LEGOs aren’t just for the amateur builder. With the LEGO Group’s opening of its new campus in Billund, Denmark, the company has added to their growing list of architectural standouts. Two years ago the Danish toy brand opened their expansive BIG-designed LEGO House to the public, which included playrooms, a LEGO store, outdoor playgrounds, galleries, and restaurants within a complex of stacked blocks. The new building, which opened Monday, is the first phase of a C.F. Møller-designed campus project that will wrap up in 2021. Altogether the completed project will be 580,000 square feet and house over 2,000 of the company’s employees in Billund, a small town in Denmark's Jutland region. The LEGO House alone is expected to bring in 250,000 visitors every year to a town with a population of only 6,000. As an international toy company, LEGO Group put forward a playful design prompt for the campus. The House's design is an obvious ode to the famous brick shape of the LEGO toys, cast-concrete LEGO bricks are interspersed on the facade, and a yellow brick-like structure sits on top of the buildings in another less-than-subtle reference. “The team has worked hard to create a workspace that reflects our values and instills a sense of fun," said Niels B. Christiansen, CEO of the LEGO Group, in a statement. “Our mission is to inspire children so it’s important we provide our talented colleagues with an environment that is playful and inspires creativity and innovative thinking.” The LEGO Group was intentional about reflecting its sustainability focus in the new campus. Half of the building’s energy will be sourced from the solar panels on the parking garage’s roof, and materials were chosen to minimize the building’s carbon footprint. “In the same way you build with LEGO bricks, we took elements our people love and brought them all together to create something unique," explained Anneke Beerkens, senior workplace anthropologists for LEGO Group. “For example, employees told us that they wanted the freedom to choose an environment that suited them best for whatever they were working on, but also liked to stay close to teammates. So we built team ‘neighborhoods’ which are a mix of individual and collaborative workspaces designed to create a caring environment where people can do great quality work.”
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Last week we shared a selection of kitsch and panache from the gift guide in our December issue. In case you have a few more people on your shopping list, see what our editors, architect friends, and fellow design aficionados are asking for this year. Zeilmaker Chair by Gerrit Thomas Rietveld MoMA Store This subdued dark-green iteration of Rietveld’s iconic 1918 Red and Blue Chair features the same architectural lines inspired by the philosophy of “well-being and comfort of the spirit.” Later versions incorporate various colors depending on the client—in this case, a green, black, and white motif was created for a schoolteacher. $4,215 | store.moma.org OD-11 Wireless Loudspeaker Teenage Engineering This rectangular volume houses a wireless multiroom loudspeaker that plays your music from any device. The new OD-11 is a carefully reengineered version of the original OD-11 ortho-directional loudspeaker, made in 1974 by the Swedish sound genius Stig Carlsson. It can be paired with the ortho remote, which allows for wireless volume control and click functions for play, pause, and skip. $999 | teenage.engineering Click-Clock Ayako Aratani Sculpted in porcelain, these wall-hanging timepieces were formed with biomorphic, rounded edges that visually denote the time of day by the spine-like hour markers. small $75, medium $95 | ayakodesignstudio.com Alvar Aalto Serving Platters The Glass House Design Store These serving platters integrate the undulating lines of the iconic glass Alvar Aalto vase into wood. Fashioned in birch with an oak veneer, the material palette pays tribute to the designer’s love of the Finnish landscape. $60 | designstore.theglasshouse.org Juliet Vessels Anna Karlin Made of borosilicate glass, these tabletop glass vessels reference science lab beakers but are finished with hand-turned solid brass stoppers for a new and unfamiliar feel. Each stopper is unique to the different glass shapes. $110 | annakarlin.com Arc de Triomphe LEGO Create a four-inch-tall model of Paris’s iconic landmark with 382 Lego bricks. Once built, the iconic reproduction features statue-adorned pillars, sculptural reliefs, and semi-realistic stone-like coloring. $40 | shop.lego.com
The upstate town of Goshen, New York, with a population of about 5,300, may get a $500 million Legoland theme park. Goshen's Planning Board unanimously approved a resolution last week allowing the park to move forward. The developer behind the park, Merlin Entertainments, already operates nine other Legolands worldwide. For the park's proponents, Legoland represents a way to bring considerable revenue into the town, as well as ancillary development like hotels and restaurants. Goshen Supervisor Douglas Bloomfield told the Times Herald-Record that the park was "a way to offset escalating costs and declining revenues." About 52 percent of the land in Goshen is public and not subject to taxation. The project's approval granted Merlin Entertainments $37 million in tax breaks, which its opponents have said is unnecessary for a company of Merlin's size. A host agreement approved in May requires Merlin to pay the town $1.3 million yearly if the park successfully brings in 2 million visitors during its season from April to October. Legoland's opponents have raised concerns about the local impacts of the development. Stop Legoland, an initiative by the Concerned Citizens for the Hudson Valley, has held teach-ins on the potential negative effects of the theme park, discussing topics from traffic congestion to alleged corruption between the town and the developer. The group has issued a petition for a referendum on eight acres of the 150-acre project. This petition is not likely to impede the park's progress, as representatives from Legoland have said they will move forward with or without the eight acres. With a Bjarke Ingels–designed Lego House recently opened in Billund, Denmark, the Goshen park would represent another major property expansion for Merlin Entertainments, a $7.1 billion conglomerate second only to Disney in its parks' attendance.
Ever placed the sole of your bare foot onto a piece of LEGO left on the floor? If you have, you know the and sheer pain and annoyance at 1) How such a harmless looking single brick could cause so much pain and 2) Why it was there in the first place. If one floor-bound LEGO brick is enough to cause you such discomfort, then prepare to be triggered at the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C., where hundreds of thousands of bricks, courtesy of Ai Weiwei, will be laid on the floor to form portraits. These are not just any old pieces of portraiture, though. In Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn, the Chinese artist has chosen to represent activists. Perhaps this is fitting. Activists, to those in power, can be as aggravating as treading on a piece of LEGO. Collectively, they are more daunting—as daunting as say, walking across an entire floor of jagged LEGO. Within the circular museum, 176 portraits all comprised of LEGO and assembled by hand populate the museum's second floor, spanning 700 feet. Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn will fill the entirety of the second-floor galleries and also feature two graphic wallpapers, one of which is being exhibited for the first time. This debuting artwork is titled The Plain Version of the Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca and will cover the outer wall of the Hirshhorn's second floor. The piece includes images of surveillance and is a monochrome take on Ai's The Animal That Looks Like a Llama but is Really an Alpaca which itself will be found in the lobby of the same floor. This will be the first time Ai's Trace has been shown on the East Coast. Trace was first commissioned in 2014, opening at Alcatraz in San Francisco as a collaboration between the nonprofit FOR-SITE Foundation, the National Park Service, and the Golden Gate Park Conservancy. The exhibition and artwork featured derives from Ai's treatment by the Chinese government stemming back to 2011 when he was incarcerated, interrogated and tracked by authorities for 81 days. In addition to this, Ai was also banned from exiting China until two years ago. Ai Weiwei: Trace at Hirshhorn will be on view from June 28 through January 1, 2018. The evening before the exhibition's opening, Ai will give the annual James T. Demetrion Lecture in the Hirshhorn’s Ring Auditorium marking his first appearance in the city. In 2012, the museum ran a retrospective of the artist's work, the first in the U.S., alas, Ai was prohibited from attending. Free tickets for the lecture will be released online on June 19. More details can be found on the museum website.
LEGO is quickly becoming an increasingly popular medium among the artisan community, with the likes of Adam Reed Tucker, Tom Alphin and others using LEGO blocks to form landmark works of architecture. Now, Arndt Schlaudraff has entered the fray with a selection of Brutalist LEGO buildings set make Modernists drool. Surprisingly, there are only 11 official LEGO Certified Professionals in the world but that hasn't stopped Berlin-based "MOC" (a popular phrase in the LEGO lexicon meaning "my own creation") artist, Arndt Schlaudraff (who hails from advertising, not architecture) from building. Schlaudraff, it seems, has a taste for Brutalist-style blocks as he has created numerous replicas of Modernist masterpieces, most notably Louis Kahn's Salk Institute (above). Using only white bricks (unlike fellow creator Tom Alphin) and aided by their orthogonal nature, Schlaudraff is able to perfect the clean finishes, crisp lines, and massing often found in Brutalist architecture. While his work (or rather, hobby) is predominantly LEGO-based, other slightly more realistic elements do enter the fray. This can be seen in the form of model motorcars and scale people being included in the photographs; however, few LEGO aficionados are likely to approve of this. That said, it could also be argued that the models intentionally detract from the LEGO-style and at times it can be very easy to forget you are looking at a LEGO building because of this. If you fancy getting your hands on a copy, think again. The shelf-life of Schlaudraff's creations is virtually non-existent as he only takes the time to photograph the models before dismantling them and starting from scratch on a new design. Despite not having an architectural background, the Berlin resident commented on how his city was once used as a playground for Modernists, something which has fed his imagination. "Someone once said that Berlin is the city where the best architects of the world build their worst buildings, which I think is really funny and also a bit true," he said in a recent interview. Speaking of architecture, Schlaudraff went on to say how Mies van der Rohe's rejuvenated National Gallery in Berlin was one of his favorite buildings. "I recently followed Bjarke Ingels on Instagram. I think his projects are super interesting," he said, adding, that Herzog and de Meuron were his "all-time favorites." Speaking of his admiration of Brutalism, Schlaudraff said he enjoyed the "sculptural aspect of Brutalist architecture." "If it’s a good Brutalist building it’s like a piece of art, a big sculpture. You can walk around and always see new views and sights which look like art. Many people just see an ugly piece of rotten concrete, but it’s so much more," he continued. "As for Modernist architecture, I like that it’s so clean. The ideas of Modernist architecture are over 80 years old, but still look recent." More examples of Schlaudraff's work can be found on his Instagram feed at @lego_tonic.
In Lego's hometown of Billund, Denmark, 3,000 residents came together to celebrate the topping out of the Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) Lego House. Devoted to the international company, the buildings modular aesthetic is derived from the signature Lego toy bricks. The 3,000 were invited on a tour of the Lego House construction site that, when finished, will be comprised of 21 enormous Lego bricks built on top of each other. So far, the structure has been a year in the making, and, despite dancing with a potentially cliché typology, BIG has artfully avoided designing a brick built "duck" of a building. The building features what Ingels calls a "keystone"—its topmost mass—in the form of a oversized standard 2x4 Lego brick. This space will act as a social hub and experience center for the local community. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTWdjqp-MoQ Rising just over 75 feet high and occupying a 2.9 acres, the predominantly white concrete structure will make use of many colorful terrace spaces, some of which feature green roofs as well as housing a central public square. The main feature of the Lego House will be four "play zones" for paying visitors. These zones, Lego said, "will offer guests unique Lego experiences, inviting them to use their minds as well as their hands." Within these spaces, users can engage and build with the Lego bricks, telling stories and expressing themselves through the block-based medium. In another zone, visitors will view the story of the Lego family, showcasing the development of the company and its products. The Lego House is also one of the company's contributions to the goal of making Billund the "Capital of Children." (More info on that goal can be seen here.) The last brick is due to be laid in mid-2017.
In a hybrid of LEGO and origami, Paper Punk has created their first boxed set of punch-and-fold, customizable paper building blocks. Urban Fold is the California-based company’s newest creation by founder Grace Hawthorne, a designer, author, and artist from San Francisco who currently teaches at Stanford University’s d.school (Institute of Design). The set gives builders the opportunity to create a paper city in punchy colors and patterns, inspired by Berlin graffiti and the photography of Matthias Heiderich. Urban Fold contains 48 buildable shapes and 697 stickers, an urban planning map, and an idea guide to creating the shapes of the world’s most popular cities. Each paper building block comes in a bright shade and/or a geometric pattern and the stickers can transform triangles into spires, quarter circles into windows, or squares into moveable pedestrians. For Hawthorne, the boldness of the set was key, “I wanted to create an urban-minded build/play experience that was also eye-candy, just impossible to resist because it’s bursting with colors, patterns, cool graphics,” she said in an interview for Mediabistro. These multi-colored blocks can be arranged and stacked with complete creative freedom and, like traditional wood building blocks, can be built up and knocked down for infinite construction and reconstruction. If a builder prefers a minimalist look, the shapes can also be folded inside out to be all white. “I refer it to an open box set because there are so many pieces to it," Hawthorne commented, “What anyone can create with it is only bounded by their imagination.” After 16 months of testing, Paper Punk's imagination brought forth the innovative project, but only with funding can it come to reality. In the same way that her company was launched last year, Hawthorne has taken to a Kickstarter campaign. With a $33 backing pledge, builders of all ages can own a Urban Fold architecture toy set. The funding period ends on December 2nd and the company promises a shipping date in time for the holidays.
On August 1st, LEGO released a new kit in its series of building block design sets marketed specifically to architecture enthusiasts. LEGO’s Architecture Studio Kit, from its Architecture Series of adult-catered building sets, consists of 1,200 all white and translucent plastic bricks but no instructions. The free-for-all kit is endorsed by MAD Architects of Beijing and comes with a guidebook of architecture building exercises. Michael Bleby of Business Review Weekly writes that this set "is the first in the range to focus on creativity and architectural principles, rather than a specific architectural icon." A modernist’s dream that costs significantly less than others within the series, LEGO may possibly have caught onto a new niche market. Especially when reviews thus far of the landmark-specific Architecture Series have been mixed from architects and enthusiasts alike. The Architecture Series offers sets of building blocks that instruct users to create small versions of famous architectural landmarks, houses, and buildings ranging from Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater to the White House. Sets are built for the novelty of owning a miniature model, not for the purpose of play and constant redesign, like the traditional primary-colored LEGO bricks marketed at children. However, Business Review Weekly reports that architects purchasing the sets for personal use are increasingly dissatisfied with the scale, lack of detail, and high price of the Architecture sets. In an Architizer critique of the LEGO series, AJ Artemel questions whether these Series sets with their limited pieces, instructions, and purpose actually hinder creativity rather than encourage it: “It seems as if the sort of learning discovered through play and exploration can only take place in an environment with many options and lots of flexibility. And without the large degree of interchangeability offered by LEGO’s sandbox-style sets, the ‘systematic’ overwhelms the ‘creativity.’” In comparison, designs created by owners of the newly released Architecture Studio Kit have no presupposed end. Available online for only $150, builders have creative freedom with the colorless set. Within the constant critique of the architecture world, LEGO's new set promises space for architectural experiment, done in miniature plastic bricks.
[beforeafter] [/beforeafter] Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) and LEGO have unveiled plans for the LEGO House, an experience and education museum to be built in Billund, Denmark, LEGO’s birthplace. Visitors will enter a building resembling giant LEGO stacked blocks. The LEGO-block building concept embodies the tenants of LEGO play: stimulated learning and interactive thinking. Visitors can interact with the museum by walking around, under, and over, just as they would if they were playing with the bricks. Construction is projected to begin next year. The piled bricks will stand approximately 100 feet tall and have around 82,000 square feet of exhibition areas, a cafe, a unique LEGO store and a covered 20,000 square foot public plaza. The museum and its plaza will be open to the public for free, although admission charges will apply to other areas. The project will incorporate plentiful daylighting, interactive exhibits and various rooftop gardens complete with towering LEGO trees that will expand public space and offer outdoor play spaces. LEGO owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen said in a statement, "the LEGO House will be a place where people can enjoy active fun but at the same time it will be an educational and inspirational experience—everything that LEGO play offers." The Museum is planned to open in 2016 and is projected to see approximately 250,000 visitors per year.
Lego is giving architecture fans the chance to vote for the next model in its Architecture Series. Among the expected architectural wonders, like the Coliseum and the Eiffel Tower, more modern choices include Foster and Partners' 30 St. Mary's Axe (aka The Gherkin), Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67, and Santiago Calatrava's Turning Torso. Current structures in the series—which began in the 60's but was discontinued until recently— include Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater, SOM's Burj Khalifa, and Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House.