Reiman Gardens brings oversized TOYS! to life

Reiman Gardens has a new exhibit in the Conservatory for the month of May featuring a Rube Goldberg machine composed of oversized toys. TOYS! Studio, a class taught by Mitchell Squire, created the device.

Thaddeus Mast

Reiman Gardens has gained a few new accessories to adorn the flowers: Huge, oversized toys are now scattered throughout, forming an intricate, self-running chain reaction, a type of Rube Goldberg machine.

The students in the TOYS! Studio designed and constructed the device.

Mitchell Squire, associate professor of architecture and teacher of the studio, described why he has used toys as the premise for a studio class that has been running for three years.

“I wanted [the studio] to be open to different majors, from design to architecture. I didn’t want to weight it in any particular area.”

Toys are a perfect bridge that spans all the design majors. In the past, the spring studio has built a puppet theater and a miniature golf course, but this year the project was a bit larger.

“Reiman Gardens was the first type of design-build project we’ve had,” Squire said. “This was a studio unlike anything I’ve ever taught.”

Kara Thompson, a student in interior design, said this aspect was what drew her into taking the class.

“I thought it would be really fun to actually build something.”

The studio’s purpose was to instill the process of creating an idea, how to manage a project and how to communicate with clients. The client in this project was Reiman Gardens itself, which provided funding for the TOYS! Studio to design and build something that fits into their 2012 theme “Some Assembly Required.”

In addition to managing and communication, Squire had a second objective that grew throughout the semester.

“The idea is to not let your limitations manifest into a limited project. You’ve got to overachieve,” Squire said. “Had they not been able to let their minds and imagination soar beyond what they knew they could do, then they would not have been able to overachieve.”

While this helped the students create an intricate machine by semester’s end, it did not make for an easy project.

“It was definitely challenging,” Thompson said. “It was challenging to design it as a class.”

“I don’t think anyone would claim this studio was not a challenge,” Squire said. “It was full of all of the kinds of things one would expect to have. There were frustrations, great concerns about logistical things, such as where are we going to build this thing, whose tools are we going to use, whose expertise do we need. The one thing it didn’t have, thankfully, is no one got injured.”

Were the hardships worth it? Thompson thought so: “I thought the class was really rewarding. I would encourage everyone to build something they design. It was by far my favorite class at Iowa State.”

Squire agreed: “I think everyone would say they learned something. … This particular project gave us a lot of real life lessons.”

Squire will maintain the project until the exhibit closes Nov. 16. He says TOYS! Studio is not done yet.

“I’ll offer the studio next semester. It seems well worth our time to engage in some large scale construction.”