LEGO has been following commercial trends for some decades now: Star Wars, Jurrasic Park, Chima, Minecraft, etc. These themes look very attractive but there is only one major disadvantage: I don’t see my kids playing with Lego the way I did. Once they have assembled all these theme-specific nonexchangeable parts, they are not taking it apart anymore. From that moment they lose interest and the LEGO object becomes just another toy, to be used for a couple of hours.
What happened with these simple building blocks you could create anything from? I have built complete ‘cities’ and ‘sculptures’ from basic LEGO blocks during the late seventies and early eighties. Over and over. Do we really believe LEGO is more functional when it is part of a theme and presented as a whole? The same problem also exists in real architecture: buildings are based on a specific design and build as a whole. It is hard to take buildings apart and construct something new from the regained objects. You come short, it doesn’t match esthetically, etc. Why is that? Well, it’s because buidings exists of too many different objects and materials, which are designed, produced and assembled in such a way they are very hard to disassemble and exchange.
In the building world there is a new ‘theme’: circular buildings, often referred to as ‘circular material banks’. That sounds really great, but what does it mean? It means that the building developers make agreements with suppliers about keeping ownership during and taking back materials after their functional life. Nice thinking but like any bank, too many variables remain risky. What really needs to be done is reducing the material-set by developing simple/standard structures and building elements. Let’s build LEGO buildings! One material, easy to assemble, sculptures beyond imagination and infinitely reusable.
With every new building, architects and construction companies are reinventing the wheel. We see great opportunities for Open Source architecture, like WikiHouse. In the IT world Open Source ensured standardisation and accelerated the architecture of the internet. In the very near future we will support and accelerate Open Source architecture by developing sustainable Open Materials and modular systems. It just came to me, but what we need want is the TETRISation of prefab building modules. With this concept everything can fit together in a creative way. Rotate left, rotate right, drop and you have a unique structure from standard objects. This concept makes affordable, comfortable and environmentally friendly housing accessible to a larger group of global citizens. Perhaps I should publish a book about this. Which reminds me…
In 2011 the Dutch professor Hennes de Ridder published a book about what he calls “LEGOlisation of the building industry”. In his book he pleads for a standardised/fixed building structure and variable exterior and interior objects, which can be exchanged for esthetical, practical or maintenance reasons. This will result in lower building costs, lower costs of failure, faster construction and turnaround times and eventually less stressed clients and more profit for the building company. We endorse his vision, except we plead for less materials, less variables and application of sustainable materials.
The LEGO Group sees this potential. They have recently established the LEGO Sustainable Materials Centre and allocated EUR 135 million for finding and implementing sustainable alternatives to current materials. That shows more vision than launching yet another theme for a new series of blocks and figurines. Great move by LEGO.
We are doing the same as the LEGO Group, with less people and budget but with infinite creativity.