SEI - Sociedade Escola Investigação

Last week was finally presented the works made by the students from the Soares dos Reis School of Arts in Porto in the context of an agreement between the Porto City Council and the Faculty of Architeture of the University of Porto (represented by me).
It was a good opportunity in order to work, one more time, on the architectural toys issue with young students from an excellent school of arts. The Soares dos Reis is an incredibly well equipped teaching institution where several very good professors are lecturing almost all the arts and art-crafts skills. So it was a pleasure to join a strong team for a new project like that.
This video was made by Nuno Beire (http://www.amatilha.com) in order to communicate the state of the project after some months because it will end later (I'll keep you update).

Anuária exposition at FAUP - Architectural Toys course

Every year the FAUP organize an exposition with some student's works of all the courses. This year we also organized some interviews (spoken in portuguese) with professors in order to better explain the exercises and the underlying theory.

Here the video about my course, Architectural Toys:
http://www.ctchannel.tv/video/226





Architectural Toys course at FAUP 2014/2015

One more edition of my course Architectural Toys at FAUP (faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto) is over. Also this year I had a lot of enrolled students and some very interesting works were produced, let me show you some of them.


Ana Filipa Dias work is based on the urban scale in a very simple and intuitive way: a black board (made by slat) with chalk and some wooden volumes. The child can sketch a city with streets, green areas or water and put on it some buildings in order to understand concepts like urban scale, density, street or block.

Ana Filipa Dias - The Poster
Ana Filipa Dias - The prototype



Bruna Nunes focused on a specific element: the small shelter Le cabanon by Le Corbusier.  It was built between 1951-1952 is where Le Corbusier preferred to spend summers in the months of August and September. The small building was designed based on the "Modulor" a system of measures directly related to the human scale, invented by Le Corbusier. The child can learn about measures, proportions and space playing with this model, a kind of doll house, that is openable in different ways in order to allow interact with it.

Bruna Nunes - The poster



The toy designed by Catarina Brites is based on a tridimensional optic effect. Indeed with plan surfaces child can create several different volumes, even buildings. It is very simple and cheap, can made by a printed sheet of paper, but with a strong visual effect. One of the most interesting aspect is that the child can make several mistakes and  through them create new and unsuspected shapes. So the mistake can really be part of the creative process. 

Catarina Brites - The poster
Catarina Brites - The prototype



Guilherme Oliveira designed a toy for space creation. It is based on a wooden board where the child can insert different walls and create interior and exterior space in a simple way. Changing the wall material, like transparent or not unique materials, the child can experience different spaces and relations.

Guilherme Oliveira - The prototype


Indira Nunes fell in love with the Charles and Ray Eames toy "THE TOY" and decided to create a new version. The result was quite interesting manly because she understood the real complexity of that toy and of the producing technologies involved.

Indira Nunes - The poster
Indira Nunes - The prototype


Joana Bicas worked on a stamps system. Based on Le Corbusier work she developed a kit with a book and stamps that the child can use in the proper way. So behind an aesthetic value based on a specific figure of the architecture, the use of this toy develops scale comprehension and  perspective understanding. Also in this toy the mistake can be a learning source because it can provides new and unexpected solutions.

Joana Bicas - The Poster
Joana Bicas - The prototype


Jolan Haidinger designed a wooden construction set with vivid colors and a specific shape. It is always a very stuff challenge because it is quite difficult to find a shape that should be at the same time simple and complex enough to allow the creation of several tridimensional figures.

Jolan Haidinger - The poster



Julien Ponsar made a structure that can be used in several ways and position in order to create different spaces where the child can move, interact or simply stay. The structure, made by steel or aluminum, can be combined with tissue or other materials and can be easily mounted in a garden or in a public space.

Julien Ponsar - The Poster
Julien Ponsar - The model



Also the work of Lise Kerdraon is for exterior use. Based on flexible sticks that are threaded in a tissue to create a tent that can assume several different configurations for different uses. The tissue can be elastic and tensioned between the sticks and has a very interesting shape determinated by the moutend elements.

Lise Kerdraon - the poster
Lise Kerdraon - The prototype


Robert Somod explored a technology based on wooden blocks and elastics connections to create a toy that can change it's own shape and create several figures. The technology was adapted to architecture to create an arc or other building elements, but can also be used for animals or other objects.


Robert Somod - The prototype
Robert Somod - The prototype


Finally (because the alphabetic order) I post the work of Sara Vila Cova. It is a construction set that use the small straws that come with the beverages. With a simple connection system the child can build wire-frame structures. Sara also developed a packaging idea for promote her toy that is quite simple: just put in each pack a small plastic bag with some connection and a short description. 


Sara Vila Cova - The prototype

Toy design course at ArtCamp

Course leader /  marco ginoulhiac, university of porto, portugal 

language / English

The main purpose of the Toy Design course is to develop skills of the participants in toy comprehension, conception, design and manufacturing.

The opening lectures will explain the importance and complexity of toy design through the most meaningful toys of the 19th and 20th centuries. The conceptual framework around the definition of childhood and the consumption of toys will be discussed as well. During these classes, Ladislav Sutnar’s toys will have a main relevance because of the significance of the author and their graphic and formal quality.  

The practical part of the course will challenge the participants to design a toy through several possible creative processes. Starting with a conceptual idea (toys as a reproduction of a part of society), physical experience (toys as sensorial artifact), shapes or colors (toys as a visual experience), materials, rules or mechanisms (toys as an intellectual experience), ages or customers profiles, participants will develop a toy using different techniques. During this period toy examples will be presented in order to explain each category of designing method.

The designing process will start with representation of the idea through handmade sketches and models. After that, a prototype will be produced in wood, foam, cardboard, or other material, depending on the toy’s features. In this phase manufacturing problems will be discussed concerning market and customers in order to understand how to approach production and selling operations.

Finally, the prototypes will be completed with a packaging design and, where necessary, an instruction manual (two aspects that sometimes are as important as the toy itself).

The course is suitable for participants with at least basic background in artistic techniques and designing skills in order to achieve a comprehensive artifacts representation and a good prototype production.






The deadline for registration is 30 April 2015.

More infromation at http://www.fdu.zcu.cz/en/415-artcamp-about

"The Cube" exercise at 2014/15 Architectural Toys course

This year I introduced a new short exercise in my course at FAUP called "the cube". I noted a lack of skills in the students manipulating materials, raw and processed. Even if they know how buildings are made, they still never worked with wood, steel or other material different than cardboard or polystyrene (that they use for the models) and they can't understan how each materail can influence or be inspiring in the design processes.
So the idea was to create a cube with 20cm that should communicate something. Some kind of meaningful object, something between a piece of art (that improve our knowledge) and a device for some manufacturing experience. The unique rule was that the solid produced should be inscribed or circumscribed in a cube, in other words the cube must be "readable" into the solid.
For several student was a first contact with materials and technologies and they soon realized the importance of the details and, more than that, of the construction process.
The results was quite interesting because most students could not detach from architectural thinking. So they made several "building models" thinking in scale (big or small), gravity (there was an up and a down...), circulations (doors and windows). Nevertheless good proposals appeared and a lot of students produced some interesting cubes with different materials as steel wire, mirror, wax or concrete.
Here some examples, sorry for the horrible pictures... next year I'll take better, I promise.



Toy design course at Pilsen ArtCamp - July 2015


Also this year I'll lecture a toy design course at the Ladislav Sutnar´s Faculty of Design and Art from Monday 20 July to Friday 24 July.
Save the date because it will be a great opportunity to share experiences and knowledge about toys and toy design during an exciting week in the beautiful city of Pilsen in Czech Republic. Indeed a week at this school is such a unique experience in a very challenging and stimulant artistic framework surrounded by artists and craftsmen from all around the world specialized in several different arts and skills.

This year it will be a kind of "special edition" because Pilsen is European Capital of Culture 2015 (www.plzen2015.cz/en) with a great agenda and several different events articulated with the faculty's activities. So you can attend my course during the day and nigh-time enjoy a concert, a performance, an exhibition or a theatre play. Beyond that Pilsen, that is just one hour far from Prague, offers several restaurants and pubs where you can taste the famous beer and the local delicacies in a very friendly and pleasant summer atmosphere!

The number of participants is limited, so check the course condition here and make your registration as soon as possible.

You can find more information about the last experience at http://architoys.blogspot.pt/2014/08/pilsen-artcamp-2014.html or in the official Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/artcamp.summer.school

"Construction toys make better boys" - Article for the Magazine Dinâmicas

Here is the last number #3 of the Magazine Dinâmicas from the Industrial Design Course at Soares dos Reis School of Arts in Porto. This time is in portuguese language and it is surrounded by other very interesting articles about several issues around teaching and design processes. 
The edition is quite good both in the contents selection (you can find my article between the pages 38 and 45), and in the design layout. 
Please enjoy your reading.

The link: http://issuu.com/dinamicas_easr/docs/dinamicas_3_easr


Architectural toys conference at Soares dos Reis School of Arts

Next Monday I'll be at Soares dos Reis School of Arts in Porto for a brief conference about Architectural toys. This event is insert in a large commemoration of 130 years of that School and will be one more opportunity to spread my work for younger people. 
This time I'll talk mostly about the relationship between the design studio exercise, that is a characteristic of all art courses, and the idea of play. Indeed play is an action quite close to the design process in a school context because it is under simulated and controlled circumstances too. Behind that play is, as design studio teaching, a reduction of  complexity and it is restricted in a certain space and time (following the famous Huizinga theory about play as explained in his book Homo Ludens).   Toys are powerful devices in order to educate young children, through play, for the creation as an uncertain and  heuristics thinking route, as design thinking is.

Please find here the main poster:


Educating children in Architecture. XXth architectural narratives troughs toys design

ETSAB building
My article, presented at the  International Workshop COAC-ETSAB Barcelona 2014 in Barcelona, Spain is finally available on line.

Abstract: 
Teaching processes are, since renaissance, created and supported in order to develop specifically skills for a small part of the society. Otherwise, education can be considered as a larger type of processes that, according to E. Morin, “preserves, memorizes, integrates and ritualizes a cultural heritage of knowledge, ideas, values; it regenerates while re-examines, updates and transmit; create knowledge, ideas and values that return to the heritage”.
In this theoretical framework toys are considered as educational devices and a part of a materialistic culture that contains educational, artistic and ideological values. Through toys it is possible to map which part of each culture wants to be preserved and transmitted to the following generation.
From this point of view architectural toys are quite fruitful because represent not only architectural paradigms as languages and technics but also dwelling models and habits or, in some examples, urban design or territorial organizations.
This article attempts to organize the narrative lines that exist in the background of architectural toys production and design during the XXth century that are, according to the author, quite coincident with the architectural production changes. 

Please enjoy your reading!

Download the full article here.

Juan Bordes Conference at FAUP

Finally, after almost 7 mounts, I ended the editing of the video recorded during the Juan Bordes Conference at FAUP with the title "Los Juguetes que han construído la Vanguardia". This conference was inserted in the course Architectural Toys - Processos Complementares de Reprodução Disciplinar em Arquitectura that I teach at Faculty. It is a amazing narrative because the spanish architecture, sculptor, professor and collector joins several lines between education, arts and architecture following the main idea that vanguard movements were present in the childhood normal life and not only in the academies. Indeed, as Juan stressed, the role of the university education is quite little when compared with the child education that create the very first and more important intellectual bases of each subject. It is incredible to see the correspondences between certain pieces of art and some toys used by child during the beginning of XX century. They are real evidences of a silent relationship that existed in the backstage of the "official" historical narrative.
Please, enjoy the movie…

Urbacraft - Urban design toy

Few weeks ago I discovered a very interesting architectural toy designed by a couple of architects from Beirut called Urbacraft. The construction system is based on only two different pieces and an interlocking system that allow to easily create orthogonal shapes that represent a first three-dimensional approach to urban scale design. Indeed the child can create several buildings which can be "filled" by different kind of surfaces in order to manage the relationship between interior spaces (private) and exterior spaces (public). Therefore, through the toy it is possible to approach several different architectural and urban themes, since basic shapes to human relationships, a real "City Crafting System".
As Ayssar Arida, one of the authors, explained to me last week along a meeting, a model made by Urbacraft can be customized or completed with other materials in a very easy way. So it is possible, with the same structure, use different architectural languages that can be inspired by the local reality.
The toy has a very strong "personality" because the unique material and the particular shape; actually it reminds me SuperCity, a great american plastic construction system that is no more produced. Even when the construction is not a building, Urbacraft can be used for several different shapes and forms in several scales, from the small object to the large scale installation.


Urbacraft  is completely developed and produced in Lebanon and it is already for sale in two boxes, one smaller and another bigger. You can check the Facebook page to see more and to keep you updated: https://www.facebook.com/urbacraft

Pilsen ArtCamp 2014

One more time I had the pleasure and the honor to teach at the the Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art in Pilsen (or Plzeň) in Czech Republic. This time was at the ArtCamp 2014 program that this year was the tenth edition and, for the first time, the faculty invited me for lecturing a Toy Design course. It has been such a great experience!

People from the third week of ArtCamp 2014

The faculty staff did a great job to prepare each detail of a complex three weeks event that involved several hundred people. ArtCamp doesn't only means lectures and workshop but also pechakucha nights, conferences, expositions, fashion and dance shows and, of course, parties, as you can see here in the ArtCamp blog.

My course was lectured during the last week (21-27 July) and I found a really different Pilsen when compared with the raining city that I found during my first visit in May. Since the first day I found that creative climate that you can find only in few school: a exceptional space shared by all the arts with highly equipped workshops. This creates such unique conditions for working, thinking, creating, socializing; this means the perfect conditions for learning. People from all around the world join there, each one with his own ideology, culture, skills and dreams.


Both teachers and students, left  home the academic boringness and bring to the ArtCamp just the will to work, to share and to enjoy art. Meanwhile my students was designing toys, in another corner there was people thinking about jewelery, about digital animation, engraving techniques or product design. Just walking through the building was an artistic experience in order to understand the real and deep soul of the ArtCamp project. 
 

On 22 July I also lectured a pechakucha about the evolution of the relationship between parents, children and toys during the XXth century. I must confess that was my first pechakucha and I was a little nervous (it is not easy and when you are trying to teach something to someone, the time is really little). Anyway people liked it and I think they realized the central point of my discourse, even if was an italian guy that is living in Portugal, speaking english in Czech Republic to people from all around the world... respect!


I'd like to show just few works made by some of my students during the toy design course. They designed and build a real model of each idea because, as I always say, until an idea does not "jump out" from the paper, it is not a design exercise, it is just a idea, nothing more. Several times the transition from the sketch to the solid prototype totally change the design results improving it, sometime killing it forcing rethinking everything from the very beginning. I also asked to the student in order to develop a packaging and a name for their toy, this is because both are important and complementary aspect if we would like to commercialize our creations.  



The block set called "FaceBlocks" design by Štefánia Sekanová, from Slovakia is made by beech wood and painted with acrylic colors. It is quite interesting because with few parts you can create a huge number of faces, expressions or other "things" that you want. Eyes, noses, mouths, ears are the main ingredients of this composition that is characterized for its vivid colors and simple shapes. With Štefánia's toy a child could create new shapes and faces understanding the grammar of emotions in the human been face or the geometrical rules of the visage. This is possible because when you are dealing, or playing, with the unruled, the exception, you learn the rules, the regulation.

Faceblocks by Štefánia Sekanová

Kyougo Matsumoto, from Japan, did several experiences using normal daily objects to create toys. So he went to some shops around looking for inspirations and ideas. The results was a toy made by some kitchen tools, wooden board and small cars for create a circuit. Kyougo also designed a kind of "booster" for launching the cars made by a upgraded wooden salad clip. Finally the cars were made with pencil rubber because normal iron cars were too fast for the toy dimension, indeed all the parts would fit on a normal table. I thought this toy quite interesting because it can teach both to adult and children that a normal object can be a toy, sometimes without any modification, depending from how you use it. So if you don't have commercial toys, you can always push your mind and create a new, creative and enjoyable one.

The Kyougo Matsumoto toy made by useful objects

The Franco Augusto toys was also a construction kit (the construction kit is frequently a toy designed desire) made by thin plywood panels jointed by a elastic rope. The system is easy to understand and with different shapes allow the creation of several solids or objects. Behind that the contrast between the rope color and the wooden surfaces is quite explicit about which material has which function. Franco's toy is an interesting example of construction kit based on shapes with a very intuitive and friendly (but not very easy) connection device. But it's main quality is that you can improve your models with more pieces or you can also build something useful, not a toy, for your home, like a box or a bowl, and you can also paint or change the rope colors. In other words it is a real open and customizable system both for children and adults.

Franco Augusto designed a construction kit based on a rope joining system

For Pavla was not the first time she design toys, indeed she already designed some beautiful pieces in the past. This time we decided to develop a block set with the theme of mythological creatures that would teach to the child the differences between, for instance, minotaur, the unicorn and the pegasus. So we started with the basic horse shape, that was the shared shape between all the creatures, and we move to the different parts. 5 working days look like a long time for who already know what will do but are a very little time for who want design a new toy. Pavla developed sketch and cardboard model before create the final wooden prototype, and all this take time; so even if she only develop the unicorn, she planned other creature for the future.
Pavla Boháčová mythological construction set

Marie Svatoňová is a binding student and because of that I suggested the use of binding technique in her toy. So she designed a changeable story telling book. Depending from the way you fold the book's parts, you can create several different scenarios for different stories, from a forest to a city or to a house, the child can put into the book, because it can be folded in order to create a tree-dimensional play space, some characters and create a unique story. This is good because you can provide several different contexts with a unique device and the children can interact with the object in a new way joining different backgrounds with different characters. Now Red Riding Hood can happen in the city or in a mixed environment made by inside and outside spaces. 
The changeable book by Marie Svatoňová

After some short experiences around illustration and characters, Assel Tleuova was fascinated by the optical toys that was largely produced during the XIX century. At that time the invention of animation, and cinema, was based on the principle of several difference images that was showed in a sequence creating the illusion of moving figures. So, after a short investigation about the issue, Assel started developing a zoetrope that is based on a rotating cylinder where the user can see moving images through a thin opening. But the toy developed by Assel allow the children both understand the principle of the machine and customizing the images. So behind the zoetrope she design and create a device for print the images strips with several different stamps.
The customizable zoetrope by Assel Tleuova

Well, as you can see the ArtCamp toy design course produced several interesting new ideas and experiences. But more than that, student realized that toy design is not a joke and involve not only funny or fancy ideas bur real design problems, materials, habit and uses. On my side the experience was highly rewarding because each time you are trying teach something you learn much more.

I hope see you next year at Pilsen!

Here a great video about the 3rd week

 

From Lego to Architecture

When we write about architectural toys it is almost impossible not to mention Lego bricks as a typical example, even if this connection is not so clear and direct as happen in other toys. More recently, specifically with the Lego Architecture series, Lego get quite closer to architecture but always following the direction from real building to toy constructions. In a old post about the japanese architect Takefumi Aida, I already write about THE inverse process that started in a toy construction set in order to design real building, but it is a rare example. 


Some time ago I found another example by the famous office BIG studio that recently designed a Lego House. Indeed “For me the LEGO brick embodies the notion of systematic creativity – that the rigour and rationality of the LEGO brick allows children of all ages infinite possibilities to create their own worlds and to inhabit them through play,” Said Bjarke Ingels. “We have been inspired by the modularity of the LEGO brick to create the LEGO House. It will appear like a cloud of interlocking LEGO bricks that form spaces for exploration and exhibition for its visitors within. On the outside the pile of bricks form the roof of a new covered square as well as a mountain of interconnected terraces and playgrounds.

Source: Stott, Rory. "Bjarke Ingels Lays Foundation Brick at LEGO House" 19 Aug 2014. ArchDaily. Accessed 20 Aug 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=539149>

Playgrounds. Reiventar la plaza - Madrid

Until September 22, 2014, at the Reinha Sofia Museum in Madrid is open the exposition "Playgrounds. Reiventar la plaza" (Playgrounds. Reinventing the Square). From the site: "With some 300 works, the exhibition recounts a different history of art, from the end of the 19th century to the present day, in which artists and activists play a part in redefining public space by exploring the city as a game board, questioning modern-day carnival and holidays, vindicating the right to laziness, reinventing the square as a place of revolt and discovering the possibilities of a new world through its waste. The exhibit takes the playground model as an ideological interrogation of an alienated and consumerist present."

Here the exposition's site: http://www.museoreinasofia.es/en/exhibitions/playgrounds

Here a short video:

Children At Play: An American History

Even in these days I’m reading a brilliant book wrote by Howard Chudacoff, Professor of American History at Brown University. The author presents a deeply detailed and very serious investigation about play activity in American during the last centuries. 

This book can prove that, contrary to what I thought, it is possible to build an history of childhood through primary sources (dozens of children’s diaries, hundreds of autobiographical recollections of adults, and wealth of child-rearing manuals). 


Find the table of contents at this link

And the Introduction at this link

Enjoy the great conference about the book's contents here:

Paper at the International Workshop COAC-ETSAB Barcelona 2014.


One more time I presented an article about Architectural toys and their connection with architectural history, education and culture. This time was in Barcelona, Spain, in the  International Workshop COAC-ETSAB Barcelona 2014. The hardest challenge was try to explain in only 15 minutes all the complexity of these narratives, but it was as well a good exercise in order to understand and organize the main core of the issue. 
I also meet some other people that are developing researches in some fields that are very close to mine and that is always good in order to share experiences and knowledge.
Furthermore, four day in Barcelona is always a great opportunity to visiting such beautiful city and some of the best pieces of architecture in the world (as the Mies van der Rohe German Pavilion, a really inexhaustible reference).
Here you can find the abstract. The article will be published in October.

Pilsen toy design workshop

The Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art
Last week I have been in Pilsen, a very charming Czech town (1 hour by car from Prague) for lecturing an Architectural toys design workshop. 
It has been a really great experience. The Ladislav Sutnar Faculty of Design and Art is a very high level teaching institution with excellent facilities, teaching staff and students. Is a brand new building (with a quite good architecture), where all arts work, teach and learn together in a big, unique space. The skills of students are surprisingly good and they work in a very fresh and stimulant environment with several arts and techniques. They really can receive an heritage from a geographical area that I alway considered the cradle of toys (Nuremberg, the land of dolls, is only 200 km far from Pilsen).
I loved teach and luckily I'll go back for a Artcamp course in July (during the last week).


The workshop's leaflet


Some picture from the workshop
 

FAUP/Mattel Barbie house competition

During the last year Mattel corporation challenged me and the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Porto to organize a design competition for the new Barbie Dollhouse. In 2013 Barbie doll was looking for a new house (that was the 2013 Barbie's story...) and Mattel knew about my investigation and my course architectural toy design at FAUP So they mail me and I thought was a good opportunity for students thinking about a very particular object as a dollhouse. So we create a competition that, for logistical reasons, was limited only to FAUP students.
The jury was composed by Prof.ª Maria Madalena Ferreira Pinto da Silva (From FAUP), Prof. Juan Bordes (From Escuela Técnica Superior de Arquitectura de Madrid), Arqº José Mateus (From Trienal de Arquitectura de Lisboa & ARX Portugal), Arqº Virgínio Moutinho and Sally Eagle (from Mattel corporation).
Many delivered proposals proved great creativity and very good design skills. Some models was very well produced, with good techniques and details.
The three first proposals (that deserved the prizes offered by Mattel Company) represent three different dollhouses design paradigms: the first for its flexibility and imagination potentiality, the second for its ability in space creation and the third for its possibility of forms manipulation.

I'm now thinking about a larger scale competition for the next year...any suggestions?

Here some proposals:
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The first place went to this dollhouse that leave the kids totally free to custom the play environment. It is a simple scenario where you can use photos, magazine pages or even sketches to crate a familiar or a completely new layout. Behind that it is both for male or female use because you can create a dollhouse or a garage, a space station or a natural surrounding. It is also the easier and cheapest model and idea.

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The second place went to a proposal that bet on space creation. This cube can be opened creating several different rooms and outside spaces. Its architectural language is quite contemporary and it is big enough to allow kid "feel" the space proportions and characteristics.

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The third place is almost a wire-frame structure that can be manipulated creating several different shapes and houses. Beyond that kids can put objects or setting in order to create different environment. It is quite elegant and simple and, for that, with a great creative potential.

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