Architecture Research Group

Playful Iterations; Construction Toys in the Design Process

This research begins to address the current gap in knowledge relating to play with construction toys as a pedagogical tool within the context of design studio. It specifically considers how the development and use of a construction toy impacts design process.

Playful Iterations; Construction Toys in the Design Process

The Challenge

Creativity is fundamental to an arts education. Play and creativity require the ability to apply analogical thinking; a comparison between two objects thought to be similar (analogy). It is believed that creativity is a maturation of this symbolic act of play, as adults are in turn able to combine logical thought process to analogical thinking. An education devoid of activities which encourage analogical thinking produces learners who lack creative capacity. A hypothesis of the research is that by introducing acts of play in the design process, students may stimulate analogical thinking which in turn improves creative outputs. In this context, play will be facilitated by the designing and making of construction toys in the early stages of the design process.

Thin wooden pegs inserted into various holes
Perspex blocks in wooden block with gaps for the perspex to fit
Wooden blocks arranged on a white background

The Approach

Students were asked to make a construction toy responding to a theatre set design studio brief and play with the toy to aid their design development. The toys contained parts which can be built, deconstructed and remodelled, but otherwise could take any form, be made from any material, and respond to any agenda. The forms explored in these acts of play help students visualise sculpting space and develop ideas for projects, supporting the early stages of an iterative design process.

Dark-coloured play dough on a white background
Red and black paper arrangements with a figurine in the foreground

The Impact

The resultant learning outcomes demonstrate this playful pedagogic process nurtured other erudition alongside improving analogical thinking skills, including:

  • Engendering student confidence to begin the spatial stage of design, resulting in greater iteration of their ideas.
  • Sculptural forms produced as students were not focussed on spatial functions and requirements.
  • Playful approach allowed for accidental forms and new ideas to be formed during the process.

Contact Jennifer Chalkley

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