Schlossberg talks design

Edwin Schlossberg speaks to an audience of more than 30 in the Saybrook College Master's House on Tuesday.
Edwin Schlossberg speaks to an audience of more than 30 in the Saybrook College Master's House on Tuesday. Photo by Senem Cilingiroglu.

In a museum designed by Edwin Schlossberg, visitors do not view the objects on display; they experience them.

Schlossberg, who spoke at a Saybrook College Master’s Tea Tuesday afternoon in Linsly-Chittenden Hall, explained his experience-based, game-centered collaborative museums and designs to more than 30 listeners. The talk was co-hosted by the Creative Consilience of Computer Science and Arts at Yale, an organization that promotes interdisciplinary studies combining the arts and computer science.

Schlossberg, the founder and principal of Edwin Schlossberg Inc. Design, shared images from his firm’s portfolio, explaining the role of design in enhancing knowledge through experience.

Pictures of people struggling to find their way through a maze guided solely by their sense of smell were followed by images of a visual contraption designed to recreate the world from the perspective of sheep.

“Humor is huge,” Schlossberg said, because it can encourage experimentation “without feeling burdened.”

Schlossberg said Macomber Farm — a 46-acre working farm and participatory educational facility for which he designed the maze and the visual device — has been a hit among children and adults alike.

“And for what it’s worth, it was fun seeing the people sniff their way out,” he said.

An emphasis on “empathy” shaped projects like the Macomber Farm, where ESI Design created interactive experiences, games and touchable displays to help people understand animals. Schlossberg said he was influenced by the capacity of computers to transform culture in his designs of dynamic 3-D environments containing both information and the notion of interactivity.

After graduating as a science and humanities major from Columbia University, Schlossberg began designing the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, hoping to make it an interactive, dynamic repository of information rather than simply another conventional “storage of what we’ve learned.”

Rae Bichell ’12 said she appreciated the interdisciplinary nature of Schlossberg’s designs.

“I love hearing from people who combine many subjects,” Bichell reflected after the Tea. “His projects are not just architecture and science, but more.”

Schlossberg’s daughter, Tatiana Schlossberg ’12, helped her father with the PowerPoint presentation, though she was not involved in organizing the event.

“I had no idea about it,” she said. “But it is very interesting to see how he presents his ideas and projects to people who do not have the same framework and background that I did growing up.”

Students and faculty alike said they were fascinated by Schlossberg’s vision for design.

“These ideas can have an effect on many people, especially at Yale where the acquisition of knowledge is valued above all else,” Pierson College Master Harvey Goldblatt said. “Speaking in his terms, we all need not only the material sense of knowledge but also something more, something spiritual and sensual.”

Schlossberg is married to Caroline Kennedy.

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