By Hilary Light
If you have a love of architecture and LEGO then The LEGO Architect by Tom Alphin is definitely a book for you. It fuses playtime with a visual exploration through architecture so you can recreate impressive models or be spurred into creating your own unique styles.
The LEGO Group was founded by Ole Kirk Kristiansen in 1932 in Denmark and they patented the now cult LEGO brick in 1958. LEGO subsequently launched the Scale Model line in the 1960s, which they explain ‘matched the spirit of the age where modern people were taking an active interest in the design of their new homes’ and the first minifigure was produced in 1978. Synonymous with childhood all over the world these bricks offer endless fun and are still revered today for their educational and creative possibilities (but are a sworn enemy to a barefoot adult!).
The word LEGO is comprised of the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning ‘play well’. The bricks produced back in 1958 still interlock perfectly with those manufactured today, which testifies to the excellence of the original design. It also emphasises the point that the bricks provide unlimited building possibilities – just limited by your imagination. And this is neatly where the book The LEGO Architect comes in.
The LEGO Architect: Itching to build
The cover of The LEGO Architect features a colourful LEGO model of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation in Marseille, France. This Brutalist development redefined high-density housing in the 1950s and the detailed nature of the model showcases just what a brilliant tool LEGO is for designing and recreating architecture detail. It gets you itching to build.
This hands-on book details the history behind seven distinct and popular styles including Modernism, Brutalism and Post-Modernism, inviting you to become a LEGO architect. Beautiful photographs of key buildings leap off the pages – some of which the author, Tom Alphin, took on his own exploratory travels.
Each chapter explores the ethos of a different architectural style – the characteristics, origins, influences and materials. It really gets behind the design vocabulary and discusses how you might be able to apply these to your own creations.
The LEGO Architect: Building the dream
Included in the chapters are some extraordinary photographs of LEGO models by international artists and at the end of each chapter step-by-step instructions entice you to build some LEGO miniature models based on the unique design elements of each style (twelve in all). A stylish minimalism is achieved by use of the monochrome LEGO Architecture Studio set comprised of white and transparent bricks (which follows the style of the hugely popular official LEGO Architecture sets which include Farnsworth House). You might find it hard to bring yourself to break them up afterwards!
However owning the Architecture Studio set isn’t a necessity, Alphin encourages you to substitute pieces using regular coloured blocks. The emphasis is on your own creativity and the instructions are clear; we sat down and attempted three of these models ourselves: the Modernist Lever House in New York, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Willits House and a Brutalist air traffic control tower. Inspired by the book we also created our own modernist pavilion.
The book ends with a builder’s guide, which invites readers to create their own LEGO architecture – whether a favourite building or your dream home. A series of tips emphasise the importance of scale, form, detail and colour; even the perpetual question of how to organise your bricks is addressed!
The LEGO Architect: Inspiring the builders of tomorrow
There are lovely touches within the book, such as breakout sections that detail the different LEGO concrete textures you can use for the Brutalist buildings – grooves in the bricks mimicking the textures left behind when concrete shuttering is removed. Likewise Alphin explores the potential of those odd-looking LEGO pieces to improve your technique – ‘jumpers’, ‘Studs-Not-On-Top’ (yes, really), turntables or technic parts; essentially the pieces that you’d normally avoid but are in fact critical for achieving your own Grand Design! It also has a bibliography for further reading and a quick-search index. This attention to detail is pleasing and we finished the book bubbling with ideas.
The clean styling of the book is attractive with instructions set against a grey background and the builds in monochrome white. The photographs and fact box-outs make this a book with broad appeal and its dip-in and dip-out nature means that it’s playful and approachable, whatever your skill-set. So go on, give it a try, we’d love to see your creations!
The LEGO Architect arrives in both brick-and-mortar and online bookstores on 24 September 2015.
The LEGO Architect
By Tom Alphin
Published by No Starch Press
192 pages, £16
Dimensions 9 x 9 inch pages
Buy The LEGO Architect here
Click here for more on the LEGO Architecture series for adults
Check out the author’s site for his book here
To mark 80 years of history, LEGO released a 17-minute animation that traces the company’s achievements and evolution over the years