My three year old daughter has recently discovered Lego. I remembered I had an old box of it in the loft and she loves playing with it now. I loved Lego; it may well have been an early influence in my career as an Architect. The principle of Lego, in relation to architecture, bears many similarities – especially today, where we are increasingly constrained by standardised components. I have also recently been reminded just how painful it is to stand on one of those minute pieces of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene!
Lego has an impressive history – especially for a toy; which more commonly tend to come and go with children’s trends. It was founded, and is still manufactured, in Billund Denmark. Its roots go back to wooden toys built in the late 1800’s, but the plastic Lego bricks we know today have been around since the late 1940’s. “Lego” comes from the Danish phrase leg godt, meaning “play well”.
There is a Legoland theme park in Windsor, but I didn’t realise that there are two more in America, one in Germany, one in Malaysia and, of course, one in Billund. Windsor also has a Lego Hotel. In theory this surely has the potential to be an amazing building, but the reality is a real disappointment – imagine a Travelodge with a Lego clad entrance.
Lego remains a huge and diverse company. The limitless range of different assemblies ensures it can keep producing new ideas. It’s a globally recognised brand and turned over £2.65bn in 2012. It’s probably reasonable to assume that most people in the UK have owned/ played with it at some point. Lego believe that they have produced some 600 billion Lego elements to date.They currently produce approximately 36 billion elements per year. If all the Lego bricks ever produced were divided equally among the world population, each person would have 62 Lego bricks! Its also been said that Lego produces the most tyres in the world – small ones of course! They produce 318 million tyres a year, nearly half of all Lego sets feature tyres on them.
There have been many one-off constructions using Lego, these include; a full sized Volvo XC90 car and several towers, one reaching 32m high (around 9-10 storeys!) and utilising 500,000 bricks. In 2009 James May built a Lego house – as in a full size one. It was an impressive achievement, but not a great looking dwelling – hence why it was later demolished.
Lego people (or miniFigures as they are called) have become very popular in their own right. Last year, while at the Olympics, I saw a superb cutaway model of the Olympic stadium using 100,000 bricks, all the seats were then filled with 10,000 individual Lego people. Impressive!
In 2010 Lego launched a new sub-brand (I’m amazed they haven’t done is sooner). It’s called ‘Lego Architecture’. These are models of famous buildings/ landmarks from around the globe. There are eighteen models in the series now which includes; The Empire State Building, Solomon Guggenheim Museum, The Sydney Opera House, The Burj Khalifa and Big Ben. My favourite is probably Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye house in Poissy on the outskirts of Paris. Take a look at the Lego Architecture collection, click here.
So Lego has enjoyed six decades of building. Its an impressive story. I hope Lego has many more years of evolving and will continue to inspire children with simple, creative and imaginative play.