8 Things
Dror Benshetrit, Designer

This story was originally published on November 3, 2009. A year and a half later, Dror Benshetrit unveiled at the New Museum a simple, scalable structural joint system called QuaDror, which just may turn out to be his magnum opus. It takes obvious inspiration from the kinds of toys he shared with Sight Unseen here.

Some furniture expands if you’re having extra dinner guests, or folds if you’re schlepping it to a picnic. But most of it just sits there, content to be rather than do. This drives New York–based designer Dror Benshetrit crazy. “Static freaks me out,” he’s said, and so the Design Academy Eindhoven graduate has spent the entirety of his young career making things that either capture a state of transformation (his progressively shattered series of vases for Rosenthal) or actually transform themselves (the Pick Chair and Folding Sofa that flatten using simple mechanics).

When I first saw Dror’s latest project, a trivet for Alessi whose concentric metal arcs are magnetized so they can be reconfigured endlessly — and even, the designer enthusiasticaly suggests, worn as a necklace — I thought: If he can’t even let a trivet sit still then his fascination with movement must be more than a design philosophy, it’s probably coded in his DNA. I was right. Dror has been obsessed with kinetic toys since he was a child, and when he moved to New York six years ago to set up his studio, he began a collection of them that now numbers close to 100. Stationed around his office, the toys help him study the movement of complex geometries: “They all play with physics in different ways,” he says. “There’s one that flies, one that works with centrifugal movement, one with the pressure of air.” Here are 8 of his favorites.


Mathematically speaking, the Rubik’s Snake — a twistable length of 24 right isosceles triangular prisms — can attain more than a zillion possible configurations. This made it a go-to toy in Dror’s childhood repertoire. “It’s a very simple joinery of triangles, and yet the possibilities are incredible,” he explains. “You keep on discovering new geometries.”


Invented by New York–based designer/engineer Chuck Hoberman, the Hoberman Sphere uses scissor-joints to unfold from a 9.5-inch ball to a 30-inch icosidodecahedron (the mini sphere expands from 5 to 12 inches). “The unique hinges allow one simple movement to produce a gorgeous result,” says Dror.


Also in Hoberman’s oeuvre is the inscrutable Switch Pitch ball, which reshuffles itself from the inside out, changing from one color to another. (See the demo here.)


The mystery of the blow ball pipe is how the ball can seemingly defy gravity — spinning aloft on a stream of air even when the pipe is held at an angle. Of all the toys Dror selected, this is the only one that has directly inspired one of his designs: He recently pitched an idea for a lamp with a floating element, though it won’t rely on a stream of air for lift.


The balloon-propelled car is an extremely simple example of rocket science, which is why it’s also a classic do-it-yourself science-class project.


“You can almost express my entire philosophy of design, from metaphor to physics, with this little push puppet toy I played with as a kid,” says Dror. “Every time you press it, depending on how hard you push, you get another rhythm to the puppet’s body. I was at a New York flea market last year when I saw this big, beautiful push-button horse, 6 or 7 inches high but made the same way. I left to go get cash and when I came back, it was gone. I still regret it.”


The spinning top, which stays upright due to angular momentum, is one of the oldest toys consistently dug up by archaeologists. Dror has 5 varieties in his collection.


“I used to love playing with little aerodynamic wooden planes as a kid, watching them fly through the air,” says Dror. The balsa plane is one of the cheapest toys out there — it typically costs less than two bucks — but Dror’s flight experience may prove invaluable when his first jet commission comes in.


Dror's new Try It trivet for Alessi is a toy in its own right: The three magnetic metal circles can be nested, separated, rearranged into curvy patterns, or even worn as jewelry by the especially adventurous.