Your Basket

Architecture on the Carpet

The Curious Tale of Construction Toys and the Genesis of Modern Buildings

Brenda Vale, Robert Vale


A wholly original view of architecture explored through the prism of children’s construction toys


This intriguing book offers a novel view of the development of modern architecture through the prism of children’s construction toys.

Informative, opinionated and ranging across more than a century of toys and architectural trends, this book inspires an infectious nostalgia for these wonderful toys, many of them vintage classics.

The authors discover a host of connections linking model-building sets with architectural movements, social history, and national identities. They investigate not only how model sets reflected building styles, but also whether they influenced the careers of children who grew up playing with them.

Some construction toys have looked to the past – Richter’s Blocks, Lincoln Logs and Tudor Minibrix, for example. Others have looked to the future: as early as the 1920s, the American metal toy Bilt-E-Z could be used to construct the iconic stepped-back skyscraper, like the Empire State building in New York. Later the British Arkitex and American Girder and Panel mirrored the steel-framed glass towers of the modern era.

The Vales show how the prefabricated engineered aesthetic of Meccano and Lego does seem to have influenced some notable architects. They draw out novel connections between model-railway buildings and modernism; model sets such as Castos and reinforced concrete housing; and even between the creative but slightly surreal Playplax and postmodern deconstructivist architecture.

Read More


'Successful and enjoyable … will appeal to anyone for whom the words ‘Arkitex’, ‘Minibrix’, or even ‘Lego’ conjures distant memories of constructional fun'
Architecture Today

'The first book on architectural history I have read for a long time that made me repeatedly laugh out loud … The ideal stocking-filler for the model housebuilder in your own family'
The World of Interiors

Related Topics

Further Details


Format: Hardback

Size: 22.9 x 15.2 cm

Extent: 208 pp

Illustrations: 111

Publication date: 1 July 2013

ISBN: 9780500342855

About the Author

Brenda and Robert Vale are both professors in the School of Architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. They are the authors of The Autonomous House, Green Architecture, The New Autonomous House and Time to Eat the Dog?, all published by Thames & Hudson.