Play You Are in Sharjah (Al Qasimiyah School)

51-1 Arquitectos

Old Al Jubail Vegetable Market — built in the 1980s — was a busy public space connected to the neighbouring bus station. The market was closed down in 2015, becoming an isolated component of the urban fabric.

Saved from demolition, it was reopened in 2019 as a venue for the triennial, however, completely divorced from the existing bus station. The area between the market and the station continued its recent existence as an arbitrary unshaded square. How can this empty, uninviting, generic space be made more generous; more playful?

“Play You Are in Sharjah” consists of turning this unapproachable plot into a place for play. The majority of Sharjah’s population has origins in regions that invented the most popular board games — which adorn the tables on the site: Backgammon (Mesopotamia), Pachisi (South Asia), Chess (South Asia), Mancala (Egypt, Ethiopia), Go (China), Checkers (Middle East), Carrom (South Asia), Snakes and Ladders (South Asia).

Play tables, chairs, and shades are evenly distributed throughout the area in the beginning of the day. They are, however, continuously reconfigured in response to the movement of the sun and people’s preferences. Every day, the square will be different — a form of ordered disorder.

At the Al Qasimiyah School, a fragment of “Play You Are in Sharjah” is displayed, with tables and a movable shade inviting communal play, acting as a precursor to the exhibit’s main venue in the Old Al Jubail Vegetable Market.

Play You Are in Sharjah (Al Qasimiyah School)