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- June 20, 2011
‘Making Design Public’ -Alex Gillman
On March 24 PlayPhilly headed to the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. to experience Alex Gillmans latest design innovation. Alex is the founder of ‘Public Workshop Design Firm’ and recent recipient of the National Building Museum Fellowship. His work fosters innovation through collaboration of people from all age groups. His research studies show that adults, or ‘experts’, have a lot to learn from children, or ‘the novices’. By creating playful yet sophisticated design tools Alex is able to observe design innovation and maximize it.
In addition to experiencing Alex’s ‘disklette’ design tool/workshop in the main gallery, he gave us a personal tour of the museums Lego room. Oh what heaven! The front of the room houses one of a kind models of iconic architectural structures built entirely out of Lego’s. The work, although fascinating, felt constrained and lifeless. The characteristics we identify from our childhood experience of playing with Lego blocks deals with repetition and re-use. On any given day each block could be any given thing, and your skill for building evolves over time. Lego’s were tools that pushed our imagination as children, just as Alex’s ‘Disklettes’ do. This does not undermine the craft and technicality of building extravagant Lego models, they are brilliant. But the context of ‘playing’ shifts from the participatory to the observable.
Lucky for us, the back of the room morphed into a free play Lego area full of blocks, work surfaces and a large model landscape. Here people of all ages build and collaborate together. We witnessed both kids and adults making structures and adding them to an organically growing model city. Alex spoke about the positive power of ‘copying’ and how he would ‘Lego bomb’ the room each morning. He would build small structures using different joining techniques and leave them scattered throughout the building zone. By studying the patterns that formed, observing people building and asking users how they arrived at their design decisions, he is able to get a better understanding of how people of all ages innovate and create. Using this technique, Alex continuously proves that experts, as often as a novice Lego builders, learn from and mimic the other.
Check out Alex’s Public Workshop blog