PLAY WORK BUILD
National Building Museum
PLAY WORK BUILD
One of my favorites, I think what the world needs is more craft and less computers. It is a statement made to create incredible stimuli in children and is also impeccable museology that functions well. – Carla Fernandez
PLAY WORK BUILD
Exhibition Design2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
The exhibition Play. Work. Build. takes visitors through an unprecedented investigation of the history of construction toys and block play, combining the Museum’s unique Architectural Toy collection with our firm's breakthrough playspace Imagination Playground.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
Imagination Playground is a breakthrough play space concept designed by U.S. architect David Rockwell to encourage child-directed, unstructured free play - the kind of play that experts say is critical to a child’s intellectual, social, physical and emotional development. With a focus on loose parts, Imagination Playground empowers children to constantly reconfigure the space around them and design their own course of play. Comprised of an assortment of movable objects, including biodegradable blue foam blocks, Imagination Playground provides an alternative for creative play in almost any indoor or outdoor setting.4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
Gallery One The exhibition begins with a traditional gallery display culled from the Museum’s collection of more than 2,300 sets of architectural and construction toys. Each artifact has a description label including background and historical context. Through this presentation, the history of play, with a particular emphasis on blocks, is explored. Gallery Two Visitors will then proceed to the next gallery in which two display cases showing more of the museum’s artifacts, specifically focusing on education—such as sets by Caroline Pratt and Friedrich Froebel, are on view. Visitors of all ages are able to test their own building skills with small-scale blue foam blocks in various shapes designed by our firm and produced for this “pilot run” at the exhibition. A photo wall is dedicated to showcasing visitors’ creations built from the Imagination Playground blocks. They are encouraged to take pictures of their creations and submit them to the museum via email or Twitter. Museum staff will then post submissions on both the photo wall and the web. A whiteboard is also available for visitors to sketch out ideas for building with blocks. Gallery Three This gallery allows visitors to either re-imagine their small-scale buildings into over-sized structures or create something entirely new and original. Hundreds of big Imagination Playground trademarked blue foam blocks in a wide variety of shapes, including Classic, Curves & Angles Add-on Sets, and half-scale Medium sets, provide an engaging hands-on play experience. The walls of this gallery are covered with the same blue foam blocks in square and rectangular shapes, allowing adults and children to reconfigure objects and their environment through a variety of shapes, holes, and connectors that support more complex building opportunities. Visitors can create structures directly on the floor, build them off of the walls, or combine the two as they invent individual narratives, construct and dismantle, or simply enjoy the forms and textures. Three cases showing the museum’s collection of construction toys in different materials and unusual forms are also in this gallery, such as LEGO Mindstorm. The floor of the play zone is covered with interlocking blue rubber tiles, which were purchased from another manufacturer. Gallery Four The final gallery will showcase an original interactive installation of virtual block play created by our firm's LAB, the firm’s interactive design team. As visitors walk in front of the video projection within the designated sensing area marked by blue carpet, a camera below captures their movements, causing an outline of their bodies to appear onscreen. When visitors stand still, virtual blocks begin to fill the outline of their bodies. As soon as they move, the virtual blocks break apart. If no one is standing on the blue carpet, the screen will automatically fill with virtual blocks from floor to ceiling, which will be knocked down as soon as someone walks into the sensing zone. There are also furniture-scale Imagination Playground Blocks in various shapes featured in this room.5. The Value: How does your project earn its keep in the world? What is its value? What is its impact? (Social, educational, economic, paradigm-shifting, sustainable, environmental, cultural, gladdening, etc.)
Through this presentation of block play, children are given the opportunity to reconfigure their environment and design their own course of play. Families are able to collectively experience the connection between early examples of imaginative play and its modern-day interpretation. In doing so, visitors to the exhibition will perceive and appreciate the historical significance of play in a hands-on, interactive environment.