Fish Five flew in to Tokyo for the International Gift Show, September 2-5, 2008. It is a huge show with 2,400 exhibitors and 200,000 attendees.
Q-BA-MAZE won the award for "Best New Product in the Hobby and Collectible Category." Attendees of the Show in Tokyo viewed the new products and cast their votes on individual anonymous ballots.
It is quite an honor to have our marble run receive such recognition before such a large audience on our first viewing in Tokyo and I look forward to the introduction of Q-BA-MAZE throughout Japan.
While exploring Tokyo one evening after the Show let out, I stumbled upon a building that I had helped design in 1997: Shiodome City Center by KRJDA Architects. I was actually on an excursion looking at toy stores that may carry Q-BA-MAZE in the future. As I made my way to Hakuhinkan Toy Park, I was stunned to see the toy store and the skyscraper simultaneously. A decade of my life was neatly framed in this single view and it reminded me again of the relationship between architectural design and Q-BA-MAZE:
Shiodome City Center is the blue glass skyscraper on the left and Hakuhinkan Toy Park is on the right.
When designing buildings, architects build simple models and sketch alternate plans. They work back-and-forth in 2D and 3D. This variety of ways of looking at the emerging design provides more opportunities for inspiration. Industrial designers, engineers, and sculptors also think in 2D and 3D as they work through their projects.
The Q-BA-MAZE cubes and the Q-BA-MAZE instruction plans are specifically designed for anyone to experience this process of back-and-forth 2D plus 3D design thinking.
The cubes are especially sturdy and have rounded edges so that they are comfortable in the hand. There is a satisfaction in the way they engage with one another. By being a modular set of just three types the system is easy to learn. Because the cubes may inter-lock in so many different ways, the sculptural potential is endless. In this way, the Q-BA-MAZE cubes encourage intuitive 3-dimensional experimentation and construction. With the added element of the rolling marbles, function comes into play in addition to form. Since the cubes inter-lock in a grid pattern, every layer of a Q-BA-MAZE construction is a grid when viewed from above. These grids can be seen in all Q-BA-MAZE construction plans, like those for Fish Five:
Comparing the construction plans for Fish Five and a few floor plans for Shiodome City Center (below), one sees how the 2D plan drawing works for both a toy and a building.
During the Shiodome design process at KRJDA Architects, we made drawings and built models from a few inches high all the way up to a giant 12 foot high final presentation model! A moment of discovery in the design of Shiodome was when the convex curve of the outer walls was replaced with a subtle S-curve. That outer wall had been a convex curve for weeks. I still remember the day when our boss, the (Pritzker Prize winning) architect Kevin Roche made this decision about the S-curve and we all set about changing the drawings and models for the project. Now that I have seen the building in real life, I see that it is this S-curve feature that really distinguishes Shiodome from other skyscrapers and gives it a unique beauty of its own. My guess is that Kevin first thought of this S-curve as a line drawn on a 2D plan.
One can switch back and forth, between thinking in terms of plan or in terms of form, between thinking in 2D and 3D. Having these different ways to look at a situation assists the design process. At the scale of a toy or the scale of a building, much of the design thinking used is the same. With Q-BA-MAZE, people follow plans for building fish, robots, dinosaurs and towers, and they experiment and design new structures of their own. Through this, they experience the joy of design.
Fish Five at the Tokyo International Gift Show posing with its "Best New Product" trophy.