In Roger Caillois duality of Ludus (structure) and Paidia (playfulness), which I think is still relevant today (even though I’m not very fond of binaries), you see two polar ends of the playfield. Ludus being the forms of play which define rigorous structures and make you twist and turn to fulfill predetermined and normally competitive goals/outcomes. Paidia being the free unregulated form of play with no determined elements. Humans have a tendency to turn Paidia into Ludus as it replicates many of the movements of the world, from organic foundations to structured and regulated forms. This transition being a great example of the anthropocentric and structural motions in our society, if we try to undercut or reverse the currents in the structures of play maybe we can create places to test out our own new formations?
Cas Holman is a Play Designer and Professor at Rhode Island School of Design, with a practice focusing on play without limits. She creates open elements that become playful and interactive through a person’s imagination. Rigamajig (pictured below) is one of these toys, elements of wooden struts, rope, bolts and pulleys create a foundation for any possibility. Holman in an interview says, “The moment I see things I wouldn’t have thought of, that’s when I know it’s been successful, when it has a life of its own, that kids are inventing things I couldn’t have”. With Rigamajig there is the possibility for this; for children, the life size nature of it and the subtle clues that invite investigation lead them to an uncertain but adventurous journey. Each hole, form or length being some component to their imaginary phenomena.
Holman uses a loose set of preformed and essential rules, the essence of each objects possibilities being the corner stone of their function, what it can do is what it does. On the play end it is hyper flexible, the minimal form/aesthetic draws back from formed narratives and makes a perfect canvas to project your imagination onto. I really appreciate the role she has taken on in designing these and I am taking this ethos of undercutting and reversing the flow of play to reroute it into a Paidia oriented approach, using few rules to bring about a simple and yet flux foundation for endless phenomena to be created.