Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Space To Let - In a mobile den

In our Architecture for Kids workshops at Furzedown Primary School, we've been experimenting with more of our estate agent boards.  The aim was to create a simple, non-conventional 3D form which could be used as an enclosure, or den.  Minimal work to the boards was an advantage, so that the children could work with the material directly.

We trialed lots of options in the workshops with small scale card rectangles, creating different forms.  This one below was based on the dodecahedron and only required holes drilling at the corners for connections.

Playing with small scale card pieces and a stapler.  Keeping it simple.

Working with the real boards, it became clear that the material would not support the structure at the base, in the same way as the card model did.  Making it in to a complete sphere enabled the object to work as a structural whole and keep its form a lot more easily.  Even if it looked a bit floppy at times, it could easily be used as a den, and when rolled about in the school courtyard it worked efficiently to retain its original form.  

The finished structure.

It was a bit of a surprise to realise how big it was, despite the scaled card people in the model. It has a lot of presence in the school courtyard, especially infront of small kids.    

An accidental photo climbing in to the ball, but it looks fun.
Its better than the pictures I normally take, so here it is.

With some kids inside pushing it round, another impromptu team-building game developed.  Everyone has to work together to walk the ball around, stepping over the rolling structure to avoid being thrown out.  Set out with an obstacle course and a couple of teams, it should be great fun.

Testing the structure with some Year 6 kids, walking it around the courtyard at Furzedown Primary School.
One said ' Now I know how my hamster feels'


It's become another popular destination at break and lunch times.  Everyone appears to enjoy the space and is used in lots of different ways.

It's gained a lot of interest and receives a lot of inquisitive interpretation.  Its a den, a meeting point, a place to have lunch and a human hamster ball.

Without conventional doors, children start to reinvent how to enter and exit spaces.

Because the boards were connected together with bolts, penny washers and wing nuts, they could easily be dis-assembled and rebuilt in different configurations.  

Different configurations of enclosure tested, guided by some of the small scale prototype experiments of earlier workshops.  (Small card models lying nearby)

Using the boards portrait worked with the structural integrity of the corrugated plastic, and the enclosure stood up more easily as a cone (although the geometric pattern was still similar to that of the original ball).

Making it higher and higher.  As high as the boards will allow, or they dare...

Adding additional layers to the base allowed it to be higher, giving more places to enter, exit and look through.

Not a very inconspicuous hide, but it worked.

Very quickly it made a good place to hide in, to observe with anonymity the the other goings-on in the school garden.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Team building with boards

For our Architecture for Kids workshops at Furzedown Primary School, we were lucky to acquire a set of estate agents boards, on their way to the recycling centre.  We wanted to see how we could take these two-dimensional (flat) sheets and give them three-dimensional qualities and structural integrity, with as little adjustment as possible.  One solution we came up with uses interlocking diagonal slots which means they can achieve a free-standing structural form with three boards (using structural triangles).


The boards in one arrangement on the green at Furzedown Primary School, London SW17.

After receiving the boards, we investigated how we could work with them using scaled down card pieces, and card people to give a relative size.  Lots of different methods of linking them were tried, with some more successful than others.

Testing structure and space with scaled down card pieces.
 The diagonal slotted solution seemed to work the most efficiently, although with the connections being on the corners, it does not conform to our usual preconceptions of a vertical and horizontal working world.

Before cutting the actual boards we trialled some quarter size pieces using the off-cuts from the chairs we made earlier.

Trials with quarter size boards.

 The kids enjoyed the unconventional spaces they produced and the differences in light that each differently angled surface produced:  Lots of enthusiasm for creating different structures.

Investigating the structural and sculptural spaces.

The full size boards have become a bit of a hit at the school, beyond the Architecture workshops.  At each break time and lunch time they have become a popular activity where groups of friends can play together to make spaces, and create their own designs.


Testing out the boards for the first time and investigating how they work, and the spaces they create.

It's also proven to make a useful team building exercise.  When groups of children work together with a set of boards, no one can be the dominant instructor, and no one can be the follower.  Because of the way they fit, balance, find structural integrity and make spaces in unusual ways, it turns in to a very collaborative process where each person holding a board gives instruction and works with feedback to find a solution.

Teams working with the boards.  You have to be hands-on to understand how they work.

On hot summer days they are great for pitching up a quick shelter, to chill with friends and and enjoy lunch.

Putting a quick base up to discuss what really matters...
Or a space for one.


Monday, 9 June 2014

Space To Let - On a chair

We've been collecting a selection of materials to make projects with at Architecture for Kids.  We have been working with a year 5 class (of 9-10 year olds) at Furzedown Primary School.  One really useful resource we found is unwanted estate agents boards.  To start with we've made a couple of chairs and they've become a popular addition to the school.  All the parts are templated out from the boards.  There are no other materials, fixings or adhesives.  This means they can be flat packed in seconds and reassembled in a minute (if you can remember where all the bits go).

First quick models were made with scaled down pieces of card to investigate how the chair might look and how the parts might fit together.

Test models of chairs.
Working with the cellular plastic board was a little different because of its structural properties, but was very easy to work with and this enabled ways of making the chair stronger.  We made a couple of chairs - the story chair and an armchair.

The story chair lets books be stored in all the structural cells.

The Story Chair: a place to sit and read your favourite books.

The story chair back is made so that the structure works also to store books

The arm chair is has proven to be a good place to work.

Sign board arm chair.

They have attracted a lot of interest in the school and even have their own blog site: Notes from estate agent's boards which were denied their retirement...