Play exhibition presents Modernist toys at a London furniture showroom

London Festival of Architecture 2015: London studio Systems has organised an exhibition that brings together forgotten 1960s toys including Interslot, Bird and Fish, and Marble Run (+ slideshow).

The Play: Toys, Sets, Rules exhibition at furniture brand Walter Knoll's London showroom will feature a range of Modernist children's toys.

Plytek Chair, Ken Garland + Associates c.1965, unrealised prototype
Plytek Chair, Ken Garland + Associates c.1965, unrealised prototype

The exhibition, which opens tomorrow, will run alongside a series of workshops designed to encourage learning through play and making.

Galt Post Office, Ken Garland + Associates 1967, produced by James Galt
Galt Post Office, Ken Garland + Associates 1967, produced by James Galt

The toys on show were sourced from the personal archives of their designers: Roger Limbrick, Patrick Rylands, Fredun Shapur and Ken Garland – a loosely associated group that emerged in 1960s London.

Playplax, Patrick Rylands 1966, produced by James Galt
Playplax, Patrick Rylands 1966, produced by James Galt

During that time a number of designers began to think about the kind of objects that children could learn from as they play, and about their own work as designers in the same context.

Fädelfische, Fredun Shapur 1980, produced by Selecta-Spielzeug
Fädelfische, Fredun Shapur 1980, produced by Selecta-Spielzeug

Now largely forgotten, the toys that resulted from the period are described as "extraordinarily generous, humane and beautiful objects" by Systems, which curated, designed and produced the exhibition.

Balancing Troupers, Fredun Shapur 1963, prototype (later realised by Kurt Naef)
Balancing Troupers, Fredun Shapur 1963, prototype (later realised by Kurt Naef)

"Play offers a unique survey of late Modernist approaches to child development and design and, as such, a variety of ways in which we might think of both play and design as formative and speculative activities," said the curators.

Interslot, Roger Limbrick c.1964, produced by Roger Limbrick Associates
Interslot, Roger Limbrick c.1964, produced by Roger Limbrick Associates

The toys on show include Limbrick's Interslot – a series of coloured plywood squares with different shapes cut out of them and slots enabling them to be connected into three-dimensional forms.

Bird and Fish, Patrick Rylands 1970, produced by Trendon
Bird and Fish, Patrick Rylands 1970, produced by Trendon

Bird and Fish by Rylands are rounded bath toys designed to be easy for young children to hold onto.

Play – Modernist Toy Exhibition by Systems Project
Marble Run, Ken Garland + Associates 1964, produced by James Galt

Ken Garland's Marble Run is a forerunner of the contemporary version, comprising two wooden uprights connected by a series of diagonal runs through which a marble can travel from top to bottom.

Play – Modernist Toy Exhibition by Systems Project
Open Side Dolls’ House, Roger Limbrick 1963, produced by James Galt

Other designs that feature in the display include an open-sided doll's house, a set of blocks that stack into an octahedron, and a prototype for a chair made from interlocking wooden planes.

Slow Truck, Patrick Rylands 1972, produced by Creative Playthings
Slow Truck, Patrick Rylands 1972, produced by Creative Playthings

They will be shown with a number of continental designs from the same period lent to the exhibition from the personal collection of Marion Hine, who founded a workshop programme called Thinking by Making in 2011.

Ark, Rumbold Gallery c. 1970, produced by Creative Playthings
Ark, Rumbold Gallery c. 1970, produced by Creative Playthings

Hine developed the workshops from a model originally conceived in collaboration with Limbrick, to enable children to use card construction and other materials to "let their imaginations run wild".

Jumbling Jumbo, Isaac Weinfeld + Jan Vinot c. 1955, produced by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt
Jumbling Jumbo, Isaac Weinfeld + Jan Vinot c. 1955, produced by Paul and Marjorie Abbatt

A series of these workshops for 7- to 12-year-old children will be held for free alongside the exhibition.

Grabber, designer unkown c. 1960, produced by Konrad Keller
Grabber, designer unkown c. 1960, produced by Konrad Keller

Play runs at Walter Knoll's Charterhouse Square showroom until 3 July, as part of this year's London Festival of Architecture.