In the past I had already wrote about this architect in a post about the “Architectural design” review that published the results of a dolls house competition held in 1983. In fact Takefumi Aida was the second prize winner with a very interesting proposal of a dolls house made by elementary volumes like cubes, cylinders and pyramids. At that time I discovered that Aida designed a group of houses called “Toy Blocks Houses” where he adopted an architectural language based on the toy blocks in a larger size. So I thought that it would be interesting to know more about these houses and periodically I was searching more information in the internet without great results. In October I decided to try to write a mail directly to architect Aida; to my surprise he replied me soon and sent me several publications about the houses. So, here I am.
Until now, in the other posts, I used to talk about the influences that the architectural culture had in the childhood word. For me was important to observe and analyze the way that architects looked to the children and to the childhood along history.
In this specific case we face the opposite way process: the Aida’s houses show how the childhood culture (that is influenced by architectural culture) can, in its turn, influence an architectural design process. It is not the unique example (I remember the UNI-SET Corporation and its TV set design or the relation between the kites and the houses in the Charles Eames’s architecture, among others) but maybe this is the more obvious and clear of all them.
So, like most of the architects, he look for an intellectual and formal substructure that could feed his own design experience. He finds this substructure in the toy blocks because, as he said “architecture is produced within the framework of restrictions and conditions characteristics of an era, just as toy blocks are played within the framework of certain given condition”.
In the same text, further, Aida talk about the importance of the possibility that toy blocks have in the creative process and in the education. The reference to Roland Barthes is direct especially when we remember that the French philosopher wrote: “The merest set of blocks, provided it is not too refined, implies very different learning of the world: then the child does not in any way create meaningful objects, it matters little to him whether they have an adult name, the actions he performs are not those of a user, but those of demiurge. He creates forms which walk, which roll, he creates life, not property: objects now act by themselves, they are no longer an inert and complicated material in the palm of his hand” (Barthes, Roland. 1972. Mythologies. New York: Hill and Wang. 52.). Blocks as a complete free thinking tool and not as parts of a pre-built object or artifact.
Since 1974 Takefumi Aida designed a series of nine toy block houses, a dolls house and a wood toy, all based on the same geometrical roles derived from the toy blocks system. All the houses are based on elementary solids like cubes, cylinders prisms and parallelepipeds joined together avoiding penetrations or overlapping between them. The results are building that look like huge toys constructions.
|Toy Blocks House I|
|Toy Blocks House III|
|Toy Blocks House IV|
|Toy Blocks HouseV|
|Toy Blocks HouseVII|
|Toy Blocks HouseVIII|
The Toy Blocks House IX is not a real house, it is the doll’s house about which I have already spoken in my other article. It would be easily a scale model to help the creation of a Toy Blocks House. The unique aspect that leaves me curious is the way the architect painted the blocks because it is very different from the white and gray tone used in the houses. Maybe the transferring process from the toys to architecture changed direction and he tried to represent the plaster’s surface in a small scale….
|Toy Blocks House X|
I think that the Aida’s Toy Blocks Houses are a clear example about the possibility to see each building, or each architecture, as a sum of parts, as an union of several shapes. In his houses Aida turn this relation very evident and explicit building some pedagogical values. What is more interesting maybe is not the finally result but the methodological process that leads to the result. This is the main pedagogical value: to show how the building is created and designed, to show that exists a method, despite the quality of the method.
Aida, Takefumi. 1984. Tsumiki no ie. Tōkyō: Maruzen.
Aida, Takefumi. 1986. Space and concept. Contemporary 1. Architecture in Drawing. Nakagyoku Kyoto: Dohosha Publishing Co Ltd.