"In a masterstroke of design, the curator of Chaos and Classicism, Kenneth Silver, chose a work of art to illustrate the Nazi annexation of neoclassicism that at first glance is anything but threatening. The Four Elements by Adolf Ziegler decorated the walls of Hitler's Munich apartment. A member of the Nazi Party, Ziegler was charged by Hitler in 1937 to stage-manage the purge of modern art in the notorious Exhibition of Degenerate Art. Ziegler's depiction of four nude women who symbolize fire, earth, air and water, the four elements of nature recognized in antiquity, personifies little but the pretentious sterility of culture under the Third Reich. Yet, it is the perfect embodiment of the banality of evil."
(Ed Voves, 4 October 2010)
Fig.1 Adolf Ziegler, The Four Elements: Fire, Water and Earth, Air, (Die vier Elemente. Feuer, Wasser und Erde, Luft), before 1937, Oil on canvas, three panels, left to right: 170.3 x 85.2 cm, 171 x 190.8 cm, and 161.3 x 76.7 cm, Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, Sammlung Moderner Kunst in der Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich.
Aldo "Van Eyck believed playgrounds should challenge a child's imagination without jarring the adult's aesthetic sensibilities. His abstract, elementary forms - often manufactured out of metal tubes like modernist furniture - were meant to belong in a well-mannered streetscape. During the same period in Britain, however, we were developing a tradition of playground design that was almost diametrically opposed. The first 'junk' playgrounds emerged amid the rubble of the Blitz, and the results were far less polite. Consisting of makeshift structures cobbled together out of roof beams and detritus, they were often designed with the assistance of the children themselves. That essential character survives today in descendants such as Glamis Adventure Playground in Shadwell, east London, a riot of skew-whiff woodwork and clashing colours, and an odd hybrid of post-war austerity and postmodern assemblage.
The junk playground model was created by the Danish architect Carl Theodor Sorensen, who believed playgrounds should reflect the imagination of the child not the architect. In 1943, having observed the creative way children play in construction sites, he developed the prototype junk playground on the Emdrup housing estate in Copenhagen.
The concept was brought to Britain by Lady Allen of Hurtwood, who tested it out on the site of a bombed church in Camberwell and then built dozens of what she called 'adventure playgrounds' - the term 'junk' tended to turn local mothers into nimbys. Not only did Allen feel that ordinary playgrounds were sterile places ('it is little wonder that [children] prefer the dumps of rough wood and piles of bricks and rubbish of the bombed sites'), but she believed in the healing effects of exposing children to the urban scars of warfare. At the same time, having them take part in the post-war reconstruction effort was deemed a good way of shaping model citizens.
Essentially, all playgrounds are designed to do the same thing: to help children develop their abilities, use up excess energy and keep them off the streets. But the ideology of the adventure playground is interesting for several reasons. First, there's the notion of not restricting children to the repetitive motions of the slide or swing, because the sooner you reach the technical limits of the equipment, the sooner you have to stretch those limits - hence all those swings you see coiled around the crossbar. The adventure playground was designed to liberate the wild thing within and, by exposing children to risk, teach them personal responsibility (all forms of play are underpinned by some form of didactism, so it's worth reminding ourselves that this is also simply more fun). Just as crucially, it was intrinsic to the concept that children be involved in designing the playgrounds, dreaming up weird structures and adapting them later by tacking on extra elements. This participatory dimension, managed by volunteer play leaders, is key to the development of their creativity.
It's curious how much the ethos of the adventure playground chimes with the language of a new era of design today: a 'participatory' process, recycled materials, an adaptive product. It doesn't sound like the 1940s. But equally valuable is the zone of exception that the adventure playground represents in the city, one of improvisation and informality that, pace Van Eyck, does not blend in to a polite streetscape.
Today, there are few true adventure playgrounds left, but occasionally another is built that follows all the essential tenets, such as the Kilburn Grange Park playground in north London, designed last year by Erect Architecture and based on the ideas of local kids. Increasingly, though, 'adventure playgrounds' are produced by specialist manufacturers and merely designed to look rustic. You can't adapt them, or at least anyone who tried would be carted off. These are the products of a health and safety culture that watered down adventure playgrounds in the 1980s and 90s. There was a minor revival a few years ago, when the Labour government invested £230m in new play spaces across England, but the coalition government freed that budget up for other uses, so it was short-lived. And now, with the cuts, several adventure playgrounds, including the giant ones in Battersea and Kilburn, face losing the play workers that make such playgrounds what they are.
It's worth remembering just how cheap and yet how luxurious these spaces are. We should let kids loose on this new breed of sanitised playground, to inject a little of the old spirit in them. I hear the builder behind Kilburn Grange Park salvaged the formwork from Zaha Hadid's Olympic diving towers - that could come in handy."
(Justin McGuirk, Tuesday 3 July 2012 15.40 BST, The Guardian)
"Gestalt is a psychology term which means 'unified whole'. It refers to theories of visual perception developed by German psychologists in the 1920s. These theories attempt to describe how people tend to organize visual elements into groups or unified wholes when certain principles are applied."
(Spokane Falls Community College)
"Figuration itself is not inconsistent with the Modernist tradition since, even the most abstract of Modernist work makes references to things outside itself, yet, of all the features in Tomkins' work, the distinctive way in which he uses figuration seems to set it apart from the rest. Giacometti-like (although informed by Picasso and Matisse) troupes of figures edge around the paintings always playing some formal role but never solely in virtue of their form, scale, colour or location. Typically they point, both literally and figuratively, to formal elements in the Works, including, curiously enough, each other - but they also fly on trapezes, hold safety nets, dance and strike poses. None of the figures, however, are merely incidental to formal issues and although interdependent with them they have, as well, a life of their own. This invites interpretation, at least to the extent that we find ourselves reflecting on how and why the figures appear to us as they do - like mute vandevillians whose master, Tomkins, having rendered them onto some flattened proscenium, orchestrates their participation in a frozen theatrical tragicomic tableau. However, we cannot know the purpose of such entertainments beyond their capacity to intrigue and amuse us."
(Ted Bracey, 1987)
2) Ted Bracey (1987). Robert McDougall Art Gallery [now Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu].
"Helvetica is a feature-length independent film about typography, graphic design and global visual culture. It looks at the proliferation of one typeface (which celebrated its 50th birthday in 2007) as part of a larger conversation about the way type affects our lives. The film is an exploration of urban spaces in major cities and the type that inhabits them, and a fluid discussion with renowned designers about their work, the creative process, and the choices and aesthetics behind their use of type.
Helvetica encompasses the worlds of design, advertising, psychology, and communication, and invites us to take a second look at the thousands of words we see every day. The film was shot in high-definition on location in the United States, England, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, France and Belgium."
(Gary Hustwit, 2007 Swiss Dots Ltd.)