors, be they in a family group, couples or lone gallery enthusiasts. Just one part of THE EDGE venue, the space is adjacent to a great cafe area and is at the heart of the University of Bath campus. The University itself is huge, and offers a wonderful array of events and performances all year round. Indeed, the Brutalist Playground is open from Wednesday 28th June until Saturday 9th September, so there is plenty of time to plan a visit. With massive parking provision in very attractive surroundings, it has a lot to offer.

As seen on the wall of THE EDGE
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Why? Vibrant Arts Centre- currently with architectural flair
When: June 28th to September 9th
Phone: 01225 386777
Where: University of Bath- 10 minutes from Bath Spa Railway Station
Cost: Free admission
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