August 4, 2006

Bauhaus Bauspiel Blocks From Naef Are Freakin' Small


Alma Siedhoff-Buscher was the first Bauhaus practitioner to take children's design seriously. Siedhoff-Buscher saw children's design--including toys, furniture, and utensils--as a way out of the textile department, where she'd been confined with all the other women by Walter Gropius. The critical success of the result--a children's room at the landmark Bauhaus exhibit of 1923--probably helped vindicate Siedhoff-Buscher's view of things a bit.

The story was told in an exhibit earlier this year at the Bauhaus Archiv, but I can't find any mention of it in English at all. [So much for critical success. Does anyone know of published images of other Bauhaus kid stuff?]

Where Siedhoff-Buscher does hold up, though, is in the marketplace. The boat-like wooden block set she designed in 1923 is still being produced by Naef, Swiss maker of cuckoo-expensive wooden toys. The Bauspiel Blocks come in atypical shapes, which makes them a bit more interesting than the standard block sets.

The only problem--assuming you don't consider $150 for a set of blocks a problem--is the size. They're tiny, measuring only 10 or so inches total. I checked with kid-o in New York, which sells the blocks in the store and online, and asked how big the smallest blocks were: "Chiclet-sized?" "More like Hubba Bubba," was the reply. Definitely choke hazardous, though.

These are strictly for your post-toy-chomping phase shopping list, I'm afraid. On the bright side, that gives you time to save up some money.

Bauhaus Bauspiel blocks are $150 at kid-o []
Bauhaus Archiv Museum for Design []


"Crafts of the Weimar Bauhaus, 1919-1924. An Early Experiment in Industrial Design" has a few photographs of kid's pieces, including a sweet bassinet.

[i knew you'd be miles ahead on this ;) -ed.]

Alma Siedhoff-Buscher's blocks are worth every penny. But take a tip from an old dad, guys. In the miniature version you can still buy today, the small parts ARE too small. And your "post-toy-chomping" kid is still not ready. In the relentlessly resupplied chaos of contemporary childhood the small parts are doomed.

In the Bauhaus they made a large version as well as the miniature: see them together here.

I gave my daughter the Siedhoff-Buscher blocks when she was 17 and that was about right. She loves them still.

[thanks for the wisdom of experience. now where to find those big blocks... -ed.]

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