Q&A | Paper Playscapes

In 2014 the Victoria & Albert Digital Programmes ran an open call for an interactive installation to be displayed at the Elephant and Castle Mini Maker Faire. Designers Artemis Papageorgiou and Gabriella Mastrangelo won with their proposal for Paper Playscapes – a cardboard ‘landscape’ to be built by participants on the day, embedded with electronics, and a game created with responsive hand built stools called LumiChairs.

When we caught a glimpse of it at the Maker Faire it looked like loads of fun – kids and adults were painting circuits and sensors on cardboard and assembling their own modules before adding them to a giant structure in the centre of the room, while others were playing with the LumiChairs. As we were all had our hands full at Maker Faire, Grace talked with Artemis and Gabriella after the event to find out more.

Congratulations on such a great project and winning the open call at the V&A. Did the installation turn out how you expected?

Gabriella: In the proposal we just gave suggestion of what it might look like but in the end the structure was made by everyone, so we didn’t know exactly what it would look like.

Artemis: It was open and it was meant to be a landscape and it was made the people, so it was very close to what we had proposed – it was educational, participatory and playful.

Why did you choose to work with Electric Paint? 

Artemis: I liked the idea of working with paper and electronics. I think painting is the basic, its one of the things that everyone has worked with and it fits well with paper. Its also very surprising. Its surprising to create sensors out of paint for me as a designer and most people, because it changes the function of materials they already know like paint and paper.

What was happening in the space at Maker Faire? It looked like lots of fun.

Artemis: In that space, three things were happening at the same time: people were painting with Electric Paint, understanding the basics of a circuit and the basics of interaction, allowing sometime for their module to dry, and then with the same module they would build a brick, add to an installation and they actually had to understand a bit of mechanics too. People were also playing. Using Electric Paint was very important to this as is initiated them into making, and forced them to think ‘what are we going to do next?’ 

Can you tell me about Lumichairs, the interactive stools?

Gabriella:  The stools were designed to be an element of the game, a hacked version of musical chairs. At the same time they were the pillars or the support of the installation. They had both functions.

Artemis: We integrated Lumnichairs into the design we proposed to the V&A, so people could choose whether they wanted to play or build. Some people want to engage for 5 – 10 minutes, and other people stay longer and play and paint.

How did the participants respond to the activities?

Gabriella: People loved playing with the chairs, and the kids loved pressing the button you had to push. Participation was good for both sides of the project, but we gave more space to the building blocks than the chairs.

Artemis: Kids would come up and play with the light on the stools, and a lot of kids were just drawn to them, but we did pay more attention to the making session in the end. I found a lot of the participants very up to date, I found them very aware. 

Whats on the horizon for Paper Playscapes?

Artemis: We’re will be putting on future events in Athens and Rome, mainly creating participatory interactions with paper and paint. We’ve got a lot on, sometimes using the paint and sometimes not, but its all an evolution of the project!

Check out the Paper Playscapes website to learn more.