Archive for the ‘Toys’ Category

Learn from play

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2009

BBC television host James May enlisted the help of 1,000 people to build a full-sized house out of 3.3 million Lego blocks to use in his show James May’s Toy Stories. Problem is, it can’t stay on its vineyard site in England, and can’t be moved. Legoland won’t even take it.

article-1214729-068183FB000005DC-413_634x423In a move that would break any architect’s heart, May planned to sell the blocks, but Lego won’t allow it. Lego says putting 3.3 million bricks on the market will dilute sales of their product, so May is left with donating the bricks to charity. Consider the silliness: If he built the house from real bricks he bought from a brickyard and then tried to sell them, would the brick-maker be able to say a resale would “dilute” his sales. Doubtful.

Lego states they are disappointed May did not consult with them to discuss how to make a structure that could be moved, so now they’re forbidding him to sell it. Is this a story of legitimate ownership of a brand, or how one can buy and use tools to make his own creation? Why does one have to build what is approved by the brand holder?

Mimg_01Questions of approval and ownership aside, the actual construction is amazing. You can easily see how Lego has inspired famous architects like Mario Botta of Lugano, Switzerland. I wonder if Mario had Legos as a young man to use to experiment with rhythm, color and structure. You can see similarities in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Kyobo Tower, and the Samsung Museum of Modern Art, which has stripes like those in James May’s masterpiece. Botta’s design for the Church of Santo Volta uses blocky proportions reminiscent of Lego constructions.

article-1214729-068181E8000005DC-280_634x836The graphics inside the house are cool, enlarged versions of rastor output. It’s a Bauhaus-like typographic creation akin to Deborah Sussman’s signs for the Apple Campus in Cuppertino or when tilemaker artists create modern motifs.

Of course, the structure does feel more like a plaything than a house. May’s use of high chroma color is unusual, and although the interior of the house is amazing, I wouldn’t exactly say it’s “cozy.” (Neither does May.)

May conducted an experiment in life-sized construction with materials intended to house half-inch figurines. And he did it without Lego’s help. It worked (despite the fact the house has a leaky roof). Legos may not be a practical building material, but they sure can give us an idea of new ways to approach old ideas like the simple four-walled house.

Like May, Botta and Frank Lloyd Wright, we can all learn from play.