I love LEGOs. I suspect that I am not the only one, especially among current and future urban planners. I have fond memories of playing with the minifigures and blocks when I was young, and I still get excited at the sight of a LEGO store to this day. I would even say that my love for LEGOs and the fun I had building with those colorful blocks contributed to my decision to become a planner. LEGO, which comes from the Danish phrase “leg godt” meaning “play well,” recently celebrated its 80th birthday. This momentous event was marked by the construction of the world’s tallest LEGO tower in Seoul, South Korea by 4,000 children who used 500,000 blocks to complete the tower in just five days. Measuring 105 feet high, the structure stands in front of Seoul’s Olympic Stadium and was unveiled by Danish Crown Prince Frederik who laid the final record-breaking brick.
While we all know what LEGO blocks look like and how to play with them, here are some interesting things that you may not have known:
LEGO Certified Professional
Forget AICP or LEED AP; try becoming LEGO certified! All kidding aside, it is actually extremely difficult to become a LEGO Certified Professional: there are only 11 of them in the world! LEGO Certified Professionals are hobbyists who have turned their passion for building and creating with the toy bricks into a full-time or part-time profession. They are not company employees, but are officially recognized by the LEGO Group as trusted business partners. Each Certified Professional is selected for the program based on his or her: building proficiency; enthusiasm for the LEGO brick and building system; and professional approach towards other fans of the product and the broader public.
LEGO: A Love Story
Yes, there is even a book about LEGO. LEGO: A Love Story is written by Jonathan Bender who set out to explore the quirky world of adult fans of Lego (AFOLs) while becoming a master model builder himself. This fascinating book explores the world of AFOLs, from rediscovering the childhood joys of building with LEGO to evaluating its place in culture and art, takes an inside look at LEGO conventions and building competitions, goes behind-the-scenes at the company headquarters, and even tells Bender’s personal story of building with LEGO and building a family.
Opening in Carlsbad in the summer of 2013, the three-story, 250-room LEGOLAND Hotel will be the only one of its kind in North America, and will feature brightly colored décor throughout the hotel, a pool area and restaurant. The hotel is designed for families with young children and will offer rooms and suites themed after the most popular areas of the theme park: Pirate, Kingdom, and Adventure. If you want to see examples of the three themes and receive the most recent updates on the Hotel, check out www.LEGOLANDHotel.com. While this will be the first LEGOLAND Hotel in the United States, it will be the second in the world: LEGOLAND Billund (Denmark) opened a 176-room hotel in 1991.
LEGO Architecture is a sub-brand of LEGO which aims to “celebrate the past, present, and future of architecture through the LEGO Brick.” The brand includes a series of sets designed by “Architectural Artist” Adam Reed Tucker, and each contains the pieces and instructions to build a model of a famous architectural building at a micro-scale. Thirteen sets have been released so far: the Willis Tower (Chicago), John Hancock Center (Chicago), the Empire State Building (New York), Space Needle (Seattle), the Guggenheim Museum (New York), Fallingwater (Pennsylvania), the White House, Rockefeller Center (New York), Farnsworth House (Plano, Illinois), the Burj Khalifa (Dubai), the Robie House (Chicago), the Brandenburg Gate (Berlin), and Big Ben. The fourteenth set, Sungnyemun (Seoul), will be released in June. Future sets being considered include: the United States Capitol, Coliseum (Rome), Eiffel Tower, Habitat 67 (Montreal), Petronas Towers (Malaysia), Taipei 101, Chrysler Building (New York), Trump Tower (Chicago) and the FreedomTower (New York).
Angelenos will quickly notice that no Los Angeles building is listed above. Thus Curbed LA decided to ask its readers the interesting question: Which L.A. building would make the best LEGO set? Some of the suggestions include the Griffith Observatory, Bradbury Building, Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Watts Towers, The Gamble House, The Capital Records Building, and The Encounter Restaurant at LAX. Hopefully, we will see a L.A. landmark selected for a LEGO set in the near future.
While it is not my intention to advertise LEGO in this article, I am very passionate and enthusiastic about this product for practical and nostalgic reasons. As I have shared in my previous writing, I think one of the biggest ongoing challenges for us planners is communicating clearly and effectively with the public. I see LEGO as a tool that can help us accomplish this goal, as well as create and generate interest among the younger generations in the fields of city planning, urban design, and architecture. For example, James Rojas’ interactive planning approach through model building using LEGOs and miscellaneous materials has proven successful in engaging the public and encouraging creative city-making. With the prevalence of video games and the wide variety of toys available today, I am glad that LEGO is still around and remains popular with kids and adults alike. On a personal note, I am excited that my soon-to-be-born daughter will get a chance to play with LEGOs and hope she will enjoy them as much as I did.
Photos of LEGO products, LEGO Store, and James Rojas’ model by Clement Lau