National Building Museum Fellowship Update #6: Yeah,I Couldn’t Wait Any Longer. Some Images.

Posted on March 10th, 2011 at 3:32 pm by in Our Work

National Building Museum Fellowship Update #6: Yeah,I Couldn’t Wait Any Longer. Some Images.

Okay, so my intuitive building and making-as-a-tool-for-dialogue experiments aren’t officially going to happen until the week of March 21st. However, when my newly fabricated, never before tested disks happened to arrive on the same day I was visiting the National Building Museum for a couple of days last week, could you blame me for not being able to resist?

I didn’t think so.

Here are a couple of images from a few hours of building with the 400 disks in the Museum’s Great Hall with various staff members, and passersby, ages 2-60. In a week and a half, I will use these disks to test the limits of my current understanding of the some of the following ideas: group pattern recognition, visual priming, massive building/design collaboration around descriptive words and the role of a disassociative tool such as my simple white disks to stimulate more open explorations of, and dialogues around complex design issues. In two weeks, I am even going to have meeting participants use the disks to make the space in which we’re meeting, before we meet, to set the stage for a more vibrant conversation of possibilities. Making IS a tool for dialouge. For a better description of some of the goals of these building exercises, click here. Loftier goals aside, last week was primarily about just messing around, getting a basic understanding of possibilities and how people react to/interact with the disks. How’d it go?

Quite frankly, I couldn’t be more pleased as the disks were effectively people ‘magnets’ and everyone was better than pleased-as-punch, they were ecstatic.

‘How am I supposed to get any work done today?!’, exclaimed one staff member.

Needless to say, I can’t wait to get started on the ‘real’ testing and building. One interesting observation or surprise? I hadn’t fully anticipated that people would view the disks and the creations as fragile. In fact, first thing in the morning, some of the maintenance staff were quite worried about people trashing the creations, especially kids barreling through and jumping on them. Quite to the contrary, although people were totally mesmerized and attracted by them, they treated them as if they were made of eggshells…..typically asking permission to touch or play and generally being extra careful. I’ve seen this happen before on a number of projects such as this one (click here), where although the end structure might be excepti strong and durable, because it appears fragile and perhaps even lovely, it somehow taps into people’s best instincts and avoids the very worst doom and gloom predictions of how people are going to treat it. Yep, sometimes the appearance of fragility coupled with a dash of disarming beauty can be an excellent design tactic, especially when ‘testing’ public spaces.

Interested in helping me build in a couple of weeks? Send me an email, I would love to have you:

Special thanks to the National Building Museum, Cynthia Field, Cardboard Safari and Domaform for their incredible support of this project.