An exciting forthcoming conference on play with and about the Classics:
Playfully Rebuilding the Past: Construction Sets Inspired by Greek Antiquity
Construction sets are toys whose creation has been inspired by the architectural and technological environments; they have been devised and developed by adults on the basis of the opportunities these environments afford for play and for pleasurable instruction. Naturally, such toys lend themselves to reconstructions and representations of historical architecture, including ancient Greek buildings, whether eponymous or generic. The Graecia set designed in 1911 by the German firm Anker-Richter and the late-twentieth century Parthenon by the Japanese firm Nanoblock are among several designs inspired by the architecture of Greek antiquity. Arguably, antiquity-inspired construction sets (including their packaging, instruction manuals and advertisements) reflect more than anything else their manufacturers’ attempts to capture cultural trends, adapt them into playful form and make them marketable. At the same time, actual user experiences remain elusive, especially for the older sets, while reactions to recent sets are more easily accessible thanks to internet sales and associated on-line feedback. The paper will present construction sets of the 19th to 21st centuries based on ancient Greek architecture, in order to discuss the shifting meanings of antiquity for a range of users: producers, designers, marketers, the –mostly– adult purchasers and the primarily – but not exclusively – children users. The presentation will illustrate how construction toys offer a convenient medium to playfully deconstruct and refashion the classical Greek heritage in different social and temporal contexts.