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Building Blocks

Pooping owls and discos make up a cleverly conceptual exhibit of modern architecture

by Richard Prime in Design on 07 May 2010

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Stockholm's Färgfabriken Gallery is currently playing host to one of the most playful and interesting conceptual exhibitions in recent memory. Entitled "Building Blocks," the show takes a look at the intriguing relationship between client and architect, but does so with a fantastical twist—the clients were kids from around the world.

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Investigating and illuminates the differences between the thought process of an adult and that of a child, the exhibit showcases the startling results that vary between magnificent flights of fancy and some very practical solutions to architectural problems.

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While the solutions are far from average, the process itself was conducted as it typically would be to give the scenario full context. Children spanning ages six to 16 were invited to develop a brief for a selected architecture firm. From this brief the architects created a proposal incorporating the kids' list of demands and needs. (One child insisted that a "pooping owl" be prominent on one wall—their demands were met!).

Once the clients were satisfied, the buildings were erected; some as models with viewing portals, others as semi-full-scale buildings to be explored by the viewer. Multiple floors, secret rooms, football and bowling alleys, a disco, rooftop observatories, a suspended bath, a climbing wall, a fireman's pole, and fully-customizable wall decoration all feature in the nine different builds.

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"Building Blocks" forces the architects (within the context of the exhibition) to think, "Actually, why not?" Indeed, the show really opens up the debate on whether our sometimes dull surroundings are the result of goalless and unambitious architectural practices or clients themselves. While the mind of a child may lack a framework of references for their designs, the limitless imagination more than makes up for that.

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"Building Blocks" is the result of a solid year of development, reminiscent of the 1971 Tate show "Bodyspacemotionthings," which encouraged viewers to get involved and explore the artifacts on show (although that show quickly fell apart—literally).

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"Buildings Blocks" differs in that the buildings themselves look substantial enough to withstand the months of exploration they are likely to have before it closes its doors this September. However, there is no doubt that it is one of the most intelligent, well-crafted and entertaining exhibitions currently on show today, inspiring the notion that having a child on a retainer at every architect's office is not a bad idea.

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"Building Blocks" runs through 12 September 2010.

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