Architecture and video games, Game On exhibition in Madrid

Javier de Paz García,



Exhibition, Event,

Game On is the first major international touring exhibition to explore the history, culture, future and potential of videogames. The exhibition curated by the Barbican Centre was first shown in London in 2002 and has since toured to over 30 countries worldwide. In Spain, it was coordinated by Fundación Canal, with a new design by Smart & Green Design.

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Architecture and video games, Game On exhibition in Madrid Designing exhibition layouts is always a tough challenge, particularly at a time when everyone wants to convey unique experiences and deep emotions. The stakes, so to speak, are even higher when it comes to video games and therefore 3D environments and virtual reality. These are the themes of the major international exhibition called Game On, which since 2002 - when the Barbican Centre first showed it in London - has toured to over 30 countries to tell the story of the history and culture of videogames. Focusing on key game developments between 1962 and the present day, Game On takes a global perspective at gaming’s fascinating past and limitless future. From the colossal PDP – 1 of the early sixties to the latest industry releases, Game On examines the creative and scientific advances that have revolutionised the games we play. The exhibition features more than 150 playable games in 15 themed sections, from the 1960s to the latest creations, including Space Invaders, Lara Croft, Mario, Street Fighter and Rock Band, together with the 10 most influential consoles.
In Madrid, the exhibition opened its doors in November 2019 and closed during the lockdown. It was hosted by Fundación Canal, the primary corporate social responsibility (CSR) tool of Canal de Isabel II, Madrid public water utility. Fundación Canal is committed to defending water as a cultural asset, a source of life and as a scarce and vulnerable resource, promoting research for its most efficient and sustainable use. For this reason, the exhibition was located in a unique space in the underground water tank situated in the Cuarto Depósito Park of Canal de Isabel II, which is also used as an events venue. Following its environmental commitment, Fundación Canal incorporated the sustainability criteria since the beginning of the exhibition project. The museography developed by the Smart & Green Design studio under the guide of Fernando Muñoz minimised the use of raw materials, committing to light, modular systems of standardised dimensions, which can continue to be used without generating waste. All the materials were selected for their highly environmentally friendly characteristics, and any polluting element was discarded from the outset.
The design concept of Game On in Madrid connects with the eighties, the Golden Age of videogame design. That was the time of the first experiments in design with vector graphics, with the creation of 3D environments, despite the technical limitations of the period. This vector aesthetic is a key point of reference on the videogame scene and is the starting point for the spatial conception of the project by Smart & Green Design. A series of LED light coloured lines in sync with different rhythms and geometries creates the identity of each exhibition area. They skilfully connect with the industrial archaeology of this underground space featuring large arches and exposed brickwork. This is transformed by the artistic lines of light and a few additional architectural elements to craft an impressive setting worthy of any self-respecting videogame - an enchanted place. The images shot by the photographer Javier de Paz García allow us to see this stunning transformation of the underground tank that teleports the visitor into a lived-in retro fantasy world. Javier considers it to be one of the most engaging, beautiful places that he has photographed this year.

Christiane Bürklein

Exhibition: Game On
curated by the Barbican Centre, London
29 November 2019 to 31 May 2020
at Parque Cuarto Depósito de Canal de Isabel II, Madrid
Exhibition design: Fundación Canal with Smart & Green Design http://smartandgreendesign.com/
Images: Javier de Paz García http://www.estudioballoon.es/es/
Find out more: https://www.fundacioncanal.com/24122/game-on/?par=exposiciones#None


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