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Confessions of a Lifelong Lego Fanatic

Vicariously, through the gifts bestowed upon my two boys of 3 and 5, this past Christmas was highlighted by a return to my childhood.  As they began to open their presents, I sat in anticipation knowing that the colored paper contained some of my favorite toys of all time; Legos.  Its cliché, I know, the notion that Legos are an architect’s favorite toy… but how could an architect not love those little plastic bricks and all of the endless possibilities that they represent?

When I was a kid, my brother and I had developed a lingo around Legos, we called them two-ers and three-ers, and two by two-ers and flat two by fours.  This radically simplified our communications during the many hours spent huddled around the Lego pile sprawled out on the floor of our bedroom.  Not too long ago, in simpler times, Legos were simpler as well.  The typical kit was composed of mostly rectilinear blocks of varying dimension and the basis of our language was to describe the geometry of the bricks we sought to complete our creations.  As a kid I never really thought about the bricks much beyond what I could create with them.  As I sat down to build with my 5 year old recently, it occurred to me that they are an unbelievably precise (The LEGO manufacturing process is so precise that only 18 out of 1 million LEGO bricks produced is considered defective), well thought out medium.  You read that correctly, I said medium, as in art.  Admittedly, this is not an original idea.  There are people who agree with me, and they are accredited by Lego as Lego Certified Professionals.

Trust me when I tell you that Legos have come a long way since when I was a kid.  While the Lego kits of today are still built around the basic block shapes, the level of customization that the company has achieved is astonishing.  Today’s palette of Lego pieces seems much more robust than what I remember from when I was a kid.  However, researching the stats on this I found that Lego went from 12,000 different pieces to 6,800 in the last few years-a number that includes the color variations.  I can only conclude that I grew up near the bottom of the bell curve that describes the number of different Lego pieces.  If you take a look at Lego’s web site, you’ll find that the company has diversified, big time.  From the basic brick sets to Architectural icons, from super heroes like Batman and Robin to Harry Potter, from Pirates to Friends there is something for everyone.  They have even created an entirely new (brick free!) building system for the creation of larger scale figures in their Hero Factory and Bionicle lines, which just so happen to be my kids’ favorites.

They have also made it possible to design your own models on your computer.  You can download the Lego Digital Designer program for Mac or PC, design your custom model, and then order it via the internet.  Lego packages all of the bricks required to build your creation and ships them to you complete with a custom instruction manual!  I’m eagerly waiting for the day when a client asks me to build them a Lego model of their building design.

At this point, I’m sure you’re dying to know what I spent Christmas break building with my kids.  Since a recent family trip to Disney this past fall, they are recently inaugurated Star Wars fans.  We painstakingly assembled over 5,000 pieces to create the Millennium Falcon, the AT-AT (now discontinued), Hoth Echo Base, and an Imperial Frigate, among others.  The time spent with my kids was the most fun I’ve ever had with Legos… and they’re already starting to pick up on the Lego lingo!