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Designing through play at ESKYIU PLAYKITS


ESKYIU To Work. Play – and design. To multi-disciplinary architects and ESKYIU PLAYKITS curators Marisa Yiu and Eric Schuldenfrei, it’s actually all one and the same.

“Play lets you see the world differently, and is essential to work,” says Schuldenfrei. ESKYIU’s fascination with play goes back a decade: from Art Basel lounges to biennale projects and immersive outdoor installations, play has always been at the heart of their work. ESKYIU PLAYKITS, now on at ArtisTree, explores a new definition of the concept, with the participants’ attendance helping to make PLAYKITS a projective exhibition that incorporates ideas and approaches from past ESKYIU projects to create something entirely new.

In order to do this, it requires PLAYKITS to test the concept of participation. “Our practice has always been about fostering the idea of interaction and giving a positive experience to the communities and public,” says Yiu. And at PLAYKITS, it’s that hidden force of participation that first unites the schedule of events, then catapults the project forward. For visitors, Schuldenfrei suggests that it’s in the different dynamics of participation – be it by yourself, with a team, or in considering an unfamiliar way to tackle something familiar (like three-way football), that they will find value. “For the running challenge, it will be about participation within oneself; football will not only challenge your teamwork, but also allows you to discover new levels of communication.”

And it’s this participatory energy that motivated the architects to maximise the flexibility of the ArtisTree space. PLAYKITS’ daily-changing roster of activities stretches the limits of ArtisTree conceptually, physically, and most of all, playfully.

“We’ve challenged ourselves to use one room, one space, to transform that energy to really represent the culture of Hong Kong, and of our community, through play,” says Yiu.

Sure, the idea of play may seem juvenile to some. But playing isn’t just reserved for children – ESKYIU stress the importance of play time for adults, too. Aside from drawing out the spirit of experimentation and providing new perspectives, there’s also a very practical way of looking at the necessity of play when it comes to work. “We have [artificial intelligence] coming in; tasks that are time-consuming and tedious are disappearing and being done by a computer,” says Schuldenfrei. “So true economy is dependent on creativity, on communication. This is something that play allows for.”

To Schuldenfrei and Yiu, ESKYIU PLAYKITS is a project that comes with no predetermined outcomes, as it is fueled organically by visitors’ involvement. Yet this open-ended experience will certainly bring an unsurprising result, a key message that ESKYIU champions. “We give ourselves space to psychologically leave our office,” Schuldenfrei says. “But when we do those activities that let us leave work completely behind, those are the exact things that feed back into it.”
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