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Play Works

Part 2 Project 2009
Tim Forster
University of the West of England | UK
Play is a primary need that is often forgotten as such because of its apparent inefficiencies that do not conform to our predominantly commercial way of thinking about the function of society. To re-introduce play into the fabric of social practice will be to escape the over-regulation that we find ourselves in today. Architecture must play a pivotal role in the re-thought that is required for play to co-exist in our daily lives.

The site of Play Works in Bristol is a multi-storey car park that forms a barrier to Castle Park whilst feeding Broadmead - a hard-edged commercial zone prohibiting diversity in culture.

Castle Park, formerly a thriving gateway through the city, was devastated by heavy bombing in the Blitz of November 1940. It still finds itself in a strong strategic position today but it is undervalued and under-used, blocked off from the city that surrounds it as a result of restrictive urban planning and political indecision.

The aim of Play Works is to act as a catalyst to regenerate Castle Park by stitching it back into the fabric of the city, and by fusing play into building and landscape. Inso doing, Bristol’s sustainability agenda is pushed: rather than demolishing the car park, the structure is recycled - a striking message at the heart of the city.

Play works is a series of working studios for play to transgress the boundaries alongside and against. Its parallel function is to connect the park through the building encouraging it to rebuke the sterile uniformity of Broadmead. The existing structure of the car park enables these programmes to co-exist.

At the major intersections where these contradictory elements are forced together, opportunity is at play: halls are formed - unprogrammed zones that are defined by the disjunction of the elements themselves in relation to the site context. The halls serve temporality by forming a distinct locality which is adjusted by the expression of play through time.

Play works sets out to explore the application of play-theory in design and to define a system that generates Play-embodied Architecture.

Tim Forster

Tim Forster is an astonishingly gifted student, whose talent is matched by a willingness to explore design beyond his own comfort zone, with a determination to produce an appropriate response to the experience of the inhabitants of architecture – the everyday desires and needs of citizens.

Tim’s project is a response to a Unit entitled A Right to Laziness that set out to re-make the overlapping spaces of the eastern end of Castle Park, the inner ring road and Old Market in the centre of Bristol into a commonwealth of public interiors and exteriors for the social benefit of all. Its conceptual starting point is the belief a full public life is of equal necessity to a full private life to our well-being; and that it is our exposure to others, as much our own introspection, that makes us complete social beings.

Tim’s work is a beautiful response to the Unit’s agenda; its conception and detail promising an enduring social and physical ecology. Through constant play he evolved a design that set up endless possibilities for the re-use of a car park overlooking Castle Park in the centre of Bristol. Tim’s play was a process that binds the enjoyable happenstance of a city - chaotic, disordered and spontaneous – into the architectural fabric of his proposal. Instead of setting out to determinedly prove a preconception of what his design should be – or believing that an aesthetic can be an end in itself, he juggled with all the nuances and contingencies of the project’s situation to evolve a resonant place for Bristolians to meet, make and play.

Tim’s curiosity lent him to play with all manner of media to search out a design, full-scale plywood ‘play boxes’ which he then filmed over time to see how people inter-acted with them, CAD mixing with hand-drawing and model-making that reveals a remarkable sleight of hand.

His wit did not only extend to the programmatic possibilities of the project, but skilfully showed how the lumpen concrete frame of the car-park structure could be re-used and turned into a set of delightful spaces and surfaces framing the contained activities.

Mr Harry Charrington

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