Posted by Heidi Schwartz
If you ask architects, designers, facility managers, or engineers when they first started learning about the built environment, chances are they’ll point to toys like Lincoln Logs, Erector Sets, and LEGOs. That’s why the National Building Museum has amassed a huge collection of architectural toys. Whether made from wood, composite stone, metal, ceramic, rubber, or plastic, architectural toys create a bridge between the physical world and imagined ones.
From the National Building Museum website:
“Research has shown how important play can be to a child’s development. But, play is not only for kids. Through this exhibition, visitors begin to see the connections between play, design, and the work of building professionals like architects and engineers.
“Conceived in partnership with the internationally renowned design firm the Rockwell Group, this exhibition combines a presentation of the Museum’s world-class Architectural Toy Collection, a hands-on block play area, and an original digital interactive that allows visitors to fill an entire wall of the exhibition with virtual blocks—and then knock them down.”
Organized thematically, examples of some of the earliest American construction toys, including alphabet blocks made by S.L. Hill in the 1870s and finger-joint building blocks made by Charles Crandall in the 1860s, are on view. Original Froebel Blocks, designed by Friedrich Froebel, the first advocate of “free play” in childhood and the use of toys for educational purposes, are displayed along with early Erector sets, including one that could build a robot, Tinker Toys, Lincoln Logs, and a variety of rare plastic-molded toys from midcentury, as well as skyscraper, house, and village construction sets.
PLAY WORK BUILD is made possible by the President’s Exhibition Fund and by gifts from CoStar Group, Inc., DAVIS Construction, and SIGAL Construction Corporation. Additional support has been provided by EYA. In-kind support has been provided by M.H. Stallman Company. For more information on the exhibit, visit the National Building Museum’s website.