Sky Villages at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum

Ever wondered what it’s like to live in the skies?

Sky Villages is an interactive installation featuring dozens of wooden blocks that interlink and build up to become floating sky homes. Created for the Brooklyn Children’s Museum, James Paulius brilliant installation shows the possibility of building homes in the sky to keep up with the ever-evolving nature of humans and our growing population. The modular toy blocks encourage children to get creative, inviting them to put together different structures that can be rearranged in countless ways. How cool is that?

With such an innovative way of combining architecture and play, we got in touch with James Paulius to tell us more about Sky Villages.

What’s your design background, and how did you end up working with wood?

I studied industrial design at Rochester Institute of Technology. During our senior year we had a competition called Metaproject sponsored by Areaware. The prompt was to design a universal toy made out of wood. This was my first experience working with wood – making various prototypes to come up with the final design of Blockitecture.

Tell us a bit about the development from Blockitecture and the Sky Villages.

At the beginning of the Metaproject competition, Areaware announced that they would manufacture and sell the winner’s design. My Blockitecture design won first place and it started selling commercially in April 2014. After that I designed Blockitecture Garden City, a variation that incorporated balconies and greenery into the architecture.

The Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) in Cincinnati saw Blockitecture and reached out to me to create a children’s installation for their UnMuseum, a gallery on their 6th floor where kids can interact with innovative art. This is when I came up with the idea of Sky Villages. They wanted a block-themed installation but the available space was a wall rather than a flat surface. Using this limitation, I transformed the wall-space into a sky and designed blocks that built off of it as airborne habitats.

How did you get involved with work at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum?

After I did Sky Villages for CAC, I reached out to Brooklyn Children’s Museum (BCM) and they were interested in an installation for the Brooklyn Block Lab space they were opening. I finished Sky Villages for BCM in November 2015. BCM wanted another Sky Villages installation for their annex called SPARK, in Dumbo Brooklyn that was scheduled to open late-2016. I finished this installation for SPARK in December 2016.

The blocks are made from the Manhattan water towers, how did you end up with this as part of the design?

While fabricating Sky Villages for SPARK, I reached out to Tri-lox here in Brooklyn to find some reclaimed wood. I was looking for wood that was light enough for kids to hold but durable enough to last over time. Trilox introduced me to their collection of reclaimed and unfarmed Douglas fir with very tight grain making it more durable than the farmed douglas fir in today’s construction lumber.

Will you be moving forward with developing Sky Villages into a commercial product?

Sky Villages is not sold commercially but you can buy Blockitecture Habitat and Garden City through Areaware.

Who do you think is most interested in the Sky Villages blocks?

Both kids and adults seem to like it. Especially designers and engineers who enjoyed playing with building blocks when they were younger.

Sky Villages provides kids of all ages with an imaginative way to learn. It works well as educational wall decor, especially for those with small spaces. What do you think? Are you interested in seeing the Sky Villages installation for yourself?

For more information on Sky Villages, remember to check out James Paulius on Instagram!
Project: Sky Villages

Design: James Paulius

Photos: Ryan Jenq