Most kids get their first exposure to architecture through building blocks, whether they’re Lego bricks or simple wooden cubes. But in architecture, squares and rectangles aren’t the strongest, simplest, or most stable of shapes: triangles are. Instead of giving our kids bricks, then, shouldn’t we be teaching them to build with triangles?
Tokyo architecture firm Kengo Kuma and Associates–the designers who replaced Zaha Hadid on Japan’s 2020 Olympic Stadium–think it’s time for the next generation of neonate architects to embrace the triangle. Teaming up with Japanese forest conservation group More Trees, the firm has released Tsumiki: a set of non-traditional “building blocks” that the architects bill as Japanese Lego.
Yet that’s something of a misnomer. Outside of being able to build things with them, there’s little similarity between Tsumiki and Lego in either shape, material, or construction. Each Tsumiki block is a triangular wedge of cedar, with notches in its legs that allow them to fit together. Tsumiki’s unique angular shape allows for structures that would actually be much more difficult to achieve with rectangular blocks. You can still use Tsumiki to construct simple cubic buildings, but the system can just as easily make structures that would be inelegant or rickety to construct with Lego, such as arches, temples, bridges, and more.
They aren’t colorful or flashy, so it’s possible Tsumiki blocks might not quite capture some kids’ imagination the way that Lego does. They will, however, intuitively teach kids all about tangent and radial trussing–exactly the kind of deep lesson on architecture you’d expect from the the makers of Tokyo’s next Olympic stadium. Available in packs of 13, you can purchase a set of Tsumiki for around $74. Consider it a down payment on your kid’s future career as an architect.