Das Kind, die Stadt und die Kunst – Aldo van Eyck, Nils Norman, Yto Barrada

Apr 19, 2013 — Okt 15, 2013 (at Schmela Haus)

  • Installation view of the exhibition at Schmela Haus, photo: Achim Kukulies

The playground as an urban, aesthetic, and political space forms the focus of the exhibition Das Kind, die Stadt und die Kunst (The Child, the City, and the Art), which will be on view at the Schmela Haus of the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen beginning on 19 April. The show’s point of departure is the oeuvre of Dutch architectural visionary Aldo van Eyck (1918–1999), who realized 700 playgrounds in Amsterdam between 1947 and 1978. Van Eyck was one of the first architects to explicitly integrate the perspectives of children into his aspirations toward the socially conscious reconfiguration and redesign of urban space. Juxtaposed
against the historic presentation of plans and designs by this architect are artworks by Nils Norman and Yto Barrada which thematize the playground as a place of community and of transformation from a contemporary perspective.

The presentation of historic photographs, architectural drawings, plans, and models in the basement of the Schmela Haus – designed by van Eyck in 1967, and in use by the Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen as an exhibition and event space beginning in 2009 – offers an overview of Aldo van Eyck’s singular Amsterdam production. Regrettably, very few of the more than 700 playgrounds exist today in their original forms.

Nils Norman (*1966 in Kent, lives in London) works at the interface between architecture, art, and urban planning. For the ground floor of the Schmela Haus, Norman has developed a site-specific work that responds to the building’s peculiarities, and at the same time constitutes an homage to Aldo van Eyck’s pioneering activities. The installation The Adventure Playground & Playscape Archive Study Unit (2013) links the interior space to the garden/courtyard of the Schmela Haus. Emerging through a play, study, and reading room, combined with sandboxes and game blocks, is an urban play area on a miniature scale.

The photographer and filmmaker Yto Barrada (*1971 in Paris, lives in Tangier) observes the transformations taking place in her Moroccan hometown of Tangier in the context of postcolonialism and globalization. Barrada has devoted a series of works to the playground, a microcosm through which she paradigmatically highlights the transformation of urban space and social conditions in her country.

The exhibition title "Das Kind, die Stadt und die Kunst" ("The Child, the City, and the Art") alludes to a collection of writings by Aldo van Eyck, which he wrote in 1962 under the title The Child, The City and The Artist. It was published posthumously in 2006. Among other things, it contains van Eyck’s pioneering insights into the development of urban space, the importance of children and their right to have a say, as well as discussions on his avant-garde form language.