Modeling on the computer and physically building scale models are essential modes of iteration for the modern architecture studio. But what if this creative process of digital and physical ideation could be made accessible to everyone: children, hobbyists, and architects alike?
That is the question I set out to answer by designing an entirely new snapping block system, from the ground up, for the aesthetic and experiential expectations of the 21st century. It’s called Kible, and after putting architecture aside and developing it since November 2015, I’ve recently launched the product on Kickstarter.
Kible allows anyone to easily design their block model ideas on a phone or tablet, share that idea, and then purchase the pieces to build their own creation or those of other users. Upon receiving the Kible pieces in the mail, the app then provides interactive instructions to build one’s design. While Lego bricks laminate on top of each other, Kible pieces are unique in that they can snap in all six orthogonal directions, without the aid of magnets or other components. Similarly, pieces in the Kible app behave just the same, and can build out in any direction, providing an uninhibited modular building experience.
As a certified Lego Master Builder and having studied at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the idea and desire for a system such as Kible has been bouncing around in my head for some time. Almost all of the core curriculum projects at the GSD required us students to employ interlocking modules of some sort, and perhaps inadvertently Kible honors that pedagogical method.
During my studies at Harvard, I got to thinking that despite all the sophistication of contemporary CAD software employed today by architects, there is a dearth of powerful yet accessible mobile modeling tools for non-professionals and children. Sandbox games like Minecraft arguably typify this niche, but there are differences, chiefly their prioritization of procedural adventure gameplay instead of architectural block play. Furthermore, there are no systems that integrate digital modeling with corresponding to-scale physical blocks.
With Kible, we've achieved a new level of reciprocity between digital and physical design play. In a way, Kible is a pocket-sized design-build studio, reminding us how fun it is to simply come up with an idea, build it to specification, and then iterate all over again.
More of a design platform than a toy, we believe Kible presents the argument that digital modeling is not just for architects and engineers, and also that snapping blocks are not just for children. Natively developed for mobile devices while also radically rethinking tactile block play, Kible is the snapping block for the 21st century.
Ultimately our goal with Kible is to provide a totally flexible system for you to pursue any idea you choose, establish collaborative workflows with other users, and realize your model ideas with physically snapping pieces. You can back the project on Kickstarter here, or if you’re a professional (architect or otherwise) who sees a unique or unconventional use for Kible, I would love to chat. Feel free to email me, Jason Brain direct at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing from you!
Jason Brain is the founder and technical lead of Kible, was awarded the Lego Master Builder certificate at age 10, and later studied architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.