Emphasizing the importance of play for both children and adults, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., recently opened PLAY WORK BUILD on November 18. The exhibition features elements from the Museum’s architectural toy collection of more than 2,300 sets, as well as the Rockwell Group’s Imagination Playground blue foam blocks in a variety of shapes and sizes.
“The National Building Museum is always looking for new ways to investigate the world of buildings and, by combining our architectural toy collection with the Rockwell Group’s inventive foam blocks, we have an extraordinary vantage point,” says Chase W. Rynd, the Museum’s president and executive director. “Through the interactive component of the exhibition, in particular, visitors both young and old will be able to examine and appreciate the complexities of the building process—from the sheer fun to the thought-provoking challenge of figuring out the multiple ways we can shape the world around us.”
Designed by the Rockwell Group, the exhibition opens with a selected display of toys from the museum collection where the history of play with an emphasis on blocks is explored. Organized thematically, examples of American construction toys date as early as the 1860s with Charles Crandall’s finger-joint building blocks. Alphabet blocks made by S.L. Hill in the 1870s and original Froebel Blocks, designed by Friedrich Froebel— the first advocate of “free play” in childhood who promoted the use of toys for educational purposes—are among the earlier displays.
Time marches forward with early Erector sets, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and rare plastic-molded toys from the midcentury time period. Along the walls, narratives from noted architects and designers discuss how block play informed their career paths. In the next gallery, foam blocks in different shapes and sizes custom designed for the exhibition are available for free play on tables and floors, or even up the walls.
The final gallery shows an interactive installation of virtual block play by Rockwell Group’s digital interaction team, the LAB. Visitors who stand in front of the video projection are reflected in blue block form, which builds along the screen as more and more visitors participate. As the screen fills with blocks, visitors can gesture to knock down all the blocks to start building all over again.
“Blocks have always been a fundamental element of play, and were greatly inspirational to Imagination Playground. We are thrilled to work with the National Building Museum and to create a unique indoor play space within the historical context of construction and block play,” says David Rockwell, founder, Rockwell Group. “Play—for children and adults—cannot be affirmed enough. At Rockwell Group, we like to build, take down and start all over again through creative collaboration, and that is exactly what this exhibit offers in a fun, informative, interactive way.”
The exhibition is expected to run through November 2014.
Cost of admission is $8 for adults and $5 for youth, students, and seniors. It is free for National Building Museum members and children under three years of age.
To learn more visit nbm.org.