Architecture on the Carpet

Architecture on the Carpet

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

  1. Brenda Vale
  2. Robert Vale
  • ISBN 9780500342855
  • 22.90 x 15.20 cm
  • Hardback
  • 208pp
  • 111 Illustrations, 97 in colour
  • First published 2013

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

‘Successful and enjoyable … Architecture on the Carpet 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 … fluent and amusing … the ideal stocking-filler for the model housebuilder in your own family’ – The World of Interiors


Architecture on the carpet 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.

Brenda and Robert Vale, lifelong collectors of construction toys, are architects, writers, researchers 
and experts in the field of sustainable housing. 
They are both professors of architecture at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. Their previous books include The Autonomous House, Green Architecture, The New Autonomous House and Time to Eat the Dog?, all published by Thames & Hudson. They won the United Nations Global 500 Award for Environmental Achievement in 1994.