When is a toy more than a toy? When it helps bring a community together through the joyful process of making low-impact art that beautifies a public space, of course. BLOOM, an urban toy made from recycled plastic, achieves this perfect synthesis with quiet simplicity. Equal parts recycling project, distributed social game, and collective “gardening” experience, BLOOM encourages citizens to take an active role in creating original art.

BLOOM, art, crowdsourcing, community art, public spaces, UK, Olympics, recycled plastic

Although BLOOM installations are often very large, they’re made up of only one unique piece, which is a small “cell” that features three different connecting grooves. Similar to other toys you might have had as a kid, the cells are designed to connect to each other in a multitude of ways, allowing the formation of an infinite number of dynamic, original sculptures. By recombining three different connections in each cell, or following rhythms of repeating strings of identical connections, you can build a ring, a spiral or a distributed branch, among other things.

Aside from being a clever way to get people interested in making art, BLOOM is also a demonstration of what’s possible when we collaborate. “The collective act of coming to one place and building something becomes a shared memory for each person attending,” write the designers. “None of the pieces can do anything on its own, only by putting together thousands of them is when the game and the BLOOM garden emerge. The energy for BLOOM construction is sourced from people’s interactions. It becomes impossible to forecast what you can do with such game!”

With such an inclusive goal, it’s no surprise that the company scattered over 60,000 BLOOM cells throughout London for the Olympics.