Dec 10, 2022–May 28, 2023

Playing architecture

Het spel om de stad
Prins Hendrikkade 600, Amsterdam 1011 VX Map
Tue–Sat 1–5 pm

Many of us can recall several classic architecture-related games: from building blocks that can be stacked into domineering skyscrapers, to digital bestsellers like SimCity and Cities: Skylines, or board games that encourage us to mercilessly sweep players off the board for a share in the real estate market. Games reflect the contemporary society and the built environments we live in. Newer dollhouses have solar panels and containers for separated waste. City-building games confront us with rising sea levels or housing shortage strikes. What are the narratives portrayed in such games? How does the digital world shape city development? How can architects use games in their own design practice? These are some of the questions, which arise when looking at contemporary games.

Games are a powerful form of cultural transmission. Games depict a scaled-down version of the world we live in, as such they can be motivating, orderly, fun and meaningful. Architectural games capture the materials, construction methods, housing design, and ideals of the times in which they were created. Some are even created specifically for design practice. By focusing on a particular design or social dilemma, games have the power to reveal previously unaddressed topics and thus provide insight into complex realities through play. Such “expert oriented” games can bring stakeholders and urban planners with diverse views and agendas into conversation, and sometimes even help solve real problems.

This tight relation to society, means that traditionally games often portrayed oppressive or stigmatizing messages: dollhouses are often rooted in old-fashioned gender ideals, whilst city-building games commonly rely on rigid urban planning models and narrowminded urban idylls. Meanwhile, in video games, the choices and biases of game developers are hidden in cryptic algorithms.

Playing Architecture is an exhibition created not only for observing but also for experiencing. It aims to makes us more aware of the positive and negative messages and representations inherent to architectural games. To reveal these messages the exhibition invites us to play the games ourselves, stimulating reflection, discussion and playfulness.

A number of examples specifically focuses on Amsterdam: What are the different images of Amsterdam in games? What urgent issues appear in them: real estate speculation, poverty, ecological living? What are the messages of socially concious games and artworks that reflect critically on issues in the real estate world? What are the latest city innovations and what do they hint at?