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.
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.
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.
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.