With free time on vacation, you too can instill in your child a love of architecture or design with these toys from all over the world, from replicas of Wright’s bricks to the latest construction sets and playhouses.
“The maple blocks are still with me,” wrote 88-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright of his mother’s gift. Now six original figures from the Froebel set (“Gifts of Froebel”), the increasingly complex geometric figures invented by a German teacher in 1830, are made of beech.
Photo: Froebel USA
Photo: Pamela Tilton
“Gifts of Frebel” are small figurines and are intended for children from three years old and more. The blocks, developed in 1913 by the American educator Caroline Pratt, are based on the same mathematical principles, but larger in size and suitable for one-year-olds. All shapes in the set are made to connect to a rectangular brick or block. Many companies make them today.
Photo: Community playthings
In 1916, architect John Lloyd Wright, son of Frank Lloyd Wright and also an architect, invented a log constructor after watching his father work on the foundations of a hotel in Tokyo.
Photo: Christophe Richard
In 1923, the house of Georg Muche, with its cubic form, was shown in the first exhibition of the Bauhaus, an influential architectural school founded by Walter Gropius. The task of the school was to combine art with craft, and design with industry.
Photo: John Levveet
Charles and Ray Eames effortlessly designed buildings, furniture, movie sets, magazine covers, tires for WWII soldiers, and even toys. Their first set of House of Cards, created in the early 1950s, consisted of 54 small, 32 medium, and 20 large cards with pictures of animals, plants and stones. Six slots on each card allowed them to be folded into an infinite number of combinations and structures.
The House of Cards computer created as a souvenir for visitors to the IBM Pavilion at the Osaka World’s Fair is now a valuable relic.
Why stop at a house of cards when you can build an entire city? Luca Boscardin, a former Italian student who previously studied architecture and now creates cute toys in Amsterdam, decided to take Eames’s idea further. Archiville is produced by the Dutch company Studio Roof, which specializes in toys, home accessories and furniture.
Photo: Studio Roof
The Eames hired the architect and designer Alexander Girard to head the textile department of Herman Miller’s furniture company. Girard is best known for the fun, folk-inspired designs seen at Miller’s home built by Eero Saarinon for Joseph Irwin and Xenia Simons Miller in Columbus, Indiana.
Photo: Indianapolis Museum of Art
Ammo Books also publishes other toys designed by Girard, including construction sets, coloring books and this 0.6 x 1m 24-piece puzzle featuring his Paradise print (1962).
Photo: (left and below) Ammo Books
To inspire and develop the builders of the future is Lego’s mission, which the company has excelled at thanks to Adam Reed Tucker. Adam Reed Tucker, who played Lego since childhood, became an architect and worked in Chicago, and then turned his hobby of building replicas of famous buildings from a constructor into an Architectural Lego Set. Today, Adam Reed Tucker is one of 13 certified Lego professionals recognized by the Danish company as reliable business partners. This year, the Flatiron Building (above), the Lincoln Memorial and the Louvre have been added to the series.
Two photos from above: The Lego Group
In which longtime Lego fan Tom Alfin explores the history of architecture with photographs of real buildings and models built by Lego users around the world, published in September by No Starch Press. The book examines seven styles (neoclassicism, prairie style, art deco, modern, brutalism, postmodernism and high-tech) and provides instructions for 12 small models based on key elements of a particular style. Many buildings can be built with the Lego Architecture set, but the author also provides a list of bricks if you decide to use your own set.
Photo: No Starch Press
The largest plastic construction kit was invented by Irish architect Damien Murtha as an auxiliary tool that would allow customers to explain 3D models made on a computer without the help of glue and cardboard. Arckit is now becoming a popular educational game. Very easy to use and versatile, this 1-in-48 construction kit comes in three sets: 60, 120 and 240. Each number represents the area on which to build.
Each kit has a sample to help a beginner, but there are no step-by-step instructions. Instead, in the constructor, you can find a description of each element and its functions. A digital library of multi-material surfaces provided by construction companies allows you to print items such as wood floors or stone walls on the included adhesive paper. In 2014, Arckit won the London Design Awards for Best Startup, and last year it won awards such as the Red Dot, New York Maker Faire and the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal.
Arckit Infiniti 3D, a store with 3D printed parts, will be released this year. Murtha hopes that users will tell him what they would like to see in the store.
Children who do not like to painstakingly work on complex architectural models can exercise their imaginations using the toy house of the Belgian brand Mini Archi, created by a couple of designer and architect for their children. The house is made in Portugal and consists of three boxes and various accessories in white or wood.
Photo: Mini archi
If your home is short on space and multifunctional items are welcome, you might like this plywood armchair from Tokyo-based Torafu Architects. When folded out, the diagonal red armrests transform into a sloping roof of the playhouse. Close the cabin when games are over and all dolls and furniture (not included) will remain inside the chair.
Photo: Torafu Architects (Koichi Suzuno, Alicja Strzyżyńska)
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