Assemble + Schools of Tomorrow: The Place We Imagine

two children standing on a blue padded climbing structure pushing a giant inflatable green ball
a child jumping in mid air with the word "explore" on the wall behind her
  • 1: Assemble and Schools of Tomorrow: The Place We Imagine, installation view at Nottingham Contemporary, 2022. Courtesy Nottingham Contemporary. Photo: Julian Hughes.
  • 2: Assemble and Schools of Tomorrow: The Place We Imagine, installation view at Nottingham Contemporary, 2022. Featuring artwork created by the students at The Milford Academy in collaboration with artist Laura Eldret and Fraser Muggeridge. Courtesy Nottingham Contemporary. Photo: Julian Hughes.

"A surreal delight... merry mayhem... bouncing between the play structures in euphoric disbelief that an art gallery could ever be so much fun" – Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian

In 1968, the legendary Italian-Brazilian architect Lina Bo Bardi drew a fantastical playground. This colourful drawing imagines a series of vast structures in front of Museum of Art, São Paulo (MASP), which she had recently designed. They loom over the museum – as though imagined by children, rather than an architect. This was important for Bo Bardi, who wrote: “the young will be the protagonists in the life of the museum through design, music and theatre”.

This utopian play-space was, however, never built. Today, the unrealised design prompts the question: how might we reimagine galleries, play and education?

More than three years in the making, in summer 2022 Nottingham Contemporary will collaborate with the design collective Assemble to bring Bo Bardi’s vision to life. Inspired by the architect’s now-famous drawing, this ambitious project will realise a series of large-scale play sculptures, one of which was developed in dialogue with children from three local schools.

At each school Assemble worked closely with a resident artist and children over time to explore themes around play. Children’s actions, ideas and responses were at the heart of this conversation; Assemble have created a design for and by the city’s children. So, let’s go and play.

Exhibition Credits


To ensure the safety of our visitors, capacity in this exhibition is limited to 60. You may be asked to wait to enter during busy times. There is no pre-booking; entry will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Please speak to our Reception team about the next available time slot.

During peak periods, you will be asked to limit your visit to one hour.

Safe play

Please take care of your children while enjoying the exhibition, encouraging safe and positive play.

Grown-ups and children are asked to remove their shoes. Please be aware that the floor may be slippery. If you have non-slip socks at home, please bring them with you – if not, a limited number of non-slip socks are available on request.

Please don’t take food and drink inside the exhibition.

Our Gallery Assistants are on hand to support a happy and safe environment. Please help by listening to their guidance and let them know if you need assistance.

Assemble is a multi-disciplinary collective working across architecture, design and art. Founded in 2010, Assemble has developed a co-operative working method that enables built, social and research-based work at a variety of scales – both making things and making things happen. In 2015, they won the Turner Prize, the first architects to do so.

Lina Bo Bardi (1914–92) was a prolific Italian-born Brazilian modernist architect. She devoted herself to promoting the social and cultural potential of architecture and design. While studying under radical Italian architects, she quickly became intrigued with Brazilian vernacular design and how it could influence a modern Brazilian architecture.

Schools of Tomorrow is a 4-year learning and research programme funded by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation, which places artists in residence at eight local schools. Together, artists Gillian Brent, Laura Eldret, Peter Rumney, Sian W Taylor and Charlotte Tupper, alongside teachers, develop approaches to supporting creativity in and beyond the classroom through a process of action-led enquiry. Assemble linked with three of our partner schools to develop a play structure.

children and adults playing on a red and grey slide
a woman and baby playing with a large black and white cushion shaped like a dog
children playing with a large black and white cushion shaped like a penguin
children pushing a giant inflatable green ball while adults sit on a bench watching
Three children stand next to a cardboard play structure, one does the limbo.
Five children play with a structure made of wooden blocks and string
Five children sit and stand by a tree in school uniform
Six children in single file walk across a raised blank, balancing as they go
A group of children in School uniform play with clay- they have small creations and one larger structure in the middle
An artist and a child playing in a workshop
Four children and an artist in a workshop
Two children peek through tubes in a workshop

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