Constructing Play: Classic Building Toys Exhibition
November 29, 2013 – January 31, 2014
at Philadelphia Center for Architecture
1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107
Hours: Mon-Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12pm-5pm
The Constructing Play: Classic Building Toys Exhibition explores the history of building toys and the educational foundation which underlies their creation. Over 60 historic building toys, selected from the Center for Architecture’s collection and spanning the past 175 years will be on display starting November 29th through January 31st.
Visitors to this free exhibit will learn about their favorite construction toys, from Tinker Toys to LEGO, Erector Sets to K’Nex. They will also learn how structures stay up, discover famous local buildings in miniature and see how toy designers took inspiration from the past to create today’s most popular building toys. The popular “Hands On Carts” allow visitors to show off their own building skills.
While some of the toys on display are classics known the world over, there will be many lesser known toys in the mix; including Brickplayer, a miniature brick-casting kit; Astrolite, a light-up sci-fi building set made of clear acrylic from the 1970s; and Bild-O-Brik, a rubber precursor to LEGO from the 1930s.
The first set of modern building toys was developed by Friedrich Froebel in the 1840s. Froebel Gifts were a series of wooden blocks and other shapes to support classroom learning. Later building toys developed to improve children’s hand-eye coordination and develop an understanding of the physical sciences – all while using fun and play as the method to “trick” children into learning.
Some of the most notable architects of our time have been influenced by the educational building toys they played with as children. In his autobiography, Frank Lloyd Wright credited his desire to build and his architectural style to the set of Froebel Gifts that his mother purchased at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The Wrights’ influence on the history of building toys doesn’t stop there. Lincoln Logs were invented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s son, John, after he accompanied his father to Japan. There he witnessed temple builders using a system of notched logs to construct earthquake-proof structures. Once he returned to the United States, John Wright turned this ancient building technique into one of the most popular toys of all time!
Family Workshops (registration is required)
Three different, family-friendly workshops will be presented at the Center for Architecture during the run of the exhibition on Saturdays from 1:00pm-2:30pm. Each workshop is limited to 24 children. These workshops are appropriate for ages 7-13. If you have children 6 years old or younger, they can enjoy our free exhibition and some unstructured build time with our hands-on carts at no cost – no ticket necessary!
Early Registration: $10 per child – one FREE adult admission per child
Week-Of Registration: $15 per child – one FREE adult admission per child
Be a K’Nex Architect | November 30 + December 21
Become an architect for the day! Learn to draw blueprints, design your most amazing skyscraper, build a model, and work together to assemble your towers into an exciting cityscape – all using locally-designed K’Nex building toys.
Upcycled City | December 7 + January 4
Build the eco-city of tomorrow! Using ingenuity and creativity, you will create unique buildings and plan a recycled city out of everyday household items.
Caribbean Dreamhouses | December 14 + January 11
Not Just for Barbie – Escape the cold winter weather and create your dreamhouse in a land of oceans, palm trees, and boats. This workshop will explore traditional island architecture with exterior and interior drawings of a dreamhouse that you imagine.
Parent Seminars (registration is required)
Join the Center for Architecture, in collaboration with the Please Touch Museum for this FREE 1-hour seminar, being offered twice over the course of the exhibition. Play is a child’s work and toys are the tools of their trade. Learn how parents can make the most of the toys they provide for their children, what makes a “good” toy and judging age appropriateness and safety. The group will be led by Stacey Swigart, Director of Collection at the Please Touch Museum.
Saturday, November 30 | 11:00am-12:00pm
Saturday, December 7 | 11:00am-12:00pm
at the Center for Architecture1218 Arch Street, Philadelphia PA 19107