It’s not easy to take on the task of improving upon one of the world’s most simple and well-loved toy building block designs – particularly if that building block is LEGO. For Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, however, creating their modernist “Japanese LEGO” wasn’t just about building a new toy; it was also about communicating an important message.
Working with the forest conservation organization More Trees, Kuma’s Tsumiki block sets (Tsumiki is Japanese for “blocks”) are manufactured using Japanese Cedar that have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council.
“We work with local people and governments to find ways to make forest sustainable and foster the growth of their communities,” explains More Trees, which was founded by renowned Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. “Through our operations, we also strive to promote carbon offset by increasing CO2 absorption and create original products using wood thinned in Japan. We believe these activities would help energize local communities and support creating forests globally.”
The handmade blocks, which are all triangular, include various notches for connecting the pieces into more complex and surprisingly stable structures. Considering that Kuma – who recently replaced Zaha Hadid as the designer for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Stadium – has deep roots in minimalist modern Japanese architecture, it comes as little surprise that the Tsumiki blocks are perfectly suited for miniature modern desktop architecture masterpieces.
The Tsumiki sets can be purchased online in sets of 13 pieces for ¥8,424 JPY (approximately $74 USD).