If much of the MIT curriculum is everywhere underpinned by technological exploration, nowhere is this exploration as motivated by play as in the Toy Lab. Tasked with designing a space that accommodates Toy Product Design instruction and experimentation, organization and flexibility became the primary aims.  

Both of these aspirations are encapsulated in a custom crafted millwork wall that, like the mechanical play objects it contains, can be manipulated – albeit more for function than fun. A modulated plywood grid of material storage modules, toolbox pedestals, and workbenches pull out to augment work stations while providing a graphic identity that unifies the Toy Lab’s two spaces. Colorful steel-framed niches within the overall grid assembly serve as display areas for toys both completed and under construction.

Just as the rear wall can be pulled out, so too do floor and ceiling surfaces extend outwards to pull passerby into the spaces, which are positioned on opposing sides of MIT’s famed ‘Infinite Corridor’. Bright floor graphics in durable rubber and acoustic ceiling treatments form stripes that suggest a connection between the spaces while catching the eye of those moving between them. Folding glass panel doors slide open at the corridor to foster these flows while offering an opportunity to share the work with the larger community.  

Professor David Wallace of the Toy Lab, sees the space from a position of innovation, “Basic principles about play are pretty time invariant, but the technology that one might see in toys is constantly changing, as are ways in which we might interact with toys—and our toolkit for designing toys changes over time.” The Toy Lab supports and embodies this dynamic mission of innovation with a design that can be pulled apart and reassembled each day: where the building blocks of inspiration, tools, and materials are made close at hand.

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