Play At Work

Before looking at a few examples of architectural sketches it seems appropriate to conclude with a quote suitable to the discussion of play. These thoughts by Huizinga succinctly express the knowledge and joy that can be acquired through play:

Let us enumerate once more the characteristics we deemed proper to play. It is an activity which proceeds within certain limits of time and space, in a visible order, according to rules freely accepted, and outside the sphere of necessity or material utility. The play-mood is one of rapture and enthusiasm, and is sacred or festive in accordance with the occasion. A feeling of exultation and tension accompanies the action, mirth and relaxation follow. (Huizinga, 1955: 132)

A page of sketches for the design of the Dipoli Student Assembly Building in Ontaniemi, Espoo, Finland, by Reima Pietila (Figure 2.3), exemplifies an architect 's playful use of sketches. The Finnish architect Pietila, with foundations in Modernism, describes his work as 'organic'. His often undulating shapes reflect his interest in the 'phenomenology of place'. A few of his most celebrated projects include the Finnish Embassy in New Delhi, India; the Kaleva Church in Tampere, Finland; and the Metso, the Tampere Main Library. Impossible to witness the play when completed, these sketches act as the remnants left from designing that provide a record of the activity of play.

The first noticeable issue of play finds that the sketches are definitely not static, since they undulate with the variation of lines. Some lines seem slow and deliberate, but most display the fervor of activity as they overlap and reinforce the areas of concentration. This page includes heavy moving and sometimes wavy, contour lines. There is also the evidence of fast straight lines, some with tails curved in anticipation of the next swift mark. Play is not static, and the quick-moving diagonal definitive lines keep one 's eyes moving across the page. These lines reflect an exuberance distinctive of play.

The placement of the sketches appears haphazard, since they are scattered in enthusiasm across the page. Rather than being sequential, they are tightly placed and almost overlap each other. Being in various states of incompleteness, it is feasible to imagine that Pietila judged an abstract concept unsuccessful and abandoned it to start a new thought. The random placement of the sketches suggests his intense concentration and may lead a viewer to believe he was truly playing by losing himself in playful activity. Drawing over a line might be a way to reinforce an edge or boundary, which may indicate it was deemed correct. Another reason an architect would draw over lines might be in order to prolong the drawing process, thus giving the architect time to think about the next form or decision.

Pietila' s play remains loose and expressive, but he never crosses the boundary to explore anything other than this building. In a mode typical of play, he has chosen an orientation and stretches

Pietila Reima
FIGURE 2.3 Reima Pietila; Dipoli Student Assembly Building, Ontaniemi, Espoo.

the rules within these confines. By altering shape, orientation and groupings he tests possibilities of the form. For Pietila these quick lines are representative, yet not completely literal, of three-dimensional space. He was imagining himself in the building through the activity of the sketch.

The numerous floor plans and elevations contain a certain similarity in their approach. As Pietila repeats a general theme, each attempt is different. This technique typifies play activity; the play does not replicate the former image but is transformed to allow the unusual — the next step from the usual. Pietila learns as he sketches, and he tests the 'tolerance' to decide on a solution. He uses all of his past experience to modify and translate a form, and as he draws he is making connections in the plays.

An example of sketches by Borromini displays other aspects of play. Francesco Borromini (1599—1667) was a Baroque architect of such buildings as S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and this is a series of sketches for a gateway arch for that church (Figure 2.4). Upon first observation they appear to be staid precise drawings. The gateways show variations on a theme that sets a framework for the play. Even though carefully drawn, they each contain differences within the usual. It appears Borromini redraws the design over and over, but each example contains the slight, characteristic change of play. These images are playful in a less hurried way. Pietila 's sketches show the fervor of getting lost in activity; on the contrary, Borromini' s sketches reveal a slower doodling, which may reflect the artist being lost in concentration. These are definitely sketches because of their freehand quality, but they also reveal a play activity beyond the absent-minded scribbling of mere doodling. The sketches are placed haphazardly on the page, but each is placed on a ground line for orientation. In a playful way, the sketches move off the lower edge of the page.

A striking issue pertaining to this page of sketches is the meaning they communicate to Borromini for decision-making. One gateway is drawn darker in emphasis, in contrast to the other lighter unfinished designs. This is probably the image which he has chosen as the most successful solution, because the others are crossed out with x's. It also has a star inside the arch with some writing, which gives it emphasis. In this way Borromini is concluding the play by choosing a solution for his work.

FIGURE 2.4 Francesco Borromini; Gateway for S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.

Sketches are productive in that the unknown can be ' found' through their activity. Unlike a finished work of art, they are valuable only through their action. They are effortless, and the player can easily become lost in the play. Sketches are swift, which is playful, not pondering. They can be representations-for or representations-of, or be a game in themselves. Roger Caillois writes that some games are played for ' real' and are not representations (Caillois, 1961). Sketches may be play in themselves, possibly employed to obtain an abstract idea rather than to represent a building. They can be 'uncertain' and 'make-believe,' and 'not serious,' but they can also be 'serious' in their ability to assist in the activity of increasing knowledge.

Play involves a player 's absorbing interaction with the activity of play. Through allusion, play can give distinct insight into perception. The action of sketching encourages this playful mode which helps the architect to think. Play involves boundaries to stretch against, all-absorbing interaction, repetition and change. Another aspect which is distinctive of play is an element of quickness, i.e. wit, humor and speed.

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