Berrocal's puzzle sculptures
are wonderful. I first read about them in Martin Gardner's column on Berrocal
in Scientific American in the 80s. At the time, I didn't see what the big deal was. Then much later I had a chance to play with some... they are brilliant, organic puzzles, and also art.
Here's what you do with a Berrocal. (I think Rox has yet to learn this.
) You face a pile of pieces, with no reference sheet showing exactly what the assembled sculpture will look like. Then... you gradually learn how the pieces interact, oh, this one fits next to that one, you gradually build up subassemblies. Then you figure out how the subassemblies fit together. Very often you will realize that wait, to put these together, you have to back up several steps, and do things in the right order. Similarly, when you finally figure out where a particular piece is supposed to go, you might have to go back almost to the beginning to get it into place.
Often the assembly steps are not just, put this piece here, put the next one there. Pieces have to be slid, locked, twisted, etc. The mechanical design is brilliant, as is the art/puzzle concept itself
– these things are numbered, collectible sculptures, and also puzzles! For example, of the six minis, there were 10,000 of each made. Then the molds were destroyed. For most of the larger ones, fewer were made. That makes these valuable art objects which appreciate, as well as puzzles. Oh, also each comes with its own book, with some background on the inspiration and design of the puzzle, and complete assembly steps.
Most of the interesting ones were made in the 60s and 70s, and many of them out there were not well cared for, so it is definitely caveat emptor on eBay. (Also you won't always get the book with the puzzle.)
This is my current collection, all the minis, plus Richelieu
, the two (by far) most complex Berrocals. I got myself the Richelieu as a Ph.D. graduation present. For years I lusted after the Goliath, and recently the stars aligned and I was finally able to get one.
Assembling the Goliath from scratch I would call the most challenging puzzle-solving experience I've ever had. You have to keep so many things in mind at once, not just discrete facts, but subtle things about shapes looking familiar and looking like they might go together, as well as the specific assembly steps you used 50 pieces ago, so you can reconstruct that when you back all the way up to put in the piece you just found the spot for. This is what Goliath looks like disassembled:
I'm envious of Rox's Alexandre
(though it's a paperweight until you get the key?), and along with that, Manolete
is next on my list of desired acquisitions.