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Ideas of living

This is an issue about how domestic space organizes our surroundings and habits and values and bodies. It is also about convention: how norms became norms, and how design might gently or violently pull them apart to propose new ways of relating to ourselves and each other in our most intimate settings. It offers a few terms for discussing what can happen when architectural ideas come home.

Article 6 of 16

Toys Shape Minds no. 1

Text by Rosemary Haddad

Pyro Plastics Corporation, Union, New Jersey. Design-a-House, c. 1958. TS2301.T7.P6 P97 1958

A scale-model design and construction set, Design-a-House was advertised as a creative hobby kit which would make “any boy an architect, any girl a home designer.” It was created during the 1950s, when there was a heavy advance in the use of plastic and in the production of do-it-yourself models of this kind. Plastic had been employed in the late 1930s in the manufacture of toy weapons and toy vehicles. Its use increased during World War II when metal and rubber were banned from toy manufacture, replaced by such materials as plastic and paper. Plastic ultimately changed the nature of toy packaging as well as the that of the toys themselves. The manufacturer of Design-a-House, Pyro Plastics Corporation, was founded by William Lester in 1939, and became a prominent name in the industry.

The Design-a-House was displayed in Dream Houses, Toy Homes, one in a series of exhibitions we developed during the 1990s exploring the relationship between toys and architecture. This text originally appeared in the accompanying publication. We have a significant number of toys and games in our collection.

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