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TOPic emphazises imagination and interaction in its museographic project

The architect, Dani Freixes, will be in charge of the creation of “The House of Puppets”

TOPic emphazises imagination and interaction in its museographic project

 (Tolosa, June 3, 2009). The rescue and conservation of puppet heritage is one of the main aims set by the future Tolosa International Puppetry Centre. TOPIC is dealing with this idea, among other projects, through the museographic project made public today by its designer, the Catalonian architect, Dani Freixes. Dani Freixes, goes beyond the idea of a traditional museum, he has a clear idea and his bet for the House of Puppets is some sort of big warehouse full of secret magic chambers. A combination, in his words, of warehouse, loft, vault, workshop, laboratory and a huge archive, which excites the imagination of both children and adults and encourages them to play and participate. TOPic’s permanent collection, which now consists of 1,400 puppets, will be displayed in a scenario much more similar to a theatrical set.

The main aim of this museographic project is to bring both children and adults closer to puppetry, both traditional and contemporary artists. However, its educational interest for families and schools, as well as its possible contribution and interaction with audiovisual materials, which are increasingly more deep-rooted in children’s imagination, must also be considered.

TOPIC has an important collection of puppets from different countries and of different operating techniques. The Asian collection is the largest, but there are also examples from America, Africa and Europe. The total collection amounts to 1,400 puppets. Our collection has increased due to various donations, either from individual or group participants in our Puppetry Festival, Tirijai. We have also obtained some puppets through purchase, loan or deposit, such as the Mariona Masgrau Collection--donated by her son, Octavi Rumbau Masgrau--or the Eugenio Navarro Collection. We would also like to mention Joan Miro’s puppet, Merma, donated by Joan Baixas.

Most of the TOPIC collection dates from the second half of the 20th century. However, we are also proud of our Chinese shadow collection, which dates from the 18th and 19th centuries, as well as our Chinese linen puppets from the 19th century. This vision from the past provides invaluable help in understanding the present and for predicting the future in the world of puppetry.

Visiting the museum space
Originality and singularity is the starting point for TOPic’s approach to puppetry. Therefore, apart from offering the traditional visit to a place that saves, protects, investigates and displays the magic secrets and treasures of the world of puppetry, the visit is presented as a game, an experience of discovery in which curiosity and complicity are vital. Thus, TOPIC offers spectators the opportunity to interact, rather than merely observe, during the visit. To achieve this objective, the Catalonian architect Dani Freixes and his team have developed a place much more close to a set, a stage or even a laboratory which combines black walls and ceilings, mirrors, special lighting, screened images, shadow plays, boxes to be used as bases, tables, glass cabinets, screens or  stages. All in all, this space aims to generate memories, stimulate the imagination and encourage a playful environment far removed from the traditional idea of a museum.

About the exhibition route
A visit to the “House of Puppets” focuses on seven main aspects which share a common visual thread and allows, through different supports (boxes, stages, doors, props, mirrors, screens, lighting and projectors), the renovation of each of the contents, adding flexibility. As a result, the permanent exhibition turns into an ever-changing place that constantly affords new visions of the TOPIC collection.
The stops along the exhibition route in the “House of Puppets” are:
The place where the museum mascot, Mariona, invites us to discover the secrets of the museum.
The control room
The place to talk about geography and traditions and to check out where the puppets we know are located.
The characters gallery
The place where puppets from all over the world are exhibited. When puppets come to life, thanks to the puppeteer, they can explain anything to us and they turn into characters that reveal to us their role: good, bad, hero, villain, etc.
The workshop
The place that guards the secrets of puppet manipulation techniques and the making of puppets and stages where visitors will be able to interact. This room is divided into three spaces: the chest room, where all the materials, clothes and masks used in the workshop are stored; the surprise box, where objects, fingers, etc. for special shows are saved; and the tiny boxes, where the small show secrets are saved.
The authors’ corridor
The place where puppeteers meet other artists, singers, painters and scenographers and share their experiences.
The magic chamber
The place where fantastic materials and stages are stored.
The history store
The place where puppets from all over the world belonging to different traditions and cultures are saved.
The “canned time” room
The place where the secrets of animation cinema are saved. This room is also divided into three spaces: the laugh machines, where robots, animatronics and other mechanical dolls are kept; the imaginary archive, where all the histories, legends, tales and fantasies are kept.
The grandstand
The place where the discoveries are on display, both those researched by the museum and those on exchange from other museums. This will be an attractive, interactive space which will display TOPic’s permanent exhibition as well as any specialised temporary monographic exhibitions promoted by the centre.
Audiovisual productions
The museographic project also includes an audiovisual and multimedia design which will serve as an educational tool along the main route.
It consists of three main fixed stagings with different subjects and eight more to be placed along the route. Some will be related to puppet manipulation and creation techniques, and some will deal with other aspects of puppetry.
The control room
The audiovisual presentation in the control room, which relates puppets to images, manipulation, tradition and geography, is a step forward in bringing people into contact with puppetry. Not only is it an audiovisual presentation, but also a multimedia presentation which, by taking advantage of the stage role of mirrors and technology resources, shows from two different perspectives where, how and with what the various worldwide puppet techniques and traditions are presented to us.
The characters’ gallery
The audiovisual presentation, with puppets from all over the world placed on an endless shelf, presents the main characters from the world of puppetry: the good guys, the bad guys, the ugly ones, the heroes, the villains, the magic characters, the rogues, etc. All this aims to help us understand the way myths, people, liturgies and legends are repeated or resemble each other and share the same feelings and beliefs everywhere.
The stories archive
The audiovisual presentation located in the stories room is a jumble of stories with puppets as the main characters. These stories contain almost our entire fantastic imaginary.
The pages of an endless book are filled with these stories which make reference to all types of distinguished puppeteer techniques, experiences and famous shows. In reality, it is a huge exhibition of the Archive and the Centre Library.
Dani Freixes
Dani Freixes, along with Vicente Miranda, Eulàlia González and Vicenç Bou, is the founder of Varis Arquitectes, a group of professionals which focuses its activity on the development, supervision and execution of projects related to architecture, public spaces, museography, interior design and ephemeral stagings.
With three decades of work behind them, this association is known for its many renowned and awarded projects:
Interior design:
-    Bar/cocktail bar Zsa-Zsa (FAD, Foster in Arts and Design, 1988)
-    Restaurant  Seltz (FAD, Foster in Arts and Design, 1992)
-    Restaurant Nodo,  Madrid     (Premio Ayuntamiento de Madrid, 1999)
(Madrid City Council Prize, 1999)
-    Vintro house (FAD, Foster in Arts and Design, 1976)
-    Faculty of Communication Sciences, Ramon Llull University
 (Finalist, Premio ciudad de Barcelona, 1997: Barcelona City Council Prize, 1997)
Town planning:
-    Clot Park (FAD, Foster in Arts and Design, 1986)
Ephemeral spaces:
-    Ephemeral spaces of the exhibition located on the ship Rey Favila, 100 years in Barcelona: Mariscal en el Moll de la Fusta (FAD, Foster in Arts and Design, 1987)
-    Ephemeral spaces of the exhibition El Dublín, by James Joyce (FAD, Foster in Arts and Design, 1995)
-    Multimedia stagings of Tierra!!! in the Navigation Pavillion at Expo’92, Seville. (Gran Premio del Jurado Internacional Audiovisuales (FIAV, Festival d'images artistiques vidéo, 1992)
(Grand Prize awarded by the International Jury (Audiovisuals), FIAV, 1992)
-    “El mundo del Cister” at the Santes Creus Monastery, Tarragona.                          (Premio Profesionales de Turismo Internacional de Tarragona 2001)
(International Tourism Prize awarded by the Professional Experts of Tarragona, 2001)
Other important projects include the Felifonte theme park in the province of Taranto, Italy that includes town planning, architecture, interior design and audiovisual facilities; the Music Museum of Barcelona (finalist, FAD 2007) and the Minas de Gavà Archaeological Park (FAD opinion prize, 2007 and first prize 2nd Trienal of Architecture, Baix Llobregat, Alt Penedés i Garraf, 2008).
Dani Freixes has also accumulated valuable personal experience as an architect.  In 2000, he was named Interior Designer of the Decade by the magazine Diseño and he was awarded the National Prize for Design in 2001, conferred by the Ministry of Science and Technology and the foundation, Barcelona Centre de Diseño.  In 2004, he was awarded the Santiago Marco Medal conferred by the Catalonian Official Designers and Interior Decorators Association. In 2005, he was appointed Gabanéense of the Year by the Gavá City Council and in 2007, he was awarded the Architecture and Public Spaces National Prize by the Generalitat de Catalunya for his project, the Archaeological Park Minas de Gavà.    

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