Last week the Architects corner of the internet was lit up1 by BIG’s latest design The Lego House, a lego experience center near LEGO HQ in Billund Denmark. But the building is just the latest link in a chain which joins Lego and Architecture together.
In 1949 Ole Kirk Christiansen with his company LEGO started manufacturing Automatic Binding Bricks what we would all recognise today as the Lego brick the only difference being a slot in the sides for windows and doors and the absence of the hollow tubes in the undersides that would be added in 1958. The first sets were focused on building Architectural structures.
Over the years as Lego expanded as a business and a brand it has inspired many Architects as children, it’s also been used directly as a design tool, Jørn Utzon used lego bricks to help him lay out the design of his last building the Utzon Centre as sketching had become harder for him in his old age.2
Again at the start of this century lego rediscovered it’s Architectural roots, Adam Reed Tucker pitched an idea to Lego to release sets of world landmarks. Lego supported him in setting up his company brickstructures and themselves started a range of Architectural classics at architecture.lego. This all came together with the increasing diversification and mediatisation3 of Lego their ‘system of play’ giving way to the ‘narrativization’ of their ranges. From plain bricks where you must construct the models and the stories yourself, increasingly lego systems come with a ‘world’ built in, whether its Lego Star Wars or Hero Factory. They have also embraced newer ways to play and experiment with the lego system. You can download software and design in 3d anything you want, then order the pieces to be delivered or reprogram their hackable robotic bricks Mindstorms.
BIG is a good fit for Lego having used it in their models for exhibitions before, Bjarke Ingels even has his own lego persona. Also BIG understand the requirements of a project like this to extend beyond the plain numbers of the program to embody lego both into the Architecture and for the visitors to the building. The projects composition allows you to be below, above and within the Lego block inspired design. It is an easily quoteable building and it will itself become a link in a lego chain brand that projects lego into galaxies further and further away.
I can’t find corroboration for this except for my memory of a lecture about Utzon I attended. But it rings true to his way of working ‘Utzon rarely used a sketchbook, but would draw on anything that was available. He drew the initial plan for an art museum at Silkeborg, in Denmark, with poured salt on a restaurant table in Sydney, which he then photographed with a borrowed camera. The design was based on Buddhist caves he had visited near the Gobi Desert, but the museum was never built. Another friend recalled Utzon using a charred stick on a pavement to sketch the cross-section of a cave-room he had seen in China, which was to form the basis for his design for a new house; sadly the sketch was washed away by a thunderstorm that same night.’ The Telegraph. [↩]