Skip to toolbar

Brutalist Playground

Consider Brutalism as architecture in the raw, with an emphasis on materials, textures and construction, producing highly expressive forms. Seen in the work of Le Corbusier from the late 1940s with the Unite d’Habitation in Marseilles, the term Brutalism was first used in England by the architectural historian Reyner Banham in 1954.It referred to the work of Alison and Peter Smithson’s school at Hunstanton in Norfolk because of its uncompromising approach to the display of structure and services, albeit in a steel building rather than reinforced concrete.

Part sculpture, part architectural installation, all play. 

The Brutalist Playground is a new commission by Turner Prize nominees
Assemble and artist Simon Terrill, exploring post-war design for play.

01-the-brutalist-playground-by-assemble-and-simon-terrill-photo-by-tristan-fewings_getty-images-for-riba-adjust 06-the-brutalist-playground-by-assemble-and-simon-terrill-photo-by-tristan-fewings_getty-images-for-riba

   What to look for in a brutalist building (an architectural style, not the idea of a playground)

  1. Rough unfinished surfaces
  2. Unusual shapes
  3. Heavy-looking materials
  4. Massive forms
  5. Small windows in relation to the other parts

Design for play can take many forms. The Brutalist playground invites children to the place for unstructured play. There’s no obvious equipment pressing users to grab any poles and start doing pull ups, there’s no expectation of how to use the space but to move and explore being on various parts of it. Cubes can be moved/stacked/sat on/stood on etc. Without any strong identity which tells the users what to do with it, the users can use them for any purpose they want. This will work better than a usual playground because a usual playground (made for children and adults) speaks of predictability and routine.

System + app

Just some thoughts in sketches.

I imagined an arena where obstacles morph into place in the forms of cubes.


Obstacles morphing on walls as well. Screens move from place to place (eg walls to the floors) depending on the show, inviting movement to be immersed in the space.


A thought about incorporating elements into the design. Looking at playgrounds on Dezeen I came across a modular one as this, constructed of planes, and yet containing different equipments that allow different types of movement such as basketball hoops, seats, bars for climbing. Thus I came up with my own interpretation of climbing bars and rotating bars as in this picture. Not the best design but got my juices flowing.


The diagram on the left describes the proportion of the things to be designed for the space. On the right, I tried drawing modular units of bars that can be joined/stacked to become larger units. The issue is, they look like bars of a cage. Perhaps bars do not look so friendly. On the far right, an ice-cream dispenser that releases ice cream through pipes when the viewer earns the treat.
Back to looking at usual playground designs and the reasons they are designed this way. From limited research there is no strong objective behind the invention of a slide, rock wall, or swing. There are objective purposes for going to each of these stations – to climb a wall to the highest point, to swing back and forth to the highest height possible, etc. These spaces does not very well promote imaginative play. Unstructured play areas however, provoke imagination to use the place From examples online, I found that this is the difference between old playground equipments and modern designs. Many featured playgrounds on the Internet (I’m not sure about their level of success, or what is considered successful) are artistic statements.


Designing the app to tabulate the activity levels for the users of the playscape. The app speaks to the user as if its taking the persona of a personal friend/trainer, who encourages the user to move about, presents the user with gifts for their participation, and as a bar service personnel presenting a menu to the user.



Global TV providers streaming local content have an ability to share culture across places. I am exploring the fact that each of these units of playscape can be its own reality TV. (Just a random thought to KIV)


Reality TV challenge on the screen. Each challenge will last only a very short time frame of 2-3 minutes. The programmes will be laid out on a spinning wheel, along with short films. After every program, the spinning wheel appears and the next program is chosen at random (algorithm) – it could be another reality-tv-ish challenge or a popular short film/side film of a popular production).


Currently I am working on the form of the playscape.

Observational Study at a Community Area

Studying a HDB estate with an interaction area consisting of play/exercise areas for 3 different age groups, I noted the distinct differences between the spaces.

For children below 3
For children below 3

Design: Strong narrative (images), engaging for the senses: sound, sight, touch.

For older children


Design: More exploratory, movement-play (which allows the child to challenge his/her physical abilities), less narrative, visually engaging (colours, texture).  A combination of different movements.

When I was a child, I would go there for a game of catching/game of crocodile on the “terrains”, or to challenge myself to use the features under preset conditions (ie climb from one end to another without touching the floors/certain colours).

A playground can encourage many types of movements and also one type of movements. Other movement-play examples for adults: Bouncy Castle in South Bank London by Candy Crush.

An article on infantilising play:

In the same play area, for adults

Adults’ exercise areas tends to be less interesting, consisting of repetitive movements and less engaging for the senses, lacks fun. 



Presentation 4 + Design

screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-36-58-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-37-09-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-37-26-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-37-36-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-37-50-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-38-03-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-38-15-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-38-29-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-39-16-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-39-27-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-39-34-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-39-44-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-39-54-am screen-shot-2017-01-26-at-10-40-02-am

Commenting lecturers: Fabrizio and Galina


  • Confusion with the concept: Is it a public space or a gym? The theoretical motivation does not match. “Why do I have to choose … if I am a sedentary person?” The design does not have to change the world, people have a choice for what they want to do, and the measures taken to get people moving in the cinema is too cumbersome. Putting things in perspective, “Why would I want to go to the place when I can control the network and I cant sit straight?”
  • It is not so much about the cinema, but about the activity.
  • Possible to combine the cinema and gym for an immersive experience. But it will be much less about the cinema and shows and more on how to help people who CHOOSE to BE ACTIVE achieve their GOAL to be ACTIVE. Create an intermediate between the gym and the cinema and be straightforward for the reason I want to do it. (It was mentioned that I can present this project as a personal take.)
  • I have to stop spending time on the theory. Consumers have an option for the things that they do and even if I designed something that helps them, they might not choose to use it.
  • Instead of whole nets, why not design seats like the adult playground installation Metal Spun Chairs by Heatherwick Studio. (My idea of the project, from my own observations, surveys and research gathered is that social interaction can inspire people to engage in activities. Without either, it is possible to make an activity enjoyable but perhaps limited effect. I want to inspire movement through social interaction.da374e836b9c8a77bb75c4d12a97e5b3

• Net as a fabric might not work when spanned over a large area. The net may sink in the middle. > (Some ways to solve this problem include smaller units of nets, or making use of stronger material such as polypropelene from trampolines)

• Think about the attire of the users when going to such a place. Must there be a dress code?

I think at this point it is important for me to eliminate what works and what doesn’t work. Netflix TV shows such as cartoons and comedies will not work because of its weak connection to movements at all. If I were to continue to use the idea of combining tv and activity, the TV shows picked should be relevant eg sports channels, or reality TV.

This makes me think of Episode 2 of Black Mirror “Fifteen Million Merits”. In the world narrated, everyone must cycle on exercise bikes in order to power their surroundings and generate currency called Merits. Everyday activities are constantly interrupted by advertisements that cannot be skipped or ignored without financial penalty.

Workers pedalling on their bikes in return for credits.
The visual aid which the workers watch while working. Their avatars cycle distances visually while they cycle stationary.

Perhaps instead of movie shows, the screens can be a form of visual aid combined to improve on the mundane activity of exercising in a gym. For example, visuals of ascending mountains when ascending staircases, or like the above example, visual aid to show distance ran while running on a threadmill. [Exercising does not have to be always fun (when the act of doing an activity is rewarding) , but many do it for the sense of achievement and accomplishment they receive.]

Updates: Dilemmas

Designing for people who need the active lifestyle but are not eager to to change

– Mismatch of expectations: When someone goes to the place with the expectations that they will get a good experience of CINEMA, but instead, gets asked to move about instead. > it’s not impossible to get people to move but perhaps more subtly > then it has to be motivational.


Designing for people who are eager to change their lifestyle and need help

– Match between expectations when visiting the space for the experience of EXERCISE, and the actual scenario when they are helped with improved experience


Designing for PLAY.

Remove the notion of designing for cinema or designing for exercise. Designing for play is a better option imo. Because 1. The expectations are conveniently different for each person. The rewards for each person varies. Rather than narrowing it down to only health or worse, tv entertainment. No guarantees but likely at bridging the expectations vs reality. 2. Being free while playing invokes creativity, and escapism is a good reason for people to visit the space.

5 Different Kinds of User Experience by John Falk & Contextualisation to real world needs


  1. How easy is it for people to stay at the outdoor movie area?
  2. How do I balance between the various reasons for coming?

My answer for that is to provide the option for different levels of engagement.

I refer to readings and credit the thought process of John Falk, in his theory of 5 Different Kinds of User Experience. Based on his almost 40 years of research in the field, he has come up with 5 “experience types” which he says are pretty much universal in all people, regardless of demographic. These describe basic human needs. They are:



After research on John Falk’s theory,  my answer for the first point is to look at the bigger picture and design for majority of these personality profiles.

What is needed:

  • Resting seat
  • Equipment which allows interaction
  • Shade/shelter
  • Screen


Newest concept as of now:

Using webbed surfaces as a seating and interactive tilting system for group tv viewing activities. I chose web surfaces because it allows constant movement as a default and fulfils the purpose of my project, which is to encourage physical movements. The use of webbed surfaces are supported by the point that a way of encouraging physical activities is through social interaction. Webs create a sense of awareness of new additions to the seating area and also urges the sitter to move and adapt to new additions. Activities which allows the users to gain credit for shows will take place on a separate hard surface, incorporated with tilt and infrared sensors. (SKETCH)

The comments received are as below:

  • Some people would not visit the place because they prefer to watch TV shows in their own comfort zone.
  • Its institutionalising the exercising and moving part of the experience. It becomes as stick approach instead of a carrot approach.
  • It is ok to institutionalise the business.
  • Has to be grounded instead of suspended, not ergonomically friendly to sit on or manuveur around especially through the middle of the net.
  • Take a look at Joe Colombo. (Design philosophy: He believed that “all the objects needed in a house should be integrated with the usable spaces; hence, they no longer ought to be called furnishings but ‘equipment.'” These “dynamic pieces of furniture” were useful because “habits change, the interior of rooms has to change with them.”) Link:


Rethinking the concept:

The project that I have come to design is speculative, assuming that people will be motivated to make changes to their lifestyle and that the idea will appeal to the general public.

Through this project I hope to help to cultivate an awareness of the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle and subtlely change the behaviors of long hours of sitting. I embarked onto this project with the assumption that there will be a greater awareness of the effects of sedentatry lifestyle and hoping that people’s aspirations will be sufficient for the project to take off. These are dangerous assumptions taken that design, aimed to be behavioral changing, operates within an intricate web of socio-cultural and economic situations. Hence for the project to take off, it has to be contextualised and meet real needs. It needs a stepping stone for it to be applied into the real world.

Looking at corporate companies which have greater incentive to make such things happen are companies which has a welfare system for its employees. Technology companies and creative offices such as Google and Apple offer flexible and creative work environments.

Quoting Craig Nevill-Manning, on Google’s philosophy and its real physical embodiment in the architecture of Google:

“The philosophy is very simple,” Mr. Nevill-Manning said. “Google’s success depends on innovation and collaboration. Everything we did was geared toward making it easy to talk. Being on one floor here removed psychological barriers to interacting, and we’ve tried to preserve that.” Among innovations that sprang from seemingly chance office encounters are the Google Art Project, which is putting thousands of museum works online, and enhancements to the company’s AdSense and AdWords advertising platforms. Razor scooters make it easy to get around the huge floors (each covers five acres), which offer every conceivable gathering space, from large open spaces to tiny nooks with whimsical furniture.

The experience product I design has to cater to a certain age group. As previously mentioned, the age group is young adults 20-39 years of age, in the initial stage, becuase they are early adopters of technology and are more receptive of new ideas. This has to be further narrowed down, specifically to people who spend majority of their time behind screens in order to be more convincing.




Information taken from journal:

Activity Range

To broaden the range of activities offered by the space, I researched on the equivalents of 2-3 mins of walking per hour, as recommended by studies.

The article link below shows other activities which have an equivalent Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET) of MET 3.0-6.0:



The activities can be classified as aerobic, muscle strengthening and bone strengthening activities, described below.


Aerobic activities require moderate physical effort and include, but are not limited to: biking slowly, canoeing, ballroom dancing, general gardening, using your manual wheelchair, arm cycling, walking briskly, and water aerobics. Examples of vigorous activities are basketball, jumping rope, running or bicycling on hills, soccer, m laps, and martial arts.

Not sure whether you are at a moderate or vigorous activity level? Try the talk test. If you can talk while you are active, then you are participating at a moderate level. If you can only say a few words without stopping to catch your breath, then you are engaging in vigorous activity.


Strengthening activities work all the major muscle groups – legs, hips, back, chest, stomach, shoulders, and arms. These activities include, but are not limited to: lifting weights, push-ups, sit-ups, and working with resistance bands. Don’t have weights? Common household items such as bottled water and soup cans can also be used.


Bone-strengthening activities produce a force on the bones that promotes bone growth and strength. This force is commonly produced by impact with the ground. The good news: bone-strengthening activities can also be aerobic and muscle-strengthening like running, jumping rope, basketball, tennis, and hopscotch.


Perhaps the types of activities can be simplified into stretching, walking, lifting, pulling/pushing, hitting, jumping, climbing etc. The space should be able to accomodate a few of these activities.

According to this article walking 2-3 mins per hour is not a panacea to sedentary lifestyle. The mandatory 250 mins of exercise per week is equally important for good health. Perhaps if the space is able to accomodate actual 250 minute worthy work outs, it will be able to capture a wider audience who are seeking to spice up the experience of exercising.


Sedentary lifestyle as the main issue

Below is the refinement before the proposal of ideas. My previous proposals tried to please too many aspects – the project might never be satisfactory, because it will never be able to solve all the problems properly. Besides, there is no real problem between the choice of activities of outdoors VS indoors, and there are equally healthy options for indoor activities.

Hence I have streamlined the most important problem of modern forms of recreation – level of physical activity – and split it into two extreme ends. From the survey, most people do not know what is sedentary activity, the negative consequences, the correct ways or turning the effect around, and ultimately, most are not too conscious of the amount of hours they spend sitting/not moving. An active lifestyle stimulates the happy hormones, and reduces health issues and mortality. The common idea of an active lifestyle is 250 mins of exercise a week, as defined by WHO, but this does not cancel the effect of sedentary lifestyle. Hence to really be healthy, we have to look into how we manage during our inactive hours.

The survey results states that most people surf the net/watch TV for recreation. Hence I would like to improve activeness during the TV watching/bingeing hours.

Previously I proposed the concept of “positive addiction”. This still applies to the project as I’m working on turning TV watching – an unhealthy addiction which allows other habits such as binge eating and long inactivity to form – into an activity which makes use of “enjoyment” to help people get used to moving at TV intermissions/intervals to cancel out the negative effect while they TV binge.

2 ideas were proposed previously- (1) Food + Exploration, (2) Pop up Cinema.

With the realignment of the issue identified, I have decided to go with (2).

(1) is a confusing concept, walking to reduce sedentary lifestyle as part of the project is an indirect effect. Most cheap thrills as such (eg. Pokemon Go) does not hold attention well, and passes quickly. It becomes an activity that people engage in out of convenience of being at certain locations, not purposely done because it has lost its novelty.

(2) can be tweaked to give a direct cause and effect between watching TV and light physical activity. The real reward of watching TV nowadays lies in being able to watch TV without ads, skip to any part of the show you desire, instead of “finding a popup cinema” which I previously thought would be interesting.

Research has shown that breaking up long hours of inactivity better cancels out the effect of sedentariness. Hence by combining the desire to skip ads and need to break up long hours of activity, I think it might be more logical to give the audence the choice to skip tv ads – by doing some light physical activity.

Nevertheless the activity has to be enjoyable. Through the survey, I have also collected responses as to what is “enjoyable”, and social interaction, being one of the key to enjoyment, cannot be left out of the equation.

go-outdoors-23-dec-002 go-outdoors-23-dec-003 go-outdoors-23-dec-004 go-outdoors-23-dec-005 go-outdoors-23-dec-006 go-outdoors-23-dec-007 go-outdoors-23-dec-008 go-outdoors-23-dec-009 go-outdoors-23-dec-010 go-outdoors-23-dec-011 go-outdoors-23-dec-012 go-outdoors-23-dec-013 go-outdoors-23-dec-014 go-outdoors-23-dec-015


3rd Presentation Slides & Questions

Comments from lecturers

• Netflix might have copyright issues with me using their assets as part of my FYP, thus might be a problem when I put this project in my portfolio. Since there is a Singapore Netflix office he suggested for me to pitch it to Netflix. However, seems supportive of me combining two types of service – online shopping and physical store.

• Should the design show close connection with the brand? How will the physical aspect of my project look like > Is it meant to release stress?