The Bartlett School of Architecture


Playing the Picturesque

Through the construction of interactive game spaces, this project sheds new light on the principles of picturesque design, comparing it to world-building techniques used in videogames.


Playing the Picturesque, commissioned by the Royal Institute of British Architects, comprised five built ‘folly’ structures that frame a series of videogames projected into the space at one-to-one scale. Occupying the RIBA’s Architecture Gallery, each folly and game responds to a moment in the historical ‘Picturesque’ movement in architecture, designed in response to historical drawings from the RIBA’s archive.

Through the construction of interactive game spaces, the project sheds new light on the principles of picturesque design and compares it to worldbuilding techniques used in contemporary media such as videogames. The project extended the confines of the gallery through a series of virtual landscapes inspired by real world sites of picturesque design, each of which could be explored and played by two visitors working together. Playing the Picturesque was designed to create a hybrid architecture that exists both within the physical and virtual, combining research into architectural representation, historical design principles and contemporary game design methods.

Playing the Picturesque explores how virtual spaces can be used to reveal new insights about historical design approaches, and how to engage new audiences with architectural design through playful interfaces. The project also prototyped new forms of spatial practice that operate between the design of physical and virtual environments. The exhibition was subsequently installed in The Edge and Andrew Brownsword Gallery, Bath, where an additional folly and videogame were commissioned based on a picturesque garden in the city.


Luke Pearson
Sandra Youkhana

External partners

Commission by Royal Institute of British Architects, https://www.architecture.com
Further Commission by Edge Arts Centre Bath, https://www.edgearts.org

Image credits

Playing the Picturesque, an exhibition by You+Pea © Tristan Fewings, Getty Images for RIBA