Back in April we brought you news of a workshop to launch our series on the next generation of inventors. This week the Imagination Architects are back to bring their designs to life. We’re so excited to see how the project has developed, and how inspirational the children’s involvement has been.

The Imagination Architects project and next generation focus here at IM are part of the run-up to iOi‘s Mega Maker Lab, which starts in August. Working with architectural educators, MATT + FIONA, the aim was to design an interactive, educational summer experience for children and their families.

A view of the component parts created by children in workshops so far.

Designing Together

During the April workshops, 100 school children came up with ideas for the Lab. Matt Springett and Fiona MacDonald, the creatives behind MATT + FIONA, have been working to bring together the children’s designs.

imagination architects are back
Cross-section of the Mega Maker Lab design

Matt was struck by how themes emerged, commenting that it was “incredible to see how many similarities there are”. This allowed the duo to conceive of a clear vision for the space. “Nearly every child proposed putting the main performance space in the centre of the experience, quite a change from the original brief,” he said.

“It is incredible to see how many similarities there are”

Matt Springett, architectural educator

The team then took these trends and created an overall design which includes various experience zones themed around play, ideas, challenges and testing. Other elements include an enclosed ‘ideas zone’ for focussed imagining and a large aerial installation. Involving the Imagination Architects in the design process means that the Mega Maker Lab will be a space created by, and relevant to, its users.

A volunteer from Jestico + Whiles helps a Year 5 pupil to work with flexible plywood to create an aerial structure

Building The Lab

Now, 50 London primary school children are building the lab by making, testing, learning and, above all, experimenting. Working alongside MATT + FIONA to facilitate the construction are volunteers from across London and Industry Champions, Jestico + Whiles. Industry Champions are professionals who promote their field by educating and sharing their experiences.

imagination architects are back
A Year 5 pupil constructs a ramp, to be used in the Test Arena

Like much of the build, the large aerial installation is made from flexible, easy-to-use plywood. Using this material means that we can raise and lower it to make different patterns. It’s this interactivity and adaptability that is key to the project’s multi-use purposes.

Learning To Experiment

Giving the children the freedom to create has been instrumental in coming up with innovative solutions for the build. Fiona noted that it was one of the Imagination Architects that came up with the double loop design for the aerial installation. Their idea has meant that the piece can expand to become a “centrepiece that makes use of the height of the space”, she says.

I didn’t know how to [do this] before, but you just have to go for it!

Dalsie, Year 5

This is what’s been so exciting about the construction workshops. Seeing their designs in action and, crucially, being part of the process, has given the children the confidence to experiment.

A Year 5 pupil with their completed Mega Maker Lab component

Many commented that the process and skills were new to them, and they surprised themselves with the outcomes. “I didn’t know how to bend sticks together to make a fish before, but you just have to go for it,” said Dalsie, who’s in Year 5. Janet, also in Year 5, commented: “I had never done drilling, but I really like it.”

Inspiring this spirit of invention and teaching new skills is the ethos of the project. More importantly, what’s been wonderful to see is the children’s enjoyment of invention and how much the design has been influenced by them. We can’t wait to see how the build progresses and what our Mega Maker Lab visitors have to show us over the summer.

Find out more about the Mega Maker Lab, based in London and open throughout August.

Posted by:Sophie Sabin

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