Design Decoded: Lego Architecture Studio Brings Modernism to the Play Room

“Farnsworth House is a structure that seemed to have been designed using only ordinary LEGO bricks, lending itself perfectly for exploration as a potential model. The challenge may not seem so obvious: straightforward design and basic LEGO elements, what else could you ask for? However, there are two not so obvious challenges even with a seemingly easy build, namely those of scale and proportion.” – - Lego artist Adam Reed Tucker (images: LEGO, Wikipedia) (images: Lego and Farnsworth House)
“Farnsworth House is a structure that seemed to have been designed using only ordinary LEGO bricks, lending itself perfectly for exploration as a potential model. The challenge may not seem so obvious: straightforward design and basic LEGO elements, what else could you ask for? However, there are two not so obvious challenges even with a seemingly easy build, namely those of scale and proportion.” –  Lego artist Adam Reed Tucker (images: LEGO, Wikipedia) (images: Lego and Farnsworth House)

Lego bricks have been inspiring generations of future architects since they first hit toy store shelves in 1949. For any kid (anyone really) with even the slightest predisposition toward building, Legos represented an incredible opportunity to create anything. I’ve probably wasted days of my life sitting on the floor amidst piles of tiny plastic bricks, scouring through the thick piles of our carpeting to find the one small piece that would make my design perfect, which inevitably would elude me until one of my parents had the ill fortune to step on it. The possible permutations of the snap-together blocks were limited only by my imagination and the number of blocks on my carpet. Decades later, my architectural career may be in remission, but I still love Legos. In 2008, the Danish toymaker decided to capitalize on such life-long goodwill with the Lego Architecture Series, which gives the brick-obsessed the chance to build their own small-scale replicas of iconic works of architecture from around the world – from the Empire State Building to the Imperial Hotel.

lego villa savoye

“The biggest challenges of the LEGO model construction – which took more than 15 versions to reach its final state and included the help of most experienced designers from the LEGO team – were they pillars and the complex roof design. At first I constructed the pillars from 1×1 round bricks, but they always seemed oversized. In the final version…I used blades from LEGO lightsabers….” – Lego artist Michael Hepp, statement from the Villa Savoye instruction manual (images: LEGO, Wikipedia)

The Architecture Series is most successful at capturing modernist designs, such as Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye (1929, above image) and Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House (1951, below image). Along with the assembly instructions, the extensive books that accompany each set provide a little background on the miniature masterpieces, elucidating their historic importance and notable features. Recently, Lego took their interest in architectural modernism even further with the debut of The Lego Architecture Studio, a new set for a more mature demographic that gives users the tools to make their own unique contribution to toy architecture canon.

lego architecture studio

The new Lego architecture studio includes 1210 Lego bricks and an inspirational guidebook filled with 272 pages of tips, techniques, features, and exercises endorsed by leading design houses. (image: Lego)

Before they went into full production, the monochromatic Architecture Studio was tested and endorsed by noted architecture firms from around the world: REX architecture, Sou Fujimoto Architects, SOM, MAD Architects, Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, and Safdie Architects. The set consists of 1,210 pieces and accompanying user guide – an architectural crash course with contributions from the participating firms — designed to help the Sunday morning modernist learn more about concepts like space, section, scale, mass, symmetry, modules and repetition. Color, history and ornament are basic architectural principles as well, but like the Modernists who inspired the series, the Architecture Studio abandons those ideas in favor of studies in pure form and planning principles.

“Architects very often start designing ‘in negative’: it is about designing space where people live or work. You can design spaces and how they relate to one another by perceiving the Lego bricks as empty space.” – Excerpt on “Space and Section” from the Architecture Studio Guidebook (image: Lego)

While the fundamentals are there, a lot of the fun seems to be missing. The affordable, egalitarian multicolored blocks beloved by kids and adults have been replaced with expensive, refined model-making kits that are targeted more toward collectors and that, when built, likely won’t be destroyed and reused as part of some other far-out creation, but will sit on a book shelf and collect dust (and I write that as someone with a Villa Savoye on his book shelf collecting dust). It seems more text book than toy box.

Read the full article on Design Decoded

 

“You killed the car.” 370 Beech St. aka Cameron’s House Now on the Market

370 beech ben rose

[image via luxist]

As seen in the 1986 movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the modern home of Ferris’ best friend Cameron is now on the market. 370 Beech Street, aka The Ben Rose Home, in Highland Park, Illinois was designed by architect A. James Speyer. After a traditional Beaux-Arts education, Speyer traveled through Europe in the 1930’s, cultivating a new, ornament-free Modern vocabulary. As you might be able to tell from the glass-and-steel glory that is the Ben Rose Home, Speyer returned to the states to study with Mies Van der Rohe at the Illinois Institute of Technology, where he also later taught. Almost as much a piece of eye candy as the 1961 Ferrari it rather unsuccessfully protected, Cameron’s house was also an incredibly savvy setpiece. Continue reading ““You killed the car.” 370 Beech St. aka Cameron’s House Now on the Market”

Mies-on-an-auction block


In other library-related news, Washington D.C. Mayor Anthony Williams wants to sell lease for 99-years the Martin Luther King Memorial Library. The 1972 Library, designed by Mies van der Rohe is in undeniable need of renovation, and studies have been done showing the feasibility of such an undertaking – see the right image above, designed by a team of AIA members 6 years ago. (white beams? really?) Unfortunately, the local government seems more disposed to use their Mies blood-money to erect a new Central Library and develope the old convention center site only a few blocks away. Then, I suppose they’ll just move the “memorial” name plate and use Mies’ Library for Gun Shows and Flea Markets.

&#183 DC Library Renaissance Project
&#183 Through Glass Darkly: DC’s poor vision for Library [Washington Post]
&#183 Williams Pushes Forward with Library Plan [DCist]