Reclaim A Playground 


Intertwining Brutalist aesthetic, artistic manifesto for saving outdoor spaces in urbanization, via clay-layered window-inspired painting.

Medium: Oil painting and Clay coating
Size: 2 pieces of 1500 mm x 2000 mm


Painting/ Installation/ Publication/ Typeface/ Photography/ Architecture/ Nature/ Living Space/ Community/ Brutalism/ Type-design/ Archive/ Petition

Act 01 

This is a poignant public intervention art project focusing on the preservation of public outdoor spaces in communities with Brutalist architecture as representative examples.

The project interwines archival research and myown personal childhood experiences in high-density housing to comment on urban redevelopment.

Created a series of paintings featuring windows as a motif reflect the constriction of living space and community. These paintings are covered with concrete-proof clay, symbolizing the loss of green spaces through urbanization.

While the project uses Trellick Tower in West London as an observatory site, it speaks to broader issues. It fosters dialogue and advocacy, urging communities and the public to understand the significance of outdoor spaces for physical and mental health, especially post-Covid-19.

Through highlighting Brutalist architecture's original intent in fostering communal spaces, the project calls for urban development that is more considerate of communities' needs and well-being.

- Window inspired paintings

Act 02

My own visual archive, through creating the research documentation for this work, I built up through multiple on-site visits to the area of Trellick Tower community.

The journey from various social archives I have consulted and analysed associated with the community.

The content of Save Trellick Hall of Fame petition.

Bringing all these elements together, I have produced this 9-page black-and-white, double-sided pamphlet that is designed for wide distribution.

This pamphlet encapsulates the history, voices, and aspirations of the Trellick Tower community, aiming to both inform and engage the public in the preservation of its cultural heritage.

Sildes of the Pamphlet 

Medium: Typeface, Photograph and Publication
Size: 99mm x 210mm

Act 03

Using typeface and poster design to promote Trellick Tower's preservation petition.


More words

As I embarked on this project, I sought to extend my research on the transformation of living spaces in the aftermath of modern warfare, particularly focusing on the rise of Brutalist Architecture after World War II. My journey took me to Marseille, where I was profoundly moved by my visit to Unité d'Habitation. The community-centered design ethos of this iconic Brutalist structure captivated me, and I was inspired to explore further.

Returning to London, my heart led me to Trellick Tower, designed by Ernő Goldfinger. I was struck by how Trellick Tower, a classic example of Brutalism, clung to its roots as a council housing community amidst the whirlwinds of urbanization. Through tireless research, I unearthed how London’s Brutalist communities were being eroded – some, like Robin Hood Garden, ruthlessly demolished for new developments, and others, like Balfron Tower, morphed into luxury apartments, wrenching away the homes of original residents.

However, Trellick Tower stood tall, now as a Grade II* listed building, continuing its quiet yet valiant struggle against relentless urbanization. I discovered, to my dismay, that The New Homes Delivery Programme threatened to diminish Trellick Tower's outdoor space for new residential constructions. This outdoor space was not merely an open area; it was an integral component of Goldfinger's design, a sanctuary meant to nurture the well-being of residents, especially children growing up in the aftermath of war.

A sense of urgency propelled me to respond. I embarked on a public intervention project, in which I created paintings symbolizing the significance of these spaces, and enveloped them in concrete-proof clay. This act was not just artistic but symbolic, representing the impending loss of green spaces.

Through my installation, I aspired to forge a bond between the land, the public, and my own sense of purpose. It was an open invitation for dialogue, reflection, and understanding of the essence of preserving spaces that breathe life into communities.

My work bolstered the efforts of the Trellick Tower community in their Save Trellick Hall Frame petition. More than that, it became a clarion call, a plea for cognizance and action against the perils of unchecked urbanization, especially for the working class. For me, this wasn't just a project; it was an intertwining of my soul with the echoes of countless others. It resonated with my own childhood memories and mirrored my determination to be a voice, an advocate, for communities teetering on the precipice of existential change.

Show on

Royal College of Art 2023 Graduate Show

2023 by Zhicheng Yi