Although we usually write about the graduates of the Design Department of the Art Academy of Latvia (AAL), this time we also wanted to highlight the project of Kristaps Kramiņš, a graduate of the Department of Graphic Art. In his master’s thesis Kristaps has created a board game Ablocalypse, which looks at the architecture typical of Riga housing blocks.
The board game Ablockalypse allows players to learn about the different series and projects of Soviet residential buildings, their similarities and differences, assuming the role of an architect and creating their own apartment block. The goal of the game is to combine randomly drawn game pieces into block houses that match the series indicated on the project cards, and together expand the city. According to the author of the game, Kristaps Kramiņš, «the constant influx of game pieces during characterises the rapid increase in the population of Riga in the second half of the 20th century, which contributed to the emergence of block architecture».
The basic element of Ablockalypse is an isometrically represented cube, which can be assembled from three diamond-shaped cubes, the combination of which corresponds to one of the block houses shown on the project cards. One side of the game piece shows an element of the facade of the blockhouse, for example, a window or a balcony, while the other side is left blank, allowing the dice to be used as a roof or end wall. While creating the project, Kristaps tested the game several times together with his friends until he found the right scoring method and the right amount of each element of the game, as well as the visual solution. The design of the cards has been influenced by both the aesthetics of Soviet building drawings and the colour palette found in typical project elements of the time. The game is made in screen printing technique, referring to the art language characteristic of the Soviet era. Now, there is a single prototype of Ablockalypse, but the work on the project continues to put the game into production.
Kristaps created Ablockalypse to stimulate an informed discussion about the architecture of residential blocks. He emphasises that the involvement of residents and the ability (or inability) to communicate and solve practical issues important to all are essential in the management of block houses. The aesthetic aspects of Soviet heritage often cause sharp discussions in society. With Ablockalypse, Kristaps hopes to help players understand the emergence of such architecture, thereby promoting the successful integration of block houses in a modern urban environment.
«Creating my master’s thesis in graphic art as a board game about Riga’s residential blocks was inspired by my desire to understand this surrounding, yet seemingly indecipherable, uniform, and alien mass of blocks of flats. As a child, I lived on Mirdzas Ķempes Street in Riga, in the second of six identical brick buildings, which probably fueled my interest in serial buildings. With this work, I wanted to give them a slightly different meaning, separated from the usual, gloomy, and mournful mood that usually accompanies Soviet architecture today. Such buildings are part of the city, whether we like them or not, and I think we as a society should learn to play with them a little,» says Kristaps.
The supervisor of Kristaps’ bachelor’s degree project is AAL lecturer Paulis Liepa. Other graduate projects can be viewed on the AAL virtual gallery website.