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A colouring book to inspire architects of the future

14 November 2019

Helen Castle, RIBA Publishing Director, introduces an exciting opportunity for designers and illustrators.

Young child attending the RIBA Festival of Learning, October 2019.

What first introduced you to the notion of being an architect or designer? For a whole generation of architects who grew up in the postwar years, it was Meccano with its emphasis on the nuts and bolts of construction. Dutch practice Mecanoo even named themselves after the building set. Other architects were inspired by the vernacular of Minibrix: interlocking rubber bricks that created heavy rigid models of real buildings, such as the Old House, Newgate, York, and the Old Moot Hall in Aldeburgh, Suffolk. This realistic construction toy, aimed squarely at boys with an accompanying magazine and club, was made from 1935 to the early 1970s by the Premo Rubber Company of Petersfield, Hampshire, as a sideline to manufacturing rubber shoe heels.

In the 70s and 80s, Lego was gloriously multicoloured and non-gendered. (I was horrified that by the early 2000s when my daughter was small that Lego had either turned pink or into a Transformer set.) The hours before breakfast – way before parents were up – were spent sprawled across the carpet, building towers, castles and houses out of bright yellow, red, green and blue plastic bricks. Favourite drawing and colouring toys at home were Spirograph, Etch A Sketch and Altair Design Pattern colouring books. My sister, an illustrator, who has now transferred her skills to the iPad Pro, was particularly adept at Etch A Sketch with its mechanical knobs controlling a single continuous line. Days were dedicated to creating an elaborate drawing that could be rubbed out in one malicious shake.

For current students of architecture, it is probably Simcity or Minecraft that first captured their imaginations and turned their attention to the possibility of designing buildings and interiors.

The demand for the simple colouring book, though, has not gone away with the onset of the digital. Colouring books are irresistibly mobile for parents – they can be whipped out of a bag in cafés, trains and planes – and have the power to immediately absorb and engage children. The ArchiDoodle activity books are a favourite in the RIBA Bookshop. It was bookshop manager Peter Roseman who first brought the publishing team’s attention to the gap in the market for an architectural colouring book for younger children with a regular stream of customers requesting one as a gift for their children or grandchildren. The project has presented an opportunity to team up with the talented RIBA Learning team and produce a brief for an illustrator that will rethink the colouring book for 5 to 7 year olds. Andrew Nelson, RIBA Head of Learning, describes the aims of the project "to present a visual feast of real and imagined spaces through cross sections, axonometrics, plans and bird’s-eye views in an engaging way to introduce younger children to the visual language of architecture, while sparking their early interest in the built environment around them."

The search is now on for that special individual to pen the colouring book. RIBA Publishing is putting out an open call for applications. We are seeking a designer that not only has a unique talent for illustration but a characterful drawing style that can impart a sense of delight in everyday buildings, as well as spectacular architecture, and inspire a whole new generation of would-be architects.

If you have a proven track record of producing architectural drawings or illustrations of the built environment, and have a style that is attractive and engaging for children, and would like to apply for the project, please see details. The deadline is Monday 25 November 2019.



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