Many summers ago I studied painting in Barcelona. I visited several Antoni Gaudí buildings but was awestruck by La Sagrada Família. The fluid, twisting turrets were unlike anything I’d ever seen — except maybe a sandcastle. Gaudí’s work is as playful and exuberant as a child’s.
Dreaming Up is my celebration of the ways that the young and not-so-young build. Upon receiving his copy, featured Colombian architect Simón Vélez wrote, “Con este libro mis nietas descubrieron que yo soy un arquitecto como ellas.” (With this book my granddaughters discovered that I am an architect like them.”)
This is the heart of my book, that there is little distinction between the building play of children and the innovative work of architects. When a child drapes a blanket between two chairs to make a fort and Japanese architect Kenzo Tange engineers the world’s longest suspension roof for Yoyogi National Gymnasium, both use the same design thinking. When a child stacks cup on cup, up and up, and Argentinean architect Cesar Pelli builds the world’s tallest twin buildings (the Petronas Towers), both reach for the sky.
“Play is the answer to how anything new comes about,” developmental psychologist Jean Piaget said. Young Frank Lloyd Wright spent hours playing with his wooden blocks, developing the strong sense of geometry that became a hallmark of his design. In his later years Wright claimed, “The maple wood blocks…are in my fingers to this day.” As a child Frank Gehry sat by the wood stove arranging wood scraps into little cities and freeways. Gehry never stopped playing; his inventive buildings are evidence. He said, “Creativity is about play and a kind of willingness to go with your intuition.”
Children, architects, artists, and writers all know that play and work are one. This project allowed a wide space for my play. I explored my concept using photos, illustrations, poetry, biography, and book design. I wish to thank my editor at Lee & Low Books, Louise May, who helped me shape and refine my ideas. A book is architecture of the imagination. I am grateful to the Boston Globe–Horn Book committee for honoring how I built my dreams.