8 Toys Designed by Architects From the 1940s to Today

Here are a few architects’ creations from throughout history that show we are never too old to delve into the toy box

Paul Keskeys Paul Keskeys

Celebrate a decade of inspirational design with us! The 10th Annual A+Awards is officially underway, and the Finaly Entry Deadline is January 28, 2022Click here to start your entry today.

When did you first realize you wanted to become an architect?

If you ask anyone in the profession this question, most architects will hark back to their childhood and remember the building blocks, LEGO bricks and doll’s houses that captured their imaginations and kept them enthralled for hours on end. Of course, many of us never really grow up, and many designers appreciate the power and potential for toys to inspire children and get them thinking about space, materials, and the joy of construction itself.

Tsumiki by Kengo Kuma; images © Ikunori Yamamoto

Kengo Kuma is one such architect. The Japanese Modernist collaborated with Ryuichi Sakamoto’s forest conservation organization More Trees to produce Tsumiki, an innovative set of building blocks that allows people young and old to create playful timber sculptures. A modular system allows the components to be stacked in a variety of ways with a seemingly infinite number of configurations, with the possibility of creating anything from camels and dogs to pyramids and towers.

Kuma is not the first architect to design a plaything that can inspire creative thinking. Here are a few more from throughout history that show we are never too old to delve into the toy box:

The Tyng Toy; via Daddy Types

The Tyng Toy was a modular, slot-together building system made from plywood and dowel pins designed by young architect Anne Tyng in the 1940s.

Rietveld’s Doll’s House; via the Brooklyn Museum

Dutch architect Gerrit Rietveld presented the plans for this dolls’ house to the Jesse family, his repeat clients, in the 1940s. It was fabricated by a carpenter and given to the children in 1952 and eventually ended up in the Brooklyn Museum some 56 years later.

The Toy; via Eames Office

American designers Charles and Ray Eames conceived numerous toys during their prestigious careers including The Toy, a minimalist take on an indoor tent or den with 51 possible configurations.

The Solar Do-Nothing Machine; via Eames Office

Another of Eames’ creations was the Solar Do-Nothing Machine. Completed in 1957, the complex kinetic sculpture was one of the first uses of solar power to produce electricity.

Dowel-Block Toy by Torafu Architects; via Bloesem Kids

More recently, Japanese firm Torafu Architects emulated Anne Tyng’s toy with its own dowel-block toy allowing children to build anything from cameras to skyscrapers with colored blocks of assorted shapes.

This Must Be the Place by Zaha Hadid; via e-architect

20 architects and designers designed and constructed a series of modern dolls’ houses in a bid to raise $150,000 for disabled children’s charity KIDS. Zaha Hadid’s puzzle-like house, entitled This Must Be the Place, was characteristically sculptural in nature …

Elektra House by David Adjaye; via e-architect

… While David Adjaye produced a meticulous replica of his Elektra House in London, complete with tiny golden furniture.

Celebrate a decade of inspirational design with us! The 10th Annual A+Awards is officially underway, and the Finaly Entry Deadline is January 28, 2022Click here to start your entry today.

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Hotel & Spa – Seezeitlodge // GRAFT

Nohfelden, Germany

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1757 // Camarim

Lisbon, Portugal

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