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Since his childhood, Tomm Velthuis, Design Academy Eindhoven graduate 2011, has been fascinated by ‘Meccano’ - a model construction system comprising re-usable metal strips, plates, angle girders and pulleys, that can be assembled with nuts and bolts. The standardised elements of Meccano appeal to children with an aptitude for engineering and construction. The clink of metal and the greasy handling of nuts and bolts deliver an unparalleled affinity with real-world structures and mechanical devices. Tomm reignites this passion in ‘Meccano 2.0’ - one of his graduation projects from the department of ‘Man and Communication’, at Design Academy Eindhoven.

In fact, the notion of ‘Play’ is a recurring theme in much of Tomm’s work. Thisdesigner appreciates that play more than any other activity fuels human development. In ‘Meccano 2.0’, Tomm has ingeniously reinvented the concept of this century-old toy. He’s transformed the familiar and made it new: appropriated uniform pieces and connections and redesigned them. Contorted the sheet-metal parts into impossible shapes, retained the familiar drilled-hole pattern and painted them with bright primary colours. The resulting shapes invite the creation of an infinite number of objects.

At first glance, Tomm’s working models resemble those of Moholy-Nagy from the 1930s. Works of art that stand at the intersection of kinetic art, the machine aesthetic and material innovation. But Tomm’s project is no art-installation. In truth, the unattached bespoke metal pieces are the real stars of the show. Metaphorically, the parts are new letters of the alphabet primed for a different vocabulary. These striking and original shapes pose questions. How to make sense of things? It’s a problem-solving task to stimulate lateral thinking. The shapes are intentionally impractical, unorthodox, and ill-fitting. They require the making of different choices; and can be seen as a tool to unlock the imagination. Unlike conventional Meccano pieces, there is no preconceived form, or instant reward. Gratification comes via perseverance. A struggle that may ultimately lead one on a different path, and to unexpected possibilities.

Furthermore, could Tomm’s project echo the sentiments of the daring and visionary architect Zaha Hadid? “It is insufficient for architecture today to directly implement an existing building typology; it instead requires architects to carefully examine the whole area with new interventions and programmatic typologies”. ‘Meccano 2.0’ can be read as a commentary on outmoded ways of dealing with problems. It's a prompt to think outside the redefined box.

In short, Tomm’s ‘Meccano 2.0’ packages creativity, engineering and aesthetics into one large brown box. A package that boldly declares ‘Serious Fun’, because to paraphrase Meccano’s iconic motto: “We can imagine anything with Meccano 2.0!”.

By The Stone Twins
Head of Department Man and Communication
Design Academy Eindhoven

Published: 25-Jan-2012 13:43


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  • Meccano 2.0

    Tomm Velthuis

  • Meccano 2.0

    Tomm Velthuis