V&A Dundee explores Rules of Play

V&A Dundee has unveiled a colourful new installation inspired by the principles of learning through play, and the possibilities created by exploring a back-to-basics approach to design.

Designed by Gabriella Marcella, founder of Glasgow print studio RISOTTO, the new installation asks visitors to consider if limitations on form and shape help or hinder creativity.

Made up of 200 enlarged toy planks in five bright colours, Rules of Play celebrates the work of educational pioneer and inventor of the kindergarten system, Friedrich Froebel.

German-born Froebel, who founded the first kindergarten in 1837, believed that play could help children build a better understanding of the world.

Dismissing the then prevalent view that it was a form of idleness, he created a series of play materials know as ‘gifts’ which included different forms of wooden building blocks.

Gabriella Marcella said: “In an increasingly digital world, this installation aims to question what it really means to get back to basics.

“It seems obvious to us now, but Friedrich Froebel was one of the first people to recognise the true value of play and how it can help explain the world around us. I became intrigued by the idea that simple tools and forms can help us understand complex ideas.

Rules of Play uses oversized building blocks to explore pattern and geometry in a three-dimensional space, much in the same way as I’ve used print to experiment with colourful forms in the past.”

During her research Marcella started experimenting with KAPLA planks, a toy that follows the principles of learning through play by encouraging children to build complex designs with identical planks of wood.

Her large-scale versions of these building tools have been made to the exact 1:3:15 size ratio of KAPLA planks, designed to enable players to construct without the need for fixings.

Marcella’s installation also includes 10,000 KAPLA planks as well as simple questions written on the wall to help inspire visitors to create their own structures.

V&A Dundee Project Curator Lauren Bassam said: “Gabriella has created a wonderfully playful installation that is not only bright and beautiful but also challenges the way we think about the basics of design.

“Play is often our first introduction to design, and it’s important to appreciate the value and joy of things as simple as building blocks or planks of wood.

Rules of Play is a fitting homage to educational pioneer Friedrich Froebel whose work continues to have a significant impact on how we teach and has helped pave the way for countless budding designers.”

Rules of Play, designed by Gabriella Marcella and fabricated by Old School Fabrications, will be on display in V&A Dundee’s Michelin Design Gallery until Sunday 23 June 2019. The installation has been supported by KAPLA® and the Michelin Corporate Foundation.

An accompanying programme of events begins at 12.00 on Saturday 16 February with a free drop-in Family Design Day in V&A Dundee’s Thomson Learning Centre. A Sensory Friendly Morning, which is ticketed, is also happening the same day from 08.30. For more information, please visit www.vam.ac.uk/dundee/whatson