WISS Today Article

By Wei Wei Gluckman, WISS parent

The Gluckman family (Andrew, Wei Wei, Kai (Grade 3) and Kexin (Grade 1) joined WISS in 2016.   Wei Wei is a trained architect, but not in a traditional sense. This is an adaptation of Wei Wei Gluckman’s TedTalk given at Tedxyouth@WISS.

I am Wei Wei Shannon Gluckman and I play architecture.

I am here to talk about play and how play allows creative expression come through naturally.

What do you play? I leave that question with you today.

Do you know how many combinations a few 2X4 LEGO bricks can make?

  • Two eight-stud LEGO bricks of the same color can be combined in 24 different ways.
  • Three eight-stud bricks can be combined in 1,060 ways.
  • There are more than 915 million combinations possiblefor six 2 x 4 LEGO bricks of the same color.

You might ask, “How do you play architecture?” Well, let me first tell you a little about myself. Like many of you, I am bi-lingual.  I was born and raised in Beijing, China and move to the United States of America when I was 13. In America is where I got my higher education and was trained as an architect.  Afterwards, my later to be husband and I, we create People’s Architecture Foundation, where we curated architecture exhibitions, and organized education forums and conference around the topic of architecture, urbanism and design.  Basically, we focused on everything that deals with creative expression of architecture.

In 2006, is when I first encountered Lego professionally.  At that time, People’s Architecture and ArtAsiaPasific Magazine invited leading Asian and Pacific architects to create original architectural models from custom kits of white Lego bricks with the intent to raise awareness about architectural preservation in Asia.  The project engages concepts of creativity through play and issues of urbanism, new design and heritage awareness that affect architects in a region undergoing dramatic change a development.

But everything changed when I became a mom.  Having children has changed my view on play and creativity all together.  As I grow with my children, I play with them, discover, and learn from them.  My son Kai’s favorite form of play is asking questions, changeling, negotiating with me.  I later learned that kids do not ask questions to seek answers; they ask questions so that you can think with them together. So next time if your child asks you: “Mom, why does the moon follow me?”, instead, of giving a long drawn out answer of the earth’s relationship to the moon and sun, you can just ask back, “Does the sun also follows you?”

My daughter Kexin’s favorite form of play time is role play.  After visiting the dentist, she would come home, find gloves, mask, all kinds of tools to clean her doll’s teeth.  Children play to learn how to engage people, they role play as a way to understand social interaction with others.  Playing with my kids, taught me lot about how to play, and how to discover and how to create.

Last week I had the chance to play with some adults from Hubei province. I was invited as specialist to participate in “Child poverty reduction comprehensive development pilot project”.  So, we play to tell stories.  We inspire local people adults and kids to tell stories about themselves and their home.

During this project, there was a Party member who built a memory based on his experience as a soldier.  He told stories of the war of resistance against Japanese.


Someone else built a story about home.  Her home is on wheels, because it is always on the go.  The best part about her home is the memories she has left with each place.

Through these stories, we piece together an understanding of them and the place they live. Through playing they were able to share with us normally they would not know how, they had a voice.

Last but not least, is playing and create with others together.

This is a power plant at Beijing 751 D-Park.  Since the1970s, this power plant was responsible for supplying Beijing’s energy for 30 years. With better technology, we now have more environmental sound energy resources.  So, the beautiful steel forest is left along with their stories yet to tell.

This is play to discover.  We invite the public to play with us, by playing and creating, together we learn from the past, become aware of the present, and imagine the future.

For one month, we invited public to visit the power plant, and play and create with us, for the installation, we place all the art work inside the power plant, made the steel forest alive again. Kids were playing and discovering, running around and dancing.

Play is a frame of mind, is a natural channel to creative expression. Play is asking questions, acting, tell stories, changing roles, changing rules, play is productive, open, discovery, social, and very serious too.

Keep on playing!

Have fun!