Sunday, March 11, 2012

LEGO architecture

Architects love to claim that they liked playing with LEGO when they were kids. But it was not until the launch of the LEGO Architecture line in 2009 that LEGO finally acknowledged its relationship with architecture officially.

The Architecture product line has an “Architect series” and a “Landmark series.” Two Frank Lloyd Wright buildings – Guggenheim and Fallingwater – made it in the first batch in 2009. Robie House was added in 2011, making FLW the highest scoring architect in the LEGO family. SOM has two, but it’s strange that Burj Khalifa is put in the “Architect” category while the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) is in “Landmark.” There is an obvious geographical bias in the selection. Only 3 out of all 12 buildings are located outside of the US, including the latest addition Jørn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House, revealed at the end of last month.

LEGO Architecture: Architect Series

LEGO Architecture: Landmark Series

Starting in September last year, fans were able to vote and tell LEGO which architectural icon should be the next LEGO set. It was announced on Thursday that the winner of round one was Habitat 67 in Montreal, designed by Moshe Safdie. I think the reason it beat the Gherkin and Taipei 101 is that the building reflects perfectly the philosophy of LEGO: a modular system with standard building blocks. But the official website says, “it takes more than popularity to make the grade as a LEGO Architecture icon.” Of course they need to see what makes more money. Now the second round of “Inspire and Vote” has started. Leading the poll at the moment is Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia. I have no idea how LEGO can pull that off. Sydney Opera House already looks super clumsy, with all the awkwardly curved pieces that make up the roofs. How could they get Sagrada Familia right? I say they should just build Kisho Kurokawa’s Nakagin Capsule Tower. It’s very LEGO-friendly, and Rem would be the first to buy it.
Habitat 67: winner of the “Inspire and Vote” Round 1
For Round 2: Which one is more LEGO-like?

Although the LEGO Architecture line is designed in the US, LEGO in general is still a Danish national pride. BIG (of course) created LEGO Towers in 2007, a proposal for a residential, retail and hotel development in Copenhagen. They spent five weeks to literally build a 1:50 model out of 250,000 LEGO Bricks. It was exhibited in the “BIG: CPH Experiment” show at the Storefront of Art and Architecture in New York.
BIG’s LEGO Towers at Storefront

KRADS is another young architecture office in Denmark who have set up various “Playtime” workshops to explore fundamental architectural principles through LEGO Bricks. Recently, they collaborated with Miny Maas in the studio “EuroHigh” at The Why Factory, asking students to use 1 million LEGO Bricks in search for an “ultimate European skyscraper.” 676 models at 1:1000 scale were displayed in the Oostserre of TU Delft as the results of mid-term review – a grid of 26 linear iterations that extensively catalogue the formal impacts of tweaking certain parameters. They look fun and rigorous at the same time: a systematic adventure with a systematic toy.

I feel that the architects’ experiments with the LEGO Brick are more true to the original LEGO logic. Instead of constrained by the specific pieces and aiming at the only way of assemblage, they utilize standard yet flexible building blocks and let the solution fly with imagination. Even just two Bricks give 24 different combinations, no to mention when you have 1 million of them. Why do we need a specific set for Habitat 67 or the Capsule Tower anyways?

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