The Child as Architect

Phyllis Lambert - The child ... ANG (petit bandeau)


Phyllis Lambert talks about children’s literature and architecture… as seen through a child’s eyes!


Renowned for her contribution to the world of architecture, Phyllis Lambert is a long-time friend of Blue Metropolis and has been a featured author at a number of our events. Recently, we spoke to her about a new project – in which children, both big and little, will write stories for a literary show. With one thing leading to another, Phyllis Lambert’s lively and creative mind drew us into the realm of fairy tales, where we discovered that her career in architecture all began with some very imaginative stories for young children…


Three little pigs – a child’s story in English about three little pigs who built houses, which I loved as a child.


The first little pig built his house of straw.


The Big Bad Wolf said Oho! I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.


And he huffed and he puffed and he blew the house in.


The second little pig built his house of wood.


The Big Bad Wolf said Oho! I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.


And he huffed and he puffed, but harder this time because the house was more solid, and he blew the house in.


The third little pig was into sustainability. He built his house with fine thick brick walls.


The Big Bad Wolf said Oho! I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll blow your house in.


And he huffed and he puffed, and he huffed and he puffed, he knocked himself out huffing and puffing, but he could not blow the house in.


MORAL: Good construction sustains us.


The next one is another story I loved as a child. I think it was about Little Black Sambo, which is not, I guess, politically correct. But Little Black Sambo was very smart. I looked him up on the Internet and my memory held, so here is the story right from the Little Black Sambo website:


Sambo encounters four hungry tigers, and surrenders his colourful new clothes, shoes, and umbrella so they will not eat him. The tigers are vain and each thinks he is better dressed than the others. They chase each other around a tree until they are reduced to a pool of melted butter. Sambo then recovers his clothes and his mother, Black Mumbo, makes pancakes out of the butter.


I loved butter. But if you build with it, your house will melt into a pool of butter, and vanity does not build the world.


Older, a teenager, I had the ultimate daydream of the house I would build for myself.


It would be a two-part house. One part would be where I slept and ate and did my work.  I now realize that it was like a house by the Glasgow architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh, but I didn’t know his work then. I didn’t know about architecture as such. This house was white; white inside, white outside. (I lived in a red house; red inside, red outside, and I had red nightmares.) I would design everything for this house, the chairs and tables and beds and the silverware and the plates and cups and flower vases.  Mackintosh did so, but again, I knew nothing about Mackintosh.


The other house was for entertaining. It was only a great room. Maybe 60 feet long, 40 feet wide, and 30 feet high. There was a great fireplace in the middle of one wall, maybe the end wall, maybe the long wall. I am not sure, but I think that it was the end wall, the 40-foot wide wall. There would be a long refectory table with chairs or benches around. It would have a cluster of palm plants. Those invited would never see my house, only my close friends would. This way my house could be as messy and as private as I wished.


I grew up, became an architect, was awarded a Golden Lion for my life’s work, and I live in a house that is all white inside and it has a great room with cycads in it. Those invited never see my house, only my close friends do.

Phyllis Lambert