Last week in Milan, the Dutch architecture firm MVRDV unveiled an installation of 77 colorful, large foam cushions that look like they belong in an upscale indoor playground.
MVRDV calls the series Vertical Village, and it’s actually their first foray into furniture design. They worked with Belgian furniture company Sixinch, which specializes in foam products, to create mix-and-match pieces that let you create a multitude of configurations of micro-buildings that you can sit on.
When architects detour into product design, they often leave an unmistakably personal fingerprint. Zaha Hadid’s coffee tables, seen in Milan, have the same swooping curves as her large-scale works. David Adjaye’s recent Washington chair for Knoll is meant to filter light in–it’s the same effect that fenestration, a signature technique of his, creates in his buildings. But few architects are quite as literal as MVRDV, whose Vertical Village line are like windowless, Honey I Shrunk the Kids-versions of the colorful, building block-like buildings the firm trades in.
Playful as they appear, the pieces in Vertical Village were born from an observation about urban sprawl in East Asian cities. As populations grow denser, construction scales upwards, and local, traditional architecture begins to vanish. (The exhibition site mentions “the individual houses in Taipei, the hutongs in Beijing, the small wooden houses in Tokyo, the villages in Singapore.”)
As MVRDV sees it, such structures create communities that sleek and homogeneous apartment living can’t replicate. From that perspective, Vertical Village is a poignant nod to the importance of holding onto and encouraging that community vibe. It’s a conceptual riff, of course, but no doubt these building blocks will be fun to sit on.