Alexandra Lange
Architecture & design critic

Froebel's Gifts

I was interviewed for this 99 Percent Invisible episode on the kindergarten toys designed by Friedrich Froebel … the reason children play with wooden blocks today.

In the late 1700s, a young man named Freidrich Froebel was on track to become an architect when a friend convinced him to pursue a path toward education instead. And in changing course, Froebel arguably ended up having more influence on the world of architecture and design than any single architect — all because Friedrich Froebel created kindergarten. If you’ve ever looked at a piece of abstract art or Modernist architecture and thought “my kindergartener could have made that,” well, that may be more true than you realize.