LEGO 21050 Book review

Create your own architecture. The motto of the book, which is an inseparable part of the LEGO Architecture Studio. What is the purpose of the book? Does it contain useful information? Should architecture students read it? In this review, I will try to answer these question.

But first, some facts. The book consists of 272 pages and includes 6 main chapters, each with a perspective of one architecture company. Each chapter starts with a brief history of the company and some of their projects, which are explored from different views. This gives us unique insight into what is architecture. Each company focuses on different aspects. Some prefer a pragmatic approach to programming and try to find the most efficient way, how the building can work. Some try to harness quality of light. Others focus on feeling from voids and masses. And there are much more to consider. And architecture is all of that. So as many architects are out there, that many opinions of what architecture is. And that is one of the things I got from this book. All must be considered but no all can be focused on at the same time.

After an introduction, each company shares things, that are important in their design. It is basically a small lecture from the architectural leaders from all around the globe. There are no long paragraphs of text, lectures are distilled to its bare essentials. One could say it is the whole architecture school stripped down to bones.

The penultimate part of each chapter is the exploration. There is an exercise with bricks, connected to the world of architecture. During these explorations, we can learn about scale, space and section, modules and repetition, a design toolssurface, mass and density and symmetry.

At the end of each chapter, exploration exercise is given to the design team of each architecture company. This consist of pictures, how different people, given the same exercise, reacted and what did they build. There are also quotes and other reflections about bricks, and how they cdesign tools.

And at the very end of the book, there is a short guide of few brick building techniques. However, there is very few of them and every curious mind can think of much more possibilities of what can be done with that collection of brick, tiles, plates and other pieces.

I would say one of the purposes of this book is definitely to encourage exploring through the bricks. When one sees how architects played with bricks and what they made, the immediate reaction is: oh, I can do that as well. When adults face a creative problem, the often feel fear. What if what I create is not good enough? Small children, however, do not fear, they just create. And we all need to learn how to be kids again. Kids do not see constraints as adults do.

As I already said, the book covers only the essentials, which is both good and bad. It can give you a creative headstart. Then, you are on your own. You are responsible for your creations. Be bold. And if you want to know more, there is huge number of other books which can share more views on a topic of architecture.

I would recommend this set and book for everyone interested in architecture, everyone who likes to make things with their own hands and explore. You are not guaranteed to be next F. L. Wright after reading this, but it is a good start.

Happy reading



LEGO 21050 Architecture Studio review

At first, I wanted to do a proper, objective and non-biased review. I can’t. I am so excited about this set! So many possibilities! And because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, I will do the review my way.

I spent past few days with architecture studio. And whenever I had a spare hour or two I sat at my table and played with it. I spent a long time sorting everything, and the re-sorting it again and again. No idea why I did it. But that’s how I work, everything needs to have its place. By the way, I am still not satisfied with my sorting system, and the two plastic sorting trays and three cardboard trays are definitely not enough. I had to search through my things, to find as many boxes of different sizes as I could. And I have bricks sorted only to groups (plates/tiles/bricks/slopes etc.).

On the other hand, that is probably the only downside I could find during this review period. I started with reading the book and occasionally stopped to try something that came to my mind or just tried to build examples from the book.

Below you can see the building from the cover of the box. That was one of the first things I made. Just a quick build which outlined one of the possibilities. Massing study. To me, this building looks like a modern villa, sharp and expressive. One can imagine what spaces it contains, who is it for or where should it be located.

Second build included in the book. This exercise encouraged taking inspiration from around you and try to replicate it in a form of a building. Lego team took a bird as an inspiration. And one can really see the birdy nature of this structure. For me, this looks like a restaurant somewhere with beautiful views all around, hence the platforms for enjoying views.

Then, one of the exercises in the book was about the scale. What can one brick represent to us? That is only in the eye of a beholder. One brick can be whole city block, one building or a small detail of a door knob if you have enough bricks. And for this task, I have built one street. At first, one building was made from just two bricks. And there were very little details.

And then I doubled the size. At that scale, one can see more details and the building on the left got two different offsets of the facade. The buildings look very similar as they should. However, one brick now represents half the information contained in the first model.

So I decided to zoom on the building with the grilled facade and made it fifty per cent bigger. At this scale, one can see details of the street, the gaps between grills and penthouse glass facade on the top.

And if I wanted and had enough bricks, I could have made just an apartment or focus on the penthouse on top. We are the masters of the scale here.

One of the possibilities how to represent a building is a section. This can also be done with bricks. Maybe architecture is not about what there is, but what there is not. We occupy the void in space, so voids might be more important than elements surrounding you.

And when I was away, my girlfriend made this playful herd of sheep. She used to build these when she was a little kid. You need five bricks for a sheep. Fair.

And how about to explore the modular design with bricks? The brick itself is an example of module. What if we replicate them several times? Stack them on top of each other? Next to? Module can help with both the design and execution. I made a tower out of nine same modules and then I modified them.

Still same core module. Each of them slightly changed. Structural parts remain, details have changed. Variety in uniformity.

And what about texture? Smooth, rough, bumpy, swirling, soft, sharp. Bricks can do a lot.

Experiment with different textures.

But the question everybody wants an answer to. Can it really be used as a design tool or is it just an overpriced toy? One of my favourite quotes can give us an answer. Every tool is just as clever as is its user. Bricks are not omnipotent, but with the right mindset, they are just as useful as sketching by hand or massing in any 3D software. It can be used as an initial study model just efficiently as foamcore, exploring programming, visualization of ideas or outlet to kickstart your brain into creative mode. I have a sketchbook for ideas, whatever clever pierces my skull, I catch it. And during this playful time with studio, I reached for my sketchbook many times. The ideas were only tangentialy connected to bricks, they were more of a general ideas that might be explored and they were not ntertwined with my models. However, it shows that my brain got into creative mode, and that is damn hard thing to do. Being creative is pretty hard job. New and useful ideas are scarce. Studio can help.

Therefore, architecture enthusiasts, and even architecture companies should get a box. One never knows when it can come handy. It is not for every project and it is up to you to know when to use it and for what. And if you keep an open mind, you might get an interesting answer to your questions from a box of bricks.

Happy designing


LEGO 21050 Architecture Studio – First impression

This week on Life of a Constructing Architect will be focused on Architecture Studio. The set number 21050 has been waiting for me patiently for a month. And now, with the exams behind me, I could finally open it. Architecture studio is not a standard set. The sets are called sets, because it is a collection of specific bricks, which can form what the designers intended. The one official build. You are certainly encouraged to experiment, try your own creations and modify. However this set has no official form. It is like one of those creative boxes for young kids, only this one is for kids who pay bills and taxes.

The first thing that pops out when you open the package is the book. That is another thing that makes this set unique. Some of sets, especially from the architecture line, contain a short booklet about the building, before the building instructions. But here, you are getting full 270 pages long book about architecture. And this book cannot be bought separetely. Edited by Christopher Turner in collaboration with many famous architectural practices from around the world. MVRDV, SOM, REX, Safdie architects, Sou Fujimoto, Tham & Videgaard, MAD and KRADS architects, all of these left a mark in this book. However I will probably make a separete review just for the book itself. So let’s focus on bricks.

You are greeted by 15 bags, which are filled with 1210 bricks. At first it did not look like a big number. And then I started to sort the bricks. When you take each type of brick to your hand, count it and sort it, it suddenly feels like huge number.

I spent around two hours just sorting the bricks. I wanted to know what do I have at my disposal. It was so tranquil just take each brick to hand and relocate it to the box. There are many different kinds and all in them are white. It is important to focus only on the shapes, volumes and textures and not the colors.

And at the end of the day. Every brick was counted and sorted. Now I know what can I use and I can start reading the book and building. And after I will spend some time with it. I will write a proper review both for the book and the set itself.

And here is the whole studio sorted. The only color in the sea of white and transparent is the bright orange brick separator.