The first thing you’ll notice about the Lego Architecture Studio is that it’s white. There are no colors, no shades, no pigments, no hues here. It is as white as a piece of paper, a glass of milk, a blind albino lizard skittering in a lightless cave a mile below the ground. White, white, white.
Your first thought might be: "That’s a little bland for Lego." But you should power through that impression. There’s a reason that every single brick of the 1,200+ Lego Architecture Studio set is white: It’s a serious effort by Lego to get bricksmiths young and old the world over thinking about the core concepts of architectural design, not just a Lego building’s bright, Technicolor facade.
"We rarely offer a toolkit in only one color, but using white actually creates natural lines and shadows that can more accurately represent architectural shapes and form," explains Lego’s brand relations director, Michael McNally. "We felt using all that white gave the kit a very 'sketchbook’ feel. And since we’ve never offered a kit that is all white, there’s that novelty factor at play for collectors, too.”
The kit itself doesn’t feature any exotic pieces or other elusive Lego chimeras. Except that they have been bled of color, the 1,200-odd pieces in the Lego Architecture Studio could have come from any Lego set. What makes them special is context. With every Lego Architecture Studio, Lego has included a vividly designed 268-page book that illustrates real-world case studies of six different professional forms, trying to seriously explain the principles of original architectural design by showing how you can do it all in Lego.
Arguably, this book is the meat of the Lego Architecture Studio. Not only does it feature a wonderful layout that brings to mind some of the funky, beautifully designed textbooks aimed at curious kids in the 1970s and 1980s, it’s a fascinating glimpse into the brains of real architects and how their methodology actually ties in with fitting dimpled plastic Lego pieces together. In fact, you get to see how real architects play with Lego themselves!
Each of the architect firms featured in the book--REX Architecture, Sou Fujimoto, SOM, MAD Architects, Tham & Videgård, and Safdie Architects--are given as many as 50 pages to talk about their theories on architecture and construction, where they get their inspirations from, how their design process works, and in what ways Lego fits into all this. At the end of each chapter, the lead architects will all sit around a table with Lego and play with the pieces! Only then is the reader invited to take part in a hands-on Lego workshop exploring some of the theories and concepts explored in the chapter, which can range from exercises exploring symmetry, mass, density, the use of negative space, modules, repetition, and more.
"We wanted to have a mix of internationally renowned projects a broad audience could relate to, so we prioritized firms that represented global architects, various architectural styles, and diversity," McNally tells Co.Design. "Because they used Lego bricks in some of their workshops and educational programs, we worked with the Danish architecture firm KRADS to help us pick firms that showcased some of the best architectural principles in the world." The result is a fun, easy-to-understand and totally charming primer on the concepts of architecture that not only shape the world around us, but the innovative new designs that are going to make up the world of the future.
So who is this set for? It’s a grown-up concept, but Lego wants this to be a toolkit that is accessible to teenagers who are first starting to think seriously about design, too.
"Lego building from the earliest age is just a terrific primer for budding designers, engineers and architects," says McNally. "We think it’s a compelling toolkit for adolescents who may be seriously considering a career in architecture or design, or even college students who have real needs for prototyping designs and models. It can even serve as an inspiration for budding architects or as a fun sketching opportunity for real-time design ideas."
The Lego Architecture Studio provides tangible, immediate experience with both classic and cutting-edge architecture concepts. It’s a fantastic set that would be as at home in an architecture firm’s break room as it would be in a high school drafting classroom. Lego has long turned imaginative kids into builders, but the Lego Architecture Studio is the set that will help turn those builders into the designers and architects of tomorrow.
The Lego Architecture Studio costs $149.99 and can be purchased online here.