In a hybrid of LEGO and origami, Paper Punk has created their first boxed set of punch-and-fold, customizable paper building blocks. Urban Fold is the California-based company’s newest creation by founder Grace Hawthorne, a designer, author, and artist from San Francisco who currently teaches at Stanford University’s d.school (Institute of Design). The set gives builders the opportunity to create a paper city in punchy colors and patterns, inspired by Berlin graffiti and the photography of Matthias Heiderich. Urban Fold contains 48 buildable shapes and 697 stickers, an urban planning map, and an idea guide to creating the shapes of the world’s most popular cities. Each paper building block comes in a bright shade and/or a geometric pattern and the stickers can transform triangles into spires, quarter circles into windows, or squares into moveable pedestrians. For Hawthorne, the boldness of the set was key, “I wanted to create an urban-minded build/play experience that was also eye-candy, just impossible to resist because it’s bursting with colors, patterns, cool graphics,” she said in an interview for Mediabistro. These multi-colored blocks can be arranged and stacked with complete creative freedom and, like traditional wood building blocks, can be built up and knocked down for infinite construction and reconstruction. If a builder prefers a minimalist look, the shapes can also be folded inside out to be all white. “I refer it to an open box set because there are so many pieces to it," Hawthorne commented, “What anyone can create with it is only bounded by their imagination.” After 16 months of testing, Paper Punk's imagination brought forth the innovative project, but only with funding can it come to reality. In the same way that her company was launched last year, Hawthorne has taken to a Kickstarter campaign. With a $33 backing pledge, builders of all ages can own a Urban Fold architecture toy set. The funding period ends on December 2nd and the company promises a shipping date in time for the holidays.
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Twenty of the world’s biggest architects were asked to design on quite a small scale last month. Cathedral Group commissioned architect-designed dollhouses for a charity auction to benefit KIDS, a United Kingdom-based organization supporting disabled children. A Dolls' House sold the interesting toys a few days ago at Bonhams in London and Zaha Hadid’s 30-inch-by-30-inch, puzzle-like home, This Must Be the Place, received the night’s highest bid: $22,500. Hadid’s design is based on a previous commission from the German Design Council, her 2007 Ideal House Colonge Pavilion. Each of the charity dollhouses was required to explore an innovation that could improve the life of a disabled child. Drawing from her Cologne Pavilion’s inquiry into the concept of an “ideal house,” Hadid’s toy dwelling is a puzzle of six interlocking wood or Perspex forms, representing rooms of the home. The pieces can be disassembled and rearranged in multitudinous possibilities, rotated to fit in grooves on a surrounding wood platform. In this way, the dolls’ home can be expanded or closed in an instant; a single action can bring the rooms together or create free space for movement. A dollhouse design by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands was the second highest bid of the night, collecting nearly $18,000. Overall, the charity auction raised over $145,000 for KIDS.
In 50 to 75 years, SimCity, the virtual city-building game just about every architect or planner has played around with at some point, imagines an average metropolis taking two routes—a sustainability-based, green utopia or a money-driven, oil-dependent corruption—and gives players the tools to construct these futures. Slated for release in the United States on November 13th, Cities of Tomorrow, the new SimCity expansion pack, allows players to engage in futuristic urban planning using imagined versions of current technology. Elevated Maglev trains transport passengers high above congested vehicle traffic; drones deliver packages and prevent neighborhood crime; high-rise “MegaTowers” become mixed-use complexes with customizable retail, residential, education, and solar energy plant levels. However, PSFK reports that unlike previous editions of the game, the Cities of Tomorrow expansion requires its virtual city planners to consider the tradeoffs of their architecture and urban construction efforts. Source and type of energy for power will determine the government and pollution level of each town and consumerism and lure of cheap labor can overcome clean, sustainable methods for maintenance of each urban environment.
Children are the focus of twenty new designs by some of the United Kingdom’s top architects. A Dolls’ House, launched by UK property redevelopment firm Cathedral Group, invited architects like Zaha Hadid, David Adjaye, and Alford Hall Monaghan Morris to scale down their architectural feats to a miniature size, each creating a dollhouse of innovative design for auction at Bonhams next month. According to the design brief, each architect’s dollhouse must include a component that would ease the lives of children with disabilities and be able to sit on a 2.5-foot-by-2.5-foot plinth. These unique toy homes recreate the traditional plaything, exhibiting 21st century British art, construction, and creativity. Catherdral Group has pledged nearly $160,000 (£100,000) in A Dolls’ House proceeds to benefit KIDS, a UK charity for disabled children. Currently, the architect-designed dollhouses are available for online bidding but the final auction will take place in person on November 11th. As of yet, most of the reserves have not been met. All Images Courtesy A Dolls' House.
On August 1st, LEGO released a new kit in its series of building block design sets marketed specifically to architecture enthusiasts. LEGO’s Architecture Studio Kit, from its Architecture Series of adult-catered building sets, consists of 1,200 all white and translucent plastic bricks but no instructions. The free-for-all kit is endorsed by MAD Architects of Beijing and comes with a guidebook of architecture building exercises. Michael Bleby of Business Review Weekly writes that this set "is the first in the range to focus on creativity and architectural principles, rather than a specific architectural icon." A modernist’s dream that costs significantly less than others within the series, LEGO may possibly have caught onto a new niche market. Especially when reviews thus far of the landmark-specific Architecture Series have been mixed from architects and enthusiasts alike. The Architecture Series offers sets of building blocks that instruct users to create small versions of famous architectural landmarks, houses, and buildings ranging from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater to the White House. Sets are built for the novelty of owning a miniature model, not for the purpose of play and constant redesign, like the traditional primary-colored LEGO bricks marketed at children. However, Business Review Weekly reports that architects purchasing the sets for personal use are increasingly dissatisfied with the scale, lack of detail, and high price of the Architecture sets. In an Architizer critique of the LEGO series, AJ Artemel questions whether these Series sets with their limited pieces, instructions, and purpose actually hinder creativity rather than encourage it: “It seems as if the sort of learning discovered through play and exploration can only take place in an environment with many options and lots of flexibility. And without the large degree of interchangeability offered by LEGO’s sandbox-style sets, the ‘systematic’ overwhelms the ‘creativity.’” In comparison, designs created by owners of the newly released Architecture Studio Kit have no presupposed end. Available online for only $150, builders have creative freedom with the colorless set. Within the constant critique of the architecture world, LEGO's new set promises space for architectural experiment, done in miniature plastic bricks.