Architectural Toys
Pentagram Paper 22

Are architectural toys evocative because they reflect the child's desire to build, and therefore control the environment that normally controls them? Or because, as historical artifacts, they mirror the cultural values, style and technology of the day? They move us because they combine, in deceptive simplicity and harmony, all the disciplines, the vision and the talents a designer may hope for. They are at once graphics and architecture, product and package, model and reality.

The toys evolved from stacked blocks and houses of cards (truly building with graphic elements) through specially notched cards for easy assembly, to a variety of shaped wooden and simulated stone blocks, and finally to analogs of steel frame construction. Intended as instructional devices, they allowed a child to control and understand architecture and context. Until the age of plastics, the toys were usually made of the materials they represented and often dealt with real architectural issues of the time: form, style, detail and material. They transcend their historical and cultural descriptions because they are beautiful, delightful, brilliant and charming.