T magazine has an interesting story out today on the LEGO as it is used in art.
When Bjarke Ingels, the visionary leader of the Danish architectural firm BIG, first heard about the competition to build the Lego House, a museum and activity center near the toy company’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark, he gathered his staff. “If there was one building that BIG was founded to build,” Ingels announced, “this is it.”
For Ingels, Lego proportions have a mystical perfection that “borders on the Da Vinci code.” Like most enthusiasts, Ingels refers to them as “bricks,” not “Legos”; he doesn’t see them as toys, but as tools for “systematic creativity.”
Indeed, the way he talks about the beloved project he ultimately won sounds very much like the description of a building created from Legos. “It’s like a cloud of interconnected spaces that creates public spaces — interconnected worlds that you can see as one spatial experience and as little worlds within themselves.”
One evening at a bar in Billund, about a three-hour drive west of Copenhagen, members of the Lego House design team geek out about the aesthetic perfection of the Lego brick. “The cool thing about it is it’s simultaneously real and abstract,” Brian Yang of BIG says. “So it’s a bridge between your imagination and reality.” Alex Vlack, of New York’s Ralph Appelbaum Associates (RAA), which is designing the exhibitions for the project, chimes in. “For me, it’s like a paper clip. There’s no way to improve it.”
For certain creative types, the Lego brick (whose name is an abbreviation of the words for “play well” in Danish) is not a toy but the perfect object. Last year, the Cuban artist collective Los Carpinteros used the plastic bricks to construct their own versions of Soviet-era monuments at the Sean Kelly gallery in New York. “It’s such an active, creative tool, getting you to think about structure,” says Caroline Baumann, the director of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum. “How can it not influence you?” The designer Karl Lagerfeld even created a Lego-inspired handbag for Chanel’s spring 2013 collection. This summer, the author and artist Douglas Coupland will have an exhibition in Vancouver that will feature a suburb of 100 identical Lego houses, each one made from a 1969 kit that, he says, “pretty much single-handedly turned me on to midcentury at the age of 9.”
Lego, in turn, has responded to this newfound appreciation among adults by coming out with the Lego Architecture Studio ($150), a smart-looking set that includes more than 1,200 white and transparent pieces and a collection of essays and how-to ideas provided by architects like Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and Moshe Safdie, who is best known for Habitat 67 in Montreal, a modular apartment building that looks like it came straight out of a Lego box. There’s also Lego’s Architecture series, which features models of iconic structures like Fallingwater and Villa Savoye. The series has garnered a diverse fan base, including Brad Pitt and David Beckham. When the soccer star mentioned in an interview a few years ago that he was building the Lego Taj Mahal, sales of that set reportedly went up by more than 600 percent in one day.
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