- Kim Høltermand
Emerging from the ground, in large white-bricked volumes, mass cantilevers carve out curious voids, beckoning audiences. The Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) Lego House in Billund, Denmark sees the ethos of what has established Lego as a staple of household play, come to life. Conceived as a place of play, the architecture responds to the physical geometries of the brand’s most successful and important product—the Lego brick.
Since it was developed and launched en masse in 1958, the inherent interlocking capabilities have afforded children, and adults alike, the ability to build, create, and to explore their own curiosities and ideation through the enticement of play. This minimalist and egalitarian manifestation of idea generation is at the centre of the inspiration for the resulting forms.
Sitting west of Copenhagen, in the original birthplace of Lego, Lego House encompasses 21 interlocking blocks, all housing various functions, delineated by their selective coloured roof materiality. Completed in 2017, and taking four years to complete, the spaces contain more than 25 million Lego bricks. The architecture is also designed as an interactive element, where visitors can climb on podiums, explore beyond the external walls and engage directly with the materiality. The immersive design centre is an urban park in itself, a destination for a multitude of interpretations. From above, the 21m-high house of stacked blocks appears as one volume (over 12,000m2), where the interconnectivity is further reinforced and the brand-associated colour-ways of each of the Lego pieces are on display. From ground level, and from all exterior vantage points, the whiteness of the whole volume invites creativity in the form of its guise as a blank canvas. Internally, it is anything but.
There is an element of this well-resolved, minimal, and sharply executed result not taking itself too seriously. A resolve that internationally revered BIG has become known for. Through their many explorations of space and challenging our engagement with place, the strength of Danish design is only growing. Led by its charismatic and talented founder, Bjarke Ingels, the studio brings a sense of humanism to each of their projects. The conversation of social responsibility and breaking traditional typological expectations, seems to be continually on the table. There is also a clear connection to the current realities of the planet, an unbridled obligation that architecture should be responding to sustainability issues, and where there really are no limitations to proposing the unfathomed. It makes complete sense for two such successful Danish exports to come together in Billund.
Over four generations, from its humble beginnings in 1932, inspired by the Danish phrase ‘leg godt’ (meaning to ‘play well’), a nostalgic fuzziness pervades our recollections of Lego. Lego House sees a series of galleries and play spaces emerge throughout the volumes, culminating in a 360-degree view from the rooftop. Still connected to the initial ambition of its carpenter founder Ole Kirk Christiansen—to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow—the clear empowerment of creation and exploration of the imagination has been cleverly captured by BIG in this incredibly minimalist architectural gem.
This article was originally published in Minimalissimo Nº3