Architecture can prove experimental as far as we allow it to be. It oscillates between art, architecture, and engineering. Our perceptions, prejudices, habits, understandings, and learning all take part in allowing something to be perceived as something else. Playfulness has the inherent superpower to change the quality of our thought process and our problem-solving ability by creating a state of mind that is shaped by impartiality, honest curiosity, and open-mindedness. There is an element of play within all of us. It is imagination and interaction that makes us human. 

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Architecture is not merely a spatial and geometric phenomenon but exists in a socio-cultural context and responds to the functional and experiential programs. Playfulness in architecture brings about more active and dynamic space organizations and even encourages more creative uses. By incorporating these elements and being creative, you allow mundaneness to be elevated into freshness. It is a matter of how you look at it. In this digital age, it is evident that we are losing touch with our own ability to remain imaginative and explore new and different ways to physically interact with our environment. Architecture can be more innovative and engaging by allowing fantasies and everydayness to take part in the design process. Everything can be an ingredient for contributing to the architecture of playfulness. 

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Postmodern architecture arrived with a bang in the 1960s. As a sharp, complex response to the Modernist style that was based on the idea that simplicity was beautiful, postmodernism instead ushered in a plethora of bold, whimsical designs that were anything but minimalist. With striking colors, references to classical and Gothic styles, use of different materials and shapes, and an air of playfulness, Postmodern structures are easily recognized not only by their signature characteristics but also by the stringent forms and minimalist style they reject. The style is perhaps best summed up by architect Robert Venturi, founder of postmodernism, who responded to Mies van der Rohe dictum “Less is more” with “Less is a bore.”

Some examples of Architecture which depicts playfulness are listed below –

The Children’s Museum

The Children’s Museum in Houston designed by Robert Venturi in collaboration with Jackson & Ryan Architects is a super-playful take on classical museum design. They successfully incorporated cartoonish colors, oversized columns and pediments, asymmetries, and lots of other whimsical stylistic forms into the American skylines. 

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De Piramides

De Piramides by Soeters Van Eldonk Architecten is a very unusual contemporary building high-rise to be constructed of brick. This was the architect’s attempt to deviate from fashionable architecture and break the monotony of the surrounding built form.

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The Greenwich Design District

The Greenwich Design District is the next phase in London’s largest single regeneration project designed by urban development Knight Dragons. Introducing nature into their buildings, the transparent market hall is caterpillar-shaped and filled with trees and foliage for visitors to sit and eat amongst. A winter garden adorns their second building to create a calm entrance for the workers and anyone else. An informal aesthetic is created from the unexpected twists and forms of the shell of the building.

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Inntel hotel

Inntel hotel by Delft studio WAM Architecten features overlapping green wooden facades typical of traditional houses in the region. The intent was to create an architecture that naturally makes a direct appeal to the emotions. The hotel is unique, relatable yet original and idiosyncratic. It is a design that could be realized only in Zaandam but at the same time transcends and reinvigorates local tradition through the playful use of different facade typologies.

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Binoculars Building

“I always related more to artists than to architects.” Architect Frank Gehry collaborated with the late sculptor Coosje van Bruggen and her artist husband Claes Oldenburg, to create the extraordinary Binoculars Building. The two artists are well-known for their large sculptures of common objects – a clothespin, an apple core, a typewriter eraser, a badminton shuttlecock all stunningly realistic works of pop art. It seemed a natural progression for the pair to turn their “art” into “architecture” with Gehry’s assistance.

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Museum Garage

The Museum Garage is in the Miami Design District, a neighborhood dedicated to innovative art, design, and architecture. Featuring the work of five designers, the seven-story mixed-use structure has abstract forms and drew inspiration from the surrealist parlor game, Exquisite Corpse. The resultant-built form is a unique modern, architectural version of the Exquisite Corpse.

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Moving Landscape

The Moving Landscape designed by Matharoo Associates is situated in Ahmedabad. The entire house is wrapped by a monolithic 4.5m tall 450mm thick stone wall. Like amethyst’s hard exterior cracking open to reveal its crystalline heart, at the push of a button these imposingly heavy stone walls made of Bidasar cracks as it becomes a combination of panels spinning gently about their centers or sliding away to reveal a transparent enclosed interior. At the touch of a button, the chunky marble walls that surround this house divide up into spinning and sliding panels and animate the facade.

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Trishla Chadha
Author

Trishla Chadha is driven by a persistent desire to learn and to inform. Besides working as a Junior Architect, she is also associated with an International social organization with the aim of empowering women in our society. She is particularly intrigued by the sensitivity of architecture towards nature and people, as well as discovering new aspects that enrich the spatial experience.

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