Monthly Archives: March 2012

Happy Birthday Mies van der Rohe

As a designer of building toys for budding architects, I want to join Google in wishing Mies van der Rohe a special Happy Birthday – 1886- 1969.

His often quoted remarks have always resonated in my design and education work.

“Architecture starts when you carefully put two bricks together. There it begins.”
Speaking about restraint in design, the New York Herald Tribune, 28 Jun 1959.

“Less is more.”
Speaking about restraint in design, the New York Herald Tribune, 28 Jun 1959.

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Girls, Blocks and Architects

Women in architecture

Women in Architecture Info-graphic

girl building with blocks
We often hear about the block building “gender gap” both at homes and in schools. Perhaps these images will further inspire young girls to build with blocks and join the next generation of female architects. In 2011, women made up 21% of US architects.

 Jeanne Gang Architect, 2011 MacArthur Fellow

Jeanne Gang Architect, 2011 MacArthur Fellow

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Ice Hotel

I discovered these images of an “Ice Hotel” built of snow and ice in a village in Swedish Lapland that reminded me of my collection of small clear, acrylic, half domes and rectangular prisms blocks. Not only can I create free form sculptures and twenty-first century skyscrapers with the blocks, but I can add an ”ice hotel” to some of the playful constructions. Although the scale and the temperature of the forms in the ice hotel are larger and considerably colder to the touch, the beauty of transparent forms and the shadows are similar.

ice hotel

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Passion for Skyscrapers

The passion for building skyscrapers begins when a one years old carefully stacks four blocks on top of each other to make a tower.  Although the rationale, the engineering problems, the materials, and the social and aesthetic issues become infinitely more complex, the desire to build high seems part of our DNA.  Here are some examples the winners of eVolo’s 2012 Skyscraper Competition. These images might inspire some pre-school block builders to expand their construction ideas.

“The first place was awarded to Zhi Zheng, Hongchuan Zhao and Dongbai Song from China for their project “Himalaya Water Tower”. The proposal is a skyscraper located high in the Himalayan mountain range that stores water and helps regulate its dispersal to the land below as the mountains’ natural supplies dry up. The skyscraper, which can be replicated en masse, will collect water in the rainy season, purify it, freeze it into ice and store it for future use.

“The “Himalaya Water Tower” is a skyscraper located high in the mountain range that serves to store water and helps regulate its dispersal to the land below as the mountains’ natural supplies dry up. The skyscraper, which can be replicated en masse, will collect water in the rainy season, purify it, freeze it into ice and store it for future use. The water distribution schedule will evolve with the needs of residents below; while it can be used to help in times of current drought, it’s also meant to store plentiful water for future generations.”

The second place was awarded to Yiting Shen, Nanjue Wang, Ji Xia, and Zihan Wang from China for their project “Mountain Band-Aid”, a design that seeks to simultaneously return the displaced Hmong mountain people to their homes and work as it restores the ecology of the Yunnan mountain range.

Mountain band Aid

The skyscraper is constructed in the traditional Chinese Southern building style known as Chuan Dou. Small residential blocks are used as the framework: The blocks are freely organized as they were in the original village, but the framework controls this organization of blocks into different floors, acting as the contour line in traditional Hmong village.

The recipient of the third place is Lin Yu-Ta from the Taiwan for a “Vertical Landfill” to be located in the largest cities around the globe, both as a reminder of the outrageous amount of garbage that we produce and as a power plant that harvests energy from waste decomposition.”Vertical LandfillVertical Landfill 2

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