Toys for the Blind at Cooper Union

January 30, 2012

Cooper Union Stock Photo

The Architect's Newspaper blog recently featured the work of faculty member and alumna Tamar Zinguer's class at Cooper Union, where students create "playful constructions"—applying architectural principles to a tangible scale.

For years Professor Zinguer (AR'89) has asked students to think critically about design in terms of restrained size. This year she constricted that restraint further: she asked her class to design toys that function in a purely tactile way and forgo visuality all together. The results are constructions that engender learning and play primarily through touch. Read and see more on the Architect's newspaper blog:

“How can a construction toy be ‘playful’?” This is the problem that Tamar Zinguer asked her Cooper Union students in a recent seminar focused on the architecture of play.  For this session, Zinguer, who has taught the course before, decided to eliminate the visual aspect, a sensory aspect of toy design highly relied upon in previous seminars’ constructions.  Focusing less on color and more on the experience of the object, the result is a set of innovative and wonderfully textured toys, from blocks to shells, that encourage play for the visually impaired.

The project required that students to debate the meaning of architectural toys and critique each other’s theories and study models. Through various case studies students were able to understand the evolution of these specific concepts of play and begin their process of invention.

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  • Founded by inventor, industrialist and philanthropist Peter Cooper in 1859, The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art offers education in art, architecture and engineering, as well as courses in the humanities and social sciences.

  • “My feelings, my desires, my hopes, embrace humanity throughout the world,” Peter Cooper proclaimed in a speech in 1853. He looked forward to a time when, “knowledge shall cover the earth as waters cover the great deep.”

  • From its beginnings, Cooper Union was a unique institution, dedicated to founder Peter Cooper's proposition that education is the key not only to personal prosperity but to civic virtue and harmony.

  • Peter Cooper wanted his graduates to acquire the technical mastery and entrepreneurial skills, enrich their intellects and spark their creativity, and develop a sense of social justice that would translate into action.