"This is a high-tech version of a pinata," says David Rockwell when describing his latest project Build Up! At first glance the rendering above makes you think this installation is a cool city skyline projected onto a huge screen. Which is kind of neat, but nothing to write home about...or so you think. Ah ha! But what you can't see is that the image of the skyline has been created by the crowd below by using an iPad app. As the crowd of people mingle with each other they can also interact with the screen above by choosing a picture of a building on the available iPads and pushing it up the iPad screen. The building will then appear on the overhanging screen and its height and location within the skyline is determined by how hard the person "pushed" it up the iPad. As more guests participate the buildings change color and pattern based on how many appear in the skyline.
"Something that is very much on my mind these days is using technology in public ways to connect people versus technology that separates people," says Rockwell. His team developed the software for Build Up! and is just at the beginning of finding innovative ways to bring people together. He is the same guy, after all, who developed the Imagination Playground recently highlighted in New York City's Festival Of Ideas. "I see design through the lens of play and my earliest interest in design came from the Rube Goldberg style. I want to re-introduce the notion of play and the importance of it."
Rockwell will give the keynote talk at the National Building Museum's annual gala this Tuesday evening and not only will he talk about the importance of play, but also the importance of taking risks. "You have to take risks in creativity. If you look at kids on a playground they all start by building individual things, but after about fifteen minutes they start looking around and trying to find ways to build things together. It is the imaginative open approach that is important."