formal precedent: architectural folly

The architectural folly as a “type” is interesting to me, here represented by two modern examples, Bernard Tschumi’s Parc de la Villette and Jerome Haferd and K. Brandt Knapp’s Curtain. The folly type seems to deny pure functional design, but instead uses its formal interest to create engagement and negotiation between the scale of the body, the site, and potentially the larger context. It can instead arrive at a sort of informal program that is open to change and interpretation. The seriality with La Villette in particular is interesting as the follies are arranged in an even grid within a rather open field, and thus the interstitial space and relationships between the discrete follies has programmatic influence.

Follies have things in common with a sculpture park, however it operates within an architectural formal language and invites interaction in that way. This ambiguity between architecture and public art is very interesting to me. It also could be seen to have similarities with playgrounds, of course with an older intended audience. There is an interesting article in the most recent issue of Cabinet magazine, “Reimagining Recreation” by James Trainor, that discusses innovative playground design within the context of urban activism against the rational planning epitomized by Robert Moses. This has had me thinking about this in relation to the emphasis on play and recreation in the writings of Lefebvre and the Situationists, as a formal model for all ages.

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