This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good

Golan Levin, Shawn Sims. Free Universal Construction Kit. 2012 311

Digital files. Gift of the Committee on Architecture and Design and Shapeways

Golan Levin: I'm Golan Levin, and the project you're seeing is the Free Universal Construction Kit, which I created in collaboration with my student, Shawn Simms.

The Free Universal Construction Kit is a set of about 80 different adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between 10 popular children's construction toys. The Kit is available as a set of free CAD files that anyone can download and print out on a 3D printer.

I had this experience with my four-year-old son when he was trying to connect Legos and Tinker Toys. He became very frustrated that they wouldn't connect, and that they would even not be designed to connect was a mystery to him. And it occurred to me that this was actually not entirely unlike what we experience as adults when we have software systems. If you purchase a computer from one manufacturer, you can't play a video file from someone who has a different operating system. I consider this to be a significant limitation of how we can work and think.

The Free Universal Construction Kit is a physicalized metaphor of this using something we can all relate to, which is these children's toys. By seeing these adapters, we can immediately understand the ways in which our lives are similarly constrained. The audience is everyone, and its purpose is not necessarily to connect toys, but to get us to think about the ways that things are designed to be non-compatible. The burden is now on us – on everyday people – to overcome these limitations.

So the kit is not a product, but rather it's a provocation.

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