Connecting the Bricks

Why did I ever get so much into the bricks?

I used to play with LEGO when I was a child, like most children of my generation: my father dreamt of having an Architect daughter one day. He’d never imagined that instead of becoming an Architect and follow his dreams, I’d have kept playing with the bricks my way.

After 4 years of experiments, study and research – mostly done almost hidden in my room on my own – I have just came out and simply have found out that there was another way to delve into the power of LEGO, not as a mere playing toy, but as powerful tool to be used to find out more about ourselves, both as individuals – like the bricks’ based interviews – and as part of  larger, mutually related and dependent organism, with LSP.

The way we talk and think, how we conceptualise the world and the words we use to picture our world, are just bricks of our minds, where material bricks come as a precious aid to better connect our inner thoughts.

We think through metaphors, it seems that most of our abstract thinking is strictly related to our physical dimension and experience: we know because we can relate to things through our experience. Most of our concepts come from an empirical experience – as Lakoff & Johnson (1980) noted, we live by metaphors: our love relationships are journeys (how many times did we asked our beloved ones where is this relationship goingor said This relationship is stuck?), arguments are wars (we fight for our ideas, we defend our claims, attack our interlocutors…)… There is a strict relationship between our physical experiences and they way we understand and explain our ideas and our worlds, and such a connection is reflected in our words, in the stories we tell.

Such a relationship has been identfied in a single way, from words to experience: we can detect in the stories, verbs and words we tell a relationship to something else, something external, belonging to the experiential realm.

With the bricks we can experiment and assist to a reverse path: through the physical experience of constructing a tridimensional object made by simple bricks we connect the dots, we build abstract concepts that emerge directly from something contingent and physically experienced. Indeed, they emerge during the physical interaction with the object – the construction, the modification and the analysis of the model, which is simply the materialised experience of a cognitive process.

It’s a fascinating process, an intriguing and innovative look into the way we think, express our feelings with words and objects, something that goes beyond the Cartesian saying Cogito ergo sum. Not perhaps a Shift as Kuhn would call it, but a small step towards a new understanding of our minds and experiences.

A number of exciting research is going on in the field of embodied cognition, focusing on the relationship between our cognitive paths – to say it with a metaphor – and our physical experience.

My experiments now are going into the direction of exploring creative minds and creative process: that’s how dealing with people who is supposed to be creative ‘by definition’, like Architects, is bringing brand new inputs and ideas to my work. The recent research I have been writing about, conducted at the Department of Architecture at University of Ferrara, and the project I am working now, a full 3 days’ event focusing on LEGO, LSP and inclusive design that is involving mainly architects, to exploit their creativity with LEGO and help them to discover something more about the way they think about key concepts, like Heritage, colour and their profession, is going to bring a large amount of fresh data to work on to explore creative processes and the concepts underlying architecture and all those abstract ideas we all think we are familiar with, but…

If I’d ask you what is Colour, what is Architecture or what is Heritage… and if I’d refuse to listen to all those well-known notions you all have read in books… what would you say?

Don’t say anything… play it!


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