8.1.2020

Social Design: Learning at Play

The exhibition "Social Design: Learning at Play - Ten Years of People’s Architecture Office“ co-organized by Design Society and People’s Architecture Office (PAO) opened at Sea World Culture and Arts Center in Shenzhen on November 23.

The exhibition is curated by People’s Works, PAO’s arm for research and social design innovation. The show features ten years of work by the studio and showcases how design with a playful attitude can have real social impact, pushing the boundaries of architecture. Visitors are invited to engage in the topics of architecture, urban planning and the role of play.

1.Exhibition-Social Design:Learning at Play

The exhibition connects social design to the act of play. When trying to create change we often face challenges, we may feel as if nothing can move forward, as if we’re hitting a wall, especially if we are trying to address social problems. There are systems, procedures, relationships, means, time and an endless list of difficulties to deal with. However, if we face all this with a playful attitude, possibility emerges.

Through seeking ways to address social issues PAO has developed a methodology of design founded on the concept of ‘play’, focusing on actions such ‘Trial & Error’, ‘Catalyzing’, ‘Tinkering’ and ‘Involving’.

Summarizing this, ‘Trial & Error’ is about learning through failure; ‘Tinkering’ is working with what is readily available; ‘Catalyzing’ promotes social interaction and ‘Involving’ allows people to participate in and with design. These actions have given shape to PAO’s practice over the years, resulting in a body of work that empowers its users to explore, learn, contribute, and impact.

The concentrated display of 30 works and ten years of design practice, invites the audience to experience the design ideas and methodologies through interactive models and playful installations, in order to gain insight and participate more deeply in the design changes brought about by the four methodologies.

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Through the projects, buildings and events presented, a proposition emerges to give shape to the city as an innovative learning environment. An urban landscape stimulating a cohesive society full of playfully creative citizens and learners, perpetually inventing new prospects for their communities, for themselves, and for each of us.

2.Conversation / Learning at Education

On the occasion of the opening PAO initiated the conversation “Education at Play”, provoking guests and visitors to think about what education is, what it means to them, and how to build and maintain stimulating learning environments for all.

The conversation was hosted by media figure and columnist Hung Huang, and invited a broad representation of speakers, including: Ole Bouman, Director of Design Society; Du Juan, Dean of the Hong Kong University School of Architecture; Gao Zhen, Head of Moonshot Academy; Huang Chun, Principal of Zhuhai Huafa Rongyang Qin Xin School; James Shen, Founding Partner of PAO, and Gu Ling, Design Society Director of Branding.

Coming from different backgrounds, identities and contexts, the speakers reflected on the role of play in education and on the construction of space from their own perspectives, discussing how to create meaningful play with a wide social impact.

3.Event – Workshop: Learning at Play

On the Sunday of the opening weekend, PAO invited the children’s education platform More than Architect to jointly organize the “Learning at Play Workshop” utilising PAO’s brand new prototype design the Plugin Learning Loft, to jointly play and construct spaces together.

The Plugin Learning Loft is a research project designed to explore the potential of space as an innovative learning tool to promote cognitive and social development in early childhood. The research is based on a variety of early childhood education theories such as the concept of the environment as the third teacher and self-directed exploratory learning.

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For the Plugin Learning Loft, PAO and its research entity People’s Works cooperate with a variety of experts and schools in the United States and China. Working with educators and children within real classroom settings prototypes are tested, evaluated and further improved.

The Plugin Learning Loft is still in the design development phase. It is an open system composed of a sturdy frame with a wide array of flexible and modular infill solutions. The framework not only guarantees overall safety but also provides a solid base for various accessories.

Different accessories are designed to stimulate curiosity and support play-based learning methods. These accessories have a high degree of flexibility to ensure that as the tests progress, the Plugin Learning Loft can meet a wide range of spatial and functional requirements.

4.Installation / Social Network Factory

Coinciding with the exhibition opening day, the installation “Social Network Factory” designed by People’s Architecture Office for CMSK(China Merchants Shekou Industrial Zone Holdings Co., Ltd)was also officially opened to the public. In the span of the afternoon, it attracted the attention of many visitors, flaneurs and tourists, inviting them to explore the diversity of voices within the Social Network Factory as well as the beautiful seashore of Shekou.

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