The Story of 100 Wooden Cars

Whenever I chat with designers who happen to have children, a recurring theme continually surfaces: the idea that, as parents, we’re all just really trying to create products that solve problems for our families. Take Italian father Matteo Ragni, for example: a designer who not only created his own version of an everyday beloved toy, but also enlisted the help of 100 fellow designers – creating a global movement encouraging parents to unearth the creative forces within their own families.  It wasn’t an easy task, I’d imagine – gathering a small army of famous Italian designers to set aside their furniture prototypes, murals and international art installations to, instead, re-imagine the most basic of children’s toys. Yet after Ragni witnessed his own children growing increasingly bored of their traditional toys, he realized that rather than providing them with new toys, he needed to teach them the possibility of loving an object.

He began brainstorming the perfect love-enhancing object, one with “a recognizable smell, an unquestioned resistance to impact, and, when the time comes, a dignified end: recycling or re-utilization.” In other words: the wooden car. His vision for his own re-imagined car closely resembles a double-decker bus, with limitless opportunities for imaginative play. There are no windows. No drivers. No steering wheels. Just wheels, a base and possibility.

Shortly after creating his own prototype, he invited a few designers to join the project. “It seems that everyone has in the drawer an idea for a wooden toy car,” Ragni explains. The number of willing participants quickly grew until Ragni had rounded up 100 groundbreaking designs, all carved from a single block of wood.

There’s a dining car. A bunny mobile. Even a balloon-propelled vehicle. A mind-boggling display of skill, talent and imagination. Yet perhaps the more beautiful facet of this project provides insight into the beauty of parenting itself. The idea that, although our children are all cut from similar molds, it is our mission to mold and shape them into individuals; beloved beings to be sent out into the world.

Four wheels and all.

Image Credits: 100%ToBeUs

p.s. Just for fun: The best of today’s wooden toys, a wooden gumball machine and 5 wooden teethers.

  • I saw this exhibition in Milan last January … very simple in display but so inspiring! I was there with my 2 sons and we had so much fun in discovering the different names of the 100 wooden cars … I did a short post about it and invited all my Italian friends to go and see it … It was definitely worth it!

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