Architect: BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group
Location: Billund, Denmark
Project Year: 2017 (completed)
Client: The LEGO Group
Area: 12,000 m² (130,000 sq. ft)
Height: 23 meters
We all have dived into that ‘fantasy world’ until late into our childhood, where we imagine ourselves and our toys of equal scale and pretend to experience it as reality!
Inaugurated on 28th October 2017, the Lego House is a whimsical structure located in the heart of Billund. It is a 23m tall experiential centre serving LEGO fans of all ages and making the goal of the city as becoming the Capital for children even more tangible.
“Lego House is a literal manifestation of the infinite possibilities of the Lego brick – one that embodies the notion of systematic creativity and allows children of all ages countless opportunities to create their own worlds and to inhabit them through play,” said Ingels.
“At its finest, that is what architecture, and Lego play, is all about: empowering people to imagine new worlds that are more exciting and expressive than the status quo – and to provide them with the tools and the skills to make them a reality.”
Concept and Approach
According to the client’s philosophy, the LEGO House had an essentially simplistic criterion. Since it is in the heart of the Capital of Children, the idea emerged to design it like a city centre or rather a town square. The outdoor-oriented everyday elements like cafe, ticket offices, forum, LEGO store, restrooms, wardrobes, and loading were combined and spread together on the ground floor. Then a children’s square framed by these individual buildings came out like a crossing plaza allowing daylight and views for people in different directions. A cluster of galleries was arranged above the square creating a sequence exhibition; a master gallery was placed in between that bridged all other galleries as a skylit LEGO art form. Two pixelated staircase structures called ‘melts’ are placed across each other that act as an informal outdoor theatre. Unique roofscape installations are built on individual coloured gallery tops. This whole assembly of each element shapes the human scale LEGO House welcoming people and leaving them with enriching experiences.
Planning and Design
Upon entering the building, the lobby is a large indoor plaza with elevators to the rooftops of restaurants, cafes and gift shops. Many natural materials, hardwood floors, white walls, ceilings, etc. Like the exterior, the colours are calming. There are lots of curious locals, some pushing strollers and looking for an elevator to the rooftop playground, others standing around chatter. A large spiral staircase is easy to find in the space as it has gone through the entrance door but is visible from the main space. It wraps up “Tree of Creativity”, an impressive and colourful installation built from 3.5 million Lego pieces that took four months to build. Lego designers have computer programs that transform designs into Lego components. Employees had to carefully soak the pieces in glue and put on a harness to attach the work together, to solve the problem in assembly.
It was essential to keep this space absolutely with no column because LEGO itself doesn’t have them in their designs. So, a steel bridge of about 1,900 tonnes provides its ceiling height of 4 to 7m and hang 21 rooms of volume from it.
By climbing stairs to enter the colour-coded “experience zone”, visitors can try various interactive experiences, such as making Lego fish in a digital aquarium for photographing, scanning and animation, building and testing racing cars or making Lego movies in stop motion. There are also some display areas. Ingles calls the bright top space the Cornerstone Gallery. “It’s like the last piece you put in to make the bricks form an arch.” This room is designed for the work of AFOL (adult Lego fanatics). At present, three huge dinosaurs occupy the entire room. There are eight circular skylights fixed on top of Lego bricks. This is one of the only spaces where there is nothing to play. The room shows the complete and highly detailed installation, as an exhibition hall, in contrast to the more informal experience area, used for ongoing experiments.
Construction Techniques and Material
The precise accuracy in the production of Lego’s is what contributes to its success. The identical pieces of bricks made with hollow tubes and extruded heads that click into each other creates a strong and rigid structure. This technique is apparently also used in the construction of the LEGO house and make the blocks appear to be effortlessly stacked upon each other. The architecture of each piece relates to a simple, body-designed system, colour-matched from box to box, and the craftsmanship and quality are remarkably consistent. BIG aimed to transform these qualities into full-fledged buildings. The logic and language of the 2×4 LEGO bricks are the keys to its design. For him, Lego is a mindset, not a toy. ‘The genius of Lego is that it isn’t a toy – it’s more like a tool. It gives you the ability to create your own world,’ says Ingles.
Exceptional care was taken to maintain the proportion of Lego bricks entered throughout the project. Like nature, the Fibonacci sequence, or golden ratio, is the golden ratio for LEGO 2×4 in the environment in which it is built. Use it anywhere, scale to approximately 18cm high and 60cm long, a convenient ratio for cabinets and building materials. It is 30 cm or 60 cm without cutting the façade module from the entire internal and external façade.
As a result, the construction technology was notably possible, making the whole complex out of concrete with a structure consisting of beams, pillars and load-bearing walls. Steel was used only in the most complex parts like the pixelated stairs that act as an outside theatre for the public. It has a steel framework but is concealed by internal shielding, preserving in this way the original nature of the idea underlying the project.
BIG desperately had an eye on this commission and the overjoyed public responses prove that the firm did justice to the project. Ingles wrote in his firm’s monograph: ‘We felt that if BIG had been created with the single purpose of building only one building, it would be to design the house for Lego.’ ‘The sense of empowerment people get with Lego, it’s not a bad lesson for us all that you can create or have a sense of control over your own environment.’
The LEGO house embodies casual ease and nostalgia with the right balance of simple design and specific details that put a hallmark of its true identity.
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