Author Archives: Karen

Drones and Building Blocks: A Peaceful Relationship














Drones will never take the place of the hands of toddlers who delight in constructing tall towers with blocks. However, on a larger scale, it is curious to see the work of the Swiss architects Gramazio & Kohler who are working on future plans to use drones in the construction of skyscrapers. Check out the video:

Image from article by Stan Alcorn  at Co.Exist

Did you like this? Share it:

Futuristic Structures

The engineering firm, ARUP has come up with a mock-up design for a building of the future -2050. Perhaps we need some new modular construction toys or recycled elements to inspire our youngest architects to play with these ideas. I can imagine that if some of these images were projected in the block area of a preschool classroom, a group of five year olds might add something to ARUP’s preliminary designs.

“Most futuristic of all, the structure is completely modular, and designed to be shifted about (using robots, of course). The building has three layer types, with different life-spans: a permanent layer at the bottom,
a 10- to 20-year layer (which includes the “facade and primary fit-out walls, finishes, or on-floor mechanical plant.” And a third layer that can incorporate rapid changes, such as new IT equipment.”


Did you like this? Share it:

Winter Blues…and Red and Orange

Winter Blues…and red and orange and yellow and green and purple…and white and shadows

Just in case the dark, cold and snowy winter days are getting you down, these two constructive and aesthetically pleasing winter design projects by engineering student Daniel Gray and artist Simon Beck might inspire some creative activity in the snowy outdoors. (Speaking from Vermont where we just received over two feet of snow.)

Daniel Gray used milk cartons as molds to make colored ice blocks to construct a rainbow igloo. The blocks were stuck together with “snowcrete” – a mixture of snow and water.


Simon Beck used snow as a medium to carve intricate designs in a massive snowy field.


Did you like this? Share it:

Temporary Carpets

Here are some more tantalizing images of what happens when ordinary objects are assembled into formal, geometric compositions by artists and designer. These “temporary” carpets are reminiscent of the structures that young children create with blocks. Although children’s initial intention and their access to such a large quantity of units may certainly differ from this Dutch design collective, the impulse to create order and beauty from the ordinary is similar as well as the fragility and temporal nature of the final product.

Sponge Carpet

Thorn Carpet

Bottle Carpet

Did you like this? Share it:

MoMA Workshop -Blocks Tell A Story

My Final Workshop at MoMA – Wednesday, November 14th
Free and open to the public
25 people limit

Blocks Tell a Story: Creating Narratives in Space and Time
Led by toy designer and educator Karen Hewitt of Burlington, Vermont–based Learning Materials Workshop, these two workshops and drop-in activities invite visitors to channel their inner sense of creative play to design their own stories and reinvent their urban landscapes with building

Workshops begin with a brief visual tour of the history of building blocks
as a learning tool from the 1850s to the present—from Friedrich Froebel to
computer Smart Blocks. Participants then create narratives using only
blocks. Without the aid of figurative miniature objects, the blocks can
become symbols for objects, people, and animals. Participants’ narratives
will be documented and shared.

Did you like this? Share it:

Beauty and Poetry in the Everyday

These Sakir Gökçebag  images should be of interest to teachers of young children as well as artists.“Removing everyday objects from their customary context” and seeing the beauty and poetry in these images is part of young children’s everyday experience.


Dr. Marcus Graf

On the Beauty of the Normal and the Poetry of the Everyday Some thoughts on the works of Sakir Gökçebag

In his work, Sakir Gökçebag deconstructs the various dimensions of our everyday life to reveal its complexity and the multiple facets of reality this yields. The artist, who was born in 1965 in Turkey and currently resides in Hamburg, studied at the Faculty of Fine Arts in Istanbul. After completing his dissertation, he attended the Düsseldorf Art Academy on a DAAD grant, where he was awarded the Markus Lüpertz Prize. From the very beginning, the organization of three-dimensional objects in a given space played a decisive role in his work, which originally was focused upon graphic arts and painting. Today, his work is primarily determined by ready-made style object-based and spatial installations, in which he removes everyday objects from their customary contexts, charging them with new, often absurd levels of meaning through serial reproduction, deformation, and deconstruction. “

Did you like this? Share it:

Child in the City of Play

I left New York City on the last Megabus out before Hurricane Sandy hit the city. I have been in touch with many friends in the city who have been coping in various creative ways. Although most of the power is back on in Manhattan so many people are still suffering – their homes destroyed and the cold weather setting in. I am especially thinking of the young children and their families during this most difficult time.

For those that were not able to attend the symposium “The Child in the City of Play,” you can see it on line. The symposium was held in conjunction with the MoMA exhibit “Century of the Child” and “Common Senses. During the hour break time, the lively crowd interacted with the exhibits in “Common Senses,” including my own block installation and Reggio Children’s Digital Landscapes. “Common Senses” closes on November 19th so you still have an opportunity to see it if you are in New York. MoMA is open but subway transportation is somewhat limited. Things are improving slowly but this was a devastating storm


Did you like this? Share it:

Interact with – Common Senses at MoMA

I just returned from an exciting week in NYC setting up my part of the exhibit “Common Senses” at The Museum of Modern Art.


The exhibit  is held in conjunction with the “Century of the Child” exhibit in the Architecture and Design Department.  “Common Senses” is designed for audience participation and since it is interactive, it will change everyday. The moment I finished installing my section, I realized that it was just the beginning, not the end. I will be returning to MoMA next week to give a workshop on Wednesday afternoon, October 3rd.  The installation process took several days and I was fortunate to spend some time with Ilaria Cavallini and Simona Spiaggiari from Reggio Emilia as they were setting up their amazing Digital Landscape Atelier.

If you can get to NYC to see these two exhibits you won’t be disappointed. Leave yourself several hours to absorb the “Century of the Child” exhibit and to interact with “Common Senses


Did you like this? Share it:

Beach Art That Washes Away

If you think that structures created with blocks are ephemeral and transcient, take a look at “A Sign in Space, an art installation by Gunilla Klingberg at Spain ’s Laga Beach .   ” It’s a “truck tire star pattern” that’s diligently embossed into the sand at low tide, only to be washed away at high tide. The beach becomes a giant groomed sculpture, only to turn back into unformed sand.”

Did you like this? Share it:

Tree Houses and Summertime

Growing up in the middle of Manhattan, my wilderness adventures consisted of climbing trees in Riverside Park. I had always wanted to build a tree house and I continue to be fascinated about creating a small living space above the high branches. The design of the Senior-Center-turned tree house speaks to this nostalgia. However, rather than just gazing at the tree house from the Senior Center housing, I think that providing some kind of access to the structure, such as a ramp or a lift, would provide a richer experience than simply gazing up and remembering the past.  A number of architects are designing tree houses for adults – some are even hotels that compete with bird nests.

Senior Center Turned Treehouse by Benjamin Verdonck

'vogelenzangpark 17bis' by Benjamin Verdonck, 2012

The Bird's Nest by Inredningsgruppen

the 'Mirrorcube' by Tham & Videgard Architects - One of the Rooms in Treehotel


Did you like this? Share it: