Children's Museum of Manhattan-Projection Pop Up Book
One of my favorite projects we created at Collab was for The Children's Museum of Manhattan. They asked us to develop an exhibit to teach kids about architecture by studying Mosques from around the world, and make it mobile so it could travel to Libraries and Schools. Mobile, yet immersive was the directive. And give the kids a memorable experience while teaching them about the architecture of Mosques.
As we researched mosques from around the globe, the design, color and the unique materials used to build these mosques became a guiding principal. We wanted to create an experience that would engage the kids and help them understand how complex shapes and structures played a role in the architecture in their everyday lives.
Our conclusion: build a 3-dimensional pop-up book, and combine it with a projection show.
We began by sketching out the installation, mapping the user experience. We then developed educational content around the history of each of the Mosques. We then went about building one of the largest pop-up books in the world, and made it mobile to boot.
Above is the final version. A giant pop-up book that when educators turned the pages, a giant pop-up replica of the Mosque was revealed, projected mapped with animated content to tell the story of the Mosque and the people who worship there and care for it.
Each turn of the page was a new adventure. We created a journey around the world for the kids, awe inspiring as each new page came to life with light, sound, animated content and projection mapping.
For the educators, we developed a user friendly custom software so they could easily deploy the content onto the pop-up mosques. Using an ipad, the teachers were able to move through the pages at their own pace, focusing on the students instead of the technology.
And and the end of each immersive, multimedia journey, the kids created their own projects with paper and scissors, inspired by the designs, history and structural elements found in the architecture of the Mosques they had just experienced.
A few years ago, Maker Media called and asked if Collab would be interested in participating in Maker Faire at the NY Hall of Science. Collab and Make have had a long history together. On a personal note, Make and the maker community has been a huge inspiration and support for me. We actually hosted a meet-up for them when Maker Faire was preparing to come to New York. The community that Dale Dougherty along with Sherry Huss and the whole team at Maker Media has built has created an open invitation for makers to create, build, and innovate. Born from this movement, so many opportunities for innovation and education have been created. I wish that this community was part of my youth and education.
Having built an electronic coloring booth the previous year, we were familiar with the projects and experiences featured at Maker Faire. To sum it up, it's a cornucopia of Robots, 3D Printers, electronic inventions, soldering stations, go-carts, and every other 21st Century reincarnation of an Elizabethan Era Renaissance Faire you could imagine.
So when Make invited us, we agreed to participate again. But that meant trying to figure out an activity that would be a unique compliment to the Faire. We didn't want to compete with the other high velocity, high volume showcases. It took us a couple of days to land on an idea, but what we came up with was in complete contrast to everything else we thought would be presented at the Faire. Instead of turning up the volume, we decided to go in the opposite direction, and bring back the quiet of silent films, before everyone started talking. The idea was to create a drawing station based on Milton Glaser's book Drawing is Thinking. His fundamental idea from his book is that drawing is not simply a way to represent reality, but a way to understand and experience the world. Since most of the attendees of Maker Faire are of this new era, we thought, "what if we created a low-tech drawing experience where we built drawing boards in our wood shop, supplied 1000 pencils, some drawing figurines, and a few reams of paper, and just let kids draw. How would that go over?"
We were a bit concerned. On the positive side, we knew we wouldn't be competing with anyone, that we would be the only drawing booth. But we were a little concerned that our silence would get drowned out by all the beeping, roaring, and flashing lights of life-sized robots, volcanic video games and go-cart races. We decided to build the booth in spite of these concerns.
The first day of Maker Faire, we set up our drawing station, and posted a manifesto inspired by Milton Glaser's book on a large canvas behind the drawing tables. We laid out the wooden sketching boards, taped pieces of paper to them with painter's tape, scattered dozens of pencils on the table, and set the wooden sketching figurines in front of each board as inspiration.
The first few minutes seemed like hours. We watched kids walk past our booth and to the familiar destinations. I was thinking we had made a big mistake. There was no sign of excitement at our booth and we were literally in the epicenter of excitement. Drones flying over head, 3D printers, Robots, and go carts. I started thinking, "there's no way a pencil and paper is going to grab a kid's attention here." But then what happened was charming. About an hour in, a kid with his parent walked up to our booth. He was curious about the pencils. He picked one up and said, "Is this a real pencil? I've never held a real pencil before." And then another family came over, and the mother sat her kids down at the table and told them to draw something. As more people started to come over, others became interested in what was happening. And as the numbers of people grew around out booth, people began standing next to one another, talking to one another, drawing together. Parents began telling stories about how they used to draw as kids. .
Conversations between strangers were happening behind the silence of kids and adults drawing. And then what I consider the most beautiful part of the experience happened. People who had never met started giving their drawings away to one another. Kids would watch in silent disbelief as a person of artistic talent drew. I watched the exchange from the side as a shy kid asked a person who had just finished a drawing if she could have it. And I watched as the person gave the kid the drawing. That small act, witnessed by everyone at the booth, started a trend that continued all day.
For those who weren't asked to give their drawings away, we asked if they'd like us to hang their drawings up on the fence around our booth. And that started the next exchange. Within hours, we looked behind us to see hundreds of drawings taped up around the booth, an art gallery created on the spot by strangers, all displaying their work together.
Here are some images from the day:
Over the years I've worked on many interesting projects. And all of them have had a unique set of constraints and circumstances. Yet I have to say, working with the band O.A.R. to create a visual experience for their first Extended Stay Tour was one of my favorite experiences in work or life. Not just because I love the band, and their music, but because my cousin, Marc Roberge, is also the lead singer. Getting to work with him gave the project another level of meaning. Oddly, however, he and I barely spoke the entire time we worked on the project. That made it even more interesting, because we're neighbors and talk all the time. But as professionals, we share the same obsessive, perfectionist DNA about our work so we just went to work, and did our thing.
The project had certain limitations. It required us to design and build a visual experience for a rock concert, but the experience had to be light weight, easy to transport and assemble, and not take up much space in the equipment truck. The band wanted to make sure that they had a way of making each night it's own experience. If you have ever been to an O.A.R. show, then you know that no two shows are alike. For these shows, the band wanted to take fans across a historical journey of their nearly 20 years together, which would encompass their journey from childhood friends playing music in the basement to selling out Madison Square Garden.
Our solution was to create a three dimensional backdrop and develop custom animations, which we organized into a library of visual assets to deploy in realtime during the shows. We developed special software to trigger certain visuals based on the live tempo of the show. We worked with Epson as our projection partner and used our laptops to run the show. Without a budget for the more advanced equipment we typically use for these kinds of projects, we hacked together some different technologies to create a system to deploy these visuals in realtime. We created a live feed of the audience at the concert, and deployed it at various times throughout the show. The fans loved it!
We traveled with the band to three cities, did thirteen shows in three weeks. Every night, I loved the energy of the show. I was honestly a bit depressed when the project was over. Being on tour was an incredible rush of adrenaline every night. I can see how bands get addicted to it. There is no doubt that the culture of touring musicians embodies the secret ingredients of true collaboration.