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The Classic Meccano Toy Set Gets A 21st Century Spin

Since he was a child, Dutch designer Tomm Velthuis has been obsessed with Meccano, a toy set consisting of colorful metal plates, angle girders, and pulleys that can be assembled and reassembled with nuts and bolts. Today, Velthuis has reimagined the original Meccano, invented in 1900 by British designer Frank Hornby, with a project called Meekaanoo.

Instead of making pieces that fit sensibly together and form recognizable machines and structures, as in the original Meccano set, Meekanoo’s pieces are intentionally impractical, unorthodox, and ill-fitting. Building with them creates abstract, colorful sculptures resembling Alexander Calder mobiles or Rube Goldberg machines. “It’s more an art piece than a product,” Velthuis tells Co.Design. “But that fine line between art and design is, for me, the most interesting.”

Photo by Tim Stet

Velthuis was inspired by a fascination with “functionless” products. “Something that looks like a thing you can use, but doesn’t work, makes your mind go ‘huh,’ and grabs your attention,” Velthuis says. With Meekaanoo, he aims “to bring back fantasy and imagination into our high-speed, pragmatic lives.” The sculptures can be broken down into their basic pieces and reassembled, encouraging adults to play, and functioning as quirky decorations for the home.

“Meekaanoo” is on view at Self Unself at the Collective Design Fair in New York, an exhibit of work from Design Academy Eindhoven, from May 8 to 11.CD