Queening Architecture

Chess set pays tribute to brutalist London

The London Brutalist Skyline Chess set (Courtesy Skyline Chess)

Board games like chess and Monopoly have some of the most creative game piece design on the market—but rather than another punny Monopoly for millennials, Skyline Chess, a London-based design brand founded by architects Chris Prosser and Ian Flood, creates bespoke chess sets with pieces inspired by iconic architecture around the world. Their latest edition? Brutalist London.

The hand-cast resin set has a line up of built concrete celebrities, from the Barbican’s Cromwell Tower reigning as king to the stepped terracing of the Alexandra Road Estate forming a formidable wall of pawns. The board itself follows the concrete aesthetic, drawing inspiration from the fenestration of both Centre Point and One Kemble Street, designed by George Marsh. But this set is made for much more than casual gameplay—the set celebrates the extraordinarily rich, and controversial, tradition of brutalism in the city.

Photo of chess set shaped like brutalist buildings in London

London Brutalist chess set (Courtesy Skyline Chess)

Such late-20th-century architecture is threatened all over the world. Many of the great ’60s concrete buildings in London have been deemed varying degrees of “ugly” in public polls, and some have been destroyed by the wrecking ball. Owen Luder has had three of his major works demolished in the 21st century already, notably the Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth in 2004. But he is far from alone. Even the iconic buildings of London’s Southbank Centre have faced threats—the Hayward Gallery faced demolition before a multi-million-pound renovation was approved.  

While the icons represented by the London Brutalist Skyline Chess set are constantly critiqued—and often rightfully so—they occupy a significant place in architecture history that is worth remembering. The sculptural forms of these brutalist buildings become approachable at a miniaturized scale. Seeing the entire form shiny from above, rather than looming at street level on a gray London day, makes them accessible pieces of art. Maybe this set is a case for saving brutalist London and keeping the next cheque-mated car park from the wrecking ball.

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