Noa Haim

Noa Haim: everyone can play designer!

Engineering meets art at hands-on interactive exhibition in Moscow

During the recent Polytech Festival 2015, held at the end of May in Moscow, Russia, more than 35,000 visitors has the opportunity to become a designer for a day, by building three dimensional cardboard structures using hexagonal shapes. This is the latest of a series of interactive exhibitions I created under the cultural entrepreneurship initiative called the Collective Paper Aesthetics. This participatory construction toys and hands-on furnishing does not require prior knowledge to be used. It abides by the motto: everyone can experience what it its like to be a designer!

Following a meeting with Ivan Bogantsev, deputy director at the Polytechnic Museum prior to the festival, in October 2014, I came up with the idea of translating the museum logo to such participatory installation material. The museum logo is positioning the first letter of the institute inside hexagonal shape. I choose to design 2D envelope made from four equal hexagons which folds into 3D truncated tetrahedral carton cubes. Every truncated tetrahedral carton cube can connect to a similar one from all four directions, using especially designed cardboard connectors.

To explain the journey that led me to creating such hands-on interactive exhibitions, let me tell you a bit about my background. I am a designer and architect based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and an alumni of the Berlage Institute. The Collective Paper Aesthetics project begun when I was invited by the London Festival of Architecture 2008 to present my thesis work from the Berlage Institute through an installation.

For that purpose I produced 2,000 interlocking paper boxes. The idea was to introduce a participatory activity fusing the Buckminster Fuller patented building shape, known as octet truss with Fuller’s World Game idea, that was intended as a tool that would facilitate a comprehensive, anticipatory, design science approach to the problems of the world. Following the installation’s success, I was subsequently invited to repeat it in different formats at the Architecture Centre in Amsterdam, during the Dutch Design Week, and at the Köln Messe in Germany.

At that stage, my professional career was taking an unplanned direction. I was no longer working as an architect specialised in retail and mixed-use top down planned projects. Instead, my focus had shifted to designing and developing experimental material for user experience and indirect learning.

The relevance for education emerged during the the process of guiding the activities. Then, I meet many adults who said: ‘I am not good at mathematics.’ By contrast, when the children were starting to play with the paper ‘building blocks’, they were doing it intuitively. When I reflect upon the way I have been taught mathematics and geometry, I realise how abstract it was. It usually involved a tutor drawing on the black board the triangular formula while students learned it by rope, just for the exam. I think the hands on experience is much more beneficial in terms of long term education and understanding of our physical environment.

Meanwhile the experience of working with audiences has given the project a life of its own. I have collaborated over the years with many different organisations, including MUDAM, in Luxembourg, German science communication consultancy City2science, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the Holon Design Museum, Israel, the creativity festival Uovo Kids in Milan, Italy, science museum forskerfabrikken, Oslo, Norway, Haifa City Museum, DieselKids, Tonton Art at Shibaura House Tokyo and more.

In the coming years, I hope to further grow and develop the work exploring additional engineering and structural systems and using it for research purposes. I also study the possibilities of bringing the knowledge gained in Collective Paper Aesthetics back to the field of architecture. Can you imagine a whole science museum build by visitors?

Noa Haim

Architect and founder of Collective Paper Aesthetics, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

Do you believe engaging the public in highly specialised activities could become a discipline in its own right?

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Featured image credit: Alexander Weinstein

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One thought on “Noa Haim: everyone can play designer!”

  1. A penny for your thoughts? You may not choose to answer. But the point is that, as a conscious agent, you surely can. That’s what it means to have introspective access. You know—and can tell us—what’s on stage in the theatre of your mind. Then how about machines? A bitcoin for the thinking machine’s thoughts? But no one has yet designed a machine to have this kind of access. Wittgenstein remarked that, if a lion could speak, we would not understand him. If a machine could speak, it would not have anything to say. “What do you think about machines that think”. Simple. I don’t think that—as yet—there are any such machines.
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