Playing with blocks: Kengo Kuma designs Japanese-style Lego pieces

Architecture Design International Product
(Courtesy More Trees)

(Courtesy More Trees)

Scaling down from the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium, Japanese architect Kengo Kuma has teamed up with forest conservation organization More Trees to create a set of triangular-shaped wooden building blocks.

(Courtesy More Trees)

(Courtesy More Trees)

The stackable kit of parts is made of Japanese cedar wood, and has been described as the Japanese version of Lego. The minimalist design of each block, known as tsumiki, or “wooden blocks” in Japanese, allows for countless different configurations and arrangements. The pieces can be easily disassembled and restacked.

People of all ages were able to enjoy Kuma’s creations at Tokyo Design Week last November, where Kengo Kuma & Associates formed a pavilion made up of giant-sized tsumiki pieces in a central Tokyo park.

(Credit Ikunori Yamamoto)

(Credit Ikunori Yamamoto)

“I have loved tsumiki my whole life, every since I was a young boy. And my dream came true, I designed tsumiki myself, the sort which hadn’t existed before,” said Kuma in a statement. “The set is not a heavy, masonry kind of wood block, but a light, transparent system just like what you see in traditional Japanese architecture.”

The individual wooden pieces are reminiscent of the pavilion that Kuma designed in Paris’ Jardin des Tuileries, which is made of a complex lattice of identical stacked timber beams. Kuma is known for his explorations of timber construction, and has employed woodworking in a number of projects including the Daiwa Ubiquitous Computing Research Building and the Sunny Hills retail store.

Kuma’s building block set is available in three different sizes: a 7-piece set, a 13-piece set, and a 22-piece set.

(Courtesy More Trees)

(Courtesy More Trees)

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