Published May 6, 2016
It is only fitting that for the final review of a UB architecture course on play elements, critique would come in the form of play.
On Wednesday, in the center of Diefendorf Quad on UB’s South Campus, faculty, students and critics alike could be seen lolling about on a carpet of brightly colored exercise balls. Others played with “blocks,” or a series of modular, stacked sheets of cardboard. Duct-tape sheathed tires inside a twisting canopy of string invited small groups inside for a soft seat.
The course, taught by architecture professor Julia Jamrozik, asked students to design and fabricate life-sized elements, at a scale between a toy and a playground, that invite users of all ages to engage with their environment through modes of play. In addition to considering the dimensions and inclinations of the human body, students explored materiality and means of production and assembly. The ‘making’ course was grounded in the study of contemporary and historical practices and approaches to play.
While each student started with an individual project, in the end Jamrozik says the course was intensively collaborative, with the entire class working together on each of the three projects. The students were playful yet resourceful in their selection of materials – using pizza boxes (256 to be precise) from one student’s family packaging business for the cardboard stacks, and choosing duct tape over a more expensive fabric sheathing for the recycled tire seating. Colors were important, too – playful in their variation and boldness but coordinated across the elements to suggest a coherent set.
In many ways, the “final review” was actually an experiment in the spontaneity of play. As other reviews broke for lunch, critics and faculty members watched curiously before heading straight to the net of exercise balls. As they reclined, their bodies twisted and rolled and the mood suddenly became silly and playful. Onlookers laughed as one faculty member dove into the sea of balls, recalling the irresistible childhood experience of jumping into that pit of balls. Some visitors stacked the tabbed cardboard squares, while others tested their aim by tossing balls through the holes carved into each box. A proud student invited his visiting mother and sister inside the canopy for a seat.
The structures have no permanent home but may take on the role of a traveling playground of sorts. The students – in the spirit of play – have volunteered to bring their “toys” to area parks for all to enjoy.