Bilibo at the Museum of Modern Art

Bilibo has become something of a global sensation in the 9 years following its birth, winning toy and design awards in Germany, Switzerland, the US and the UK. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Bilibo is now being featured in an exhibit at the MoMA.

It’s part of Shape Lab, an interactive space where families can experiment with shape and composition. Shape Lab visitors can create magnetic wall-art, build with large blocks, draw, think and read about shape. And thanks to Alex Hochstrasser, the man behind Bilibo’s enchanting design, they can also spin and play with a smiling plastic shell!

Alex Hochstrasser

Alex Hochstrasser created Bilibo for Active People in 2001, after researching and observing preschoolers’ play and speaking with childhood development experts. His goal was to make an open-ended toy that children could interact with mentally and physically. In an interview with Active People he said of Bilibo, “it’s very much about the children becoming inventors and authors themselves.”

Bilibo is a good fit for Shape Lab; it’s visually appealing and functional. Describing an impression of personality inherent in Bilibo, Hochstrasser said, “even when you have just one shell there is a smiling expression I like very much because it kind of encompasses the entire object.”

“Really good design must do more than just work. There needs to be some poetry, something magic which is very difficult to describe. I think with Bilibo I was fortunate to create a simple piece of plastic that actually seems to have something like a soul,“ he said.

Girl in yellow holding Bilibo

“Too obvious ornaments like faces or explicit functional elements will limit the possibility to reinterpret the toy in different ways. An object that is too abstract and generic will feel cold and uninviting on the other hand. So it needs to have a character, feel friendly and trigger memories and images in a very subtle way.”

(I developed a bit of an intellectual crush on Alex Hochstrasser as I read his interview, which is why I’m quoting it so extensively.) “Bilibo also reminds me of some friendly aquatic creatures“ he said. “Personally I sometimes use Bilibos as punch-bowls when I throw a party.“

Shape Lab

Shape Lab and Bilibo will be at the MoMA until August 30, 2010. Admission for the museum includes admission to Shape Lab. I’ve also read that families can usually go straight there without paying for museum tickets if they ask at the reception desk. Shape Lab is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday, from 10:30 am to 5 pm and Friday from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm.

This has been a Growing Tree Toys Amazing Toys Post. All quoted material is from Alex Hochstrasser’s Interview with Active People, March 2007. Photos of Bilibo at Shape Lab came from the Bilibo facebook page. Photo of Alex Hochstrasser is from his website.

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