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Ground Floor Galleries

The Playground Project

11 February - 21 May

Includes work by Rhona Byrne,Tom Watt and Eva Rothschild
This exhibition has been realised in collaboration with Kunsthalle Zurich, Switzerland.

For spring the ground floor galleries at VISUAL will be transformed into an indoor playground exploring play and a recent history of  playgrounds. 

Until the 1980s—and in rare cases until today—playgrounds were places for social experiments, risky projects, and spectacular sculptures. Architects, urban planners, artists, parents, and children were invited to leave their comfort zone and to venture something new. Curated by Gabriela Burkhalter, The Playground Project will bring many of these exemplary, but nowadays forgotten initiatives, pioneering acts, and adventures back, and install three playgrounds for children to run, hide and climb. May our cities invent new playgrounds!

The playground is a byproduct of the industrialized city of the twentieth century. Even now, it continues to be both an ugly duckling and a coveted space. A focal point for ideas about education and childhood, about urban planning and public space, about architecture and art, about creativity and control, the playground has repeatedly resisted institutional and ideological appropriation and grown in its own sometimes quite anarchic ways. The coexistence of contradictory expectations, moments of temporary progress, and radical developments makes playgrounds so exciting. Still, as hardly anyone sees playgrounds as part of their cultural heritage, much of their history has been forgotten or can barely be understood anymore—even if all of us often have quite precise personal memories of this niche where we met our friends, took pride in new things we dared to do, braved danger without thinking about it, and learned to confront and resolve conflicts.

There have been four paradigm shifts in the development of the playground in the course of the last 150 years. First, at the beginning of the twentieth century, social reformers took children off the street and onto the playground. Then, at the beginning of the 1930s, the idea arose that children should play with natural materials rather than playground equipment. In the 1960s, the decade of autonomy and do-it-yourself, parents, children, and neighborhood groups began to take charge of playgrounds themselves. Finally, in the 1980s, with the end of social and political utopias, a crisis in playground design began. Today, a new pioneering spirit is being generated by young architects, artists, collectives, and activists.

With Marjory Allen (Lady Allen of Hurtwood), Joseph Brown, Waldemar Cordeiro, Riccardo Dalisi, Richard Dattner, Aldo van Eyck, M. Paul Friedberg, Michael Grossert, Cornelia Hahn Oberlander, Alfred Ledermann, Bernhard Luginbühl, Yvan Pestalozzi, Group Ludic, Egon Møller-Nielsen, Palle Nielsen, Isamu Noguchi, Niki de Saint Phalle, Josef Schagerl, Mitsuru (Man) Senda, Carl Theodor Sørensen, Alfred Trachsel. For VISUAL this exhibition includes work by Rhona Byrne, Eva Rothschild and Tom Watt.

The exhibition is accompanied by a comprehensive catalog: The Playground Project, edited by Gabriela Burkhalter, with contributions by Daniel Baumann, Gabriela Burkhalter, Vincent Romagny, Sreejata Roy, and Xavier de la Salle, German / English, Kunsthalle Zürich / JRP|Ringier 2016. 

The Playground Project is a touring exhibition, curated by Urban Planner Gabriela Burkthaler. It has been realised and adapted for VISUAL in cooperation with Kunsthalle Zürich.

The Playground Project, Installation photographs Ros Kavanagh copyright VISUAL 2017

Associated Events, workshops and symposia to be announced by end of January.

The Playbook 

For this season, artist Steven Aylin has created a playbook for exhibition featuring games and activities to do at home, school and inside/outside  the VISUAL galleries. The playbook includes contributions by play expert Dr Jackie Bourke and has been created with the support of County Carlow Sports Partnership.

The playbook is available to download from 


Research at VISUALS

Why is play important? How do we plan for play and recreation in our towns? Where is the "centre" of Carlow town and how do people feel about it ?  How might our understanding of play and planning make everyday life better ? How do we get actively involved in our towns ? How do we communcate it ?

These are just some of the questions that are being researched through this season. Join in via our Play Time Symposium or explore research projects by 3rd level students from School of Architecture, Dublin Institute of Technology; DesignCORE Research Centre, Institute of Technology Carlow; and Visual communications, Waterford Institute of Technology.


Join Festival 

Thurs 31s March - Sun 2nd April 

A mini festival about participation! Participate in creative workshop, contribute to the discussion, spot some pop up exhibitions, enjoy great theatre and lots more. Join a workshop on creative regeneration or explore how design is used to respond to a town planning challenge. Check out the website for more details.


Family Play Dates: Family Art Workshops 

Sun 26th Feb, Sun 26th March, Sat 1st & Sun 2nd April, Sun 30th April, Sun 21st May 3.00pm-4.30pm, €5 per person 10€ per family 

Imagine, Design and build your own playground! Facilitatted by Louise Osbourne Materials are included, suitable for ages 4-12. Parents and guardians must remain with their children.


School PlayDates 

Monday- Fridays throughout the season 

teachers and their pupils are invited to play freely within the exhibition and explore the importance of play. Workshops will include a design project where pupils imagine and build model play spaces for public. Facilitated by Mairead Kealy- schools must book a week in advance and cost €3 per pupils, which includes Playbook to take home.

Senior Cycle Workshops 

In-depth explorations and behind- the-scenes views of how the exhibition programme is built within the galleries. We have flexible times during schools hours so please ring Box Office on 059 9172400 to book a class in.


Play Time Symposium 

TBC early May, 10am-5pm, €15 

A day of talks and workshops on the value of facilitating play within our public social spaces, and the relationship between play and urban design. includes ppresentations by Curartor Gabriela Burkthaler, Dr. Jackie Bourke, Department of Children and Youth Affairs, Cleo Fagan Superprojects, Martha Jane Duggan of Carlow Sports Partnership and artist Tom Watt.