How LEGO® Provides The Building Blocks For Architecture

September 10, 2019

From the time of its inception in the 1930s through to today, LEGOs® have inspired young minds to create and build. But let’s take a moment to really appreciate what this “toy” can teach minds, both young and old, about the building blocks of architecture. 

Back when LEGO® kits were comprised of blocks of varying shapes, sizes, and colors without much instruction, the game encouraged free-form thinking, design, and creation. Whether building a home, a tower, a car, or a castle, nothing imagined was beyond reach.

The blocks inspired – and continue to inspire – creativity with a variety of architectural LEGO® sets available. Perhaps even more importantly, LEGOs® have taught generations the valuable concepts of sturdiness and practicality. With each successful attempt at building a structure that holds its own, one can learn which features work and which do not. This culminates knowledge for the success of future projects, whether they be in the form of LEGOs® or using real-world building materials. 

In fact, there are three lessons taught through LEGOs® which are debated as being the “building blocks” of architecture. Let’s take a closer look:


Stability: The Strength to Stand or Endure

When thinking about stability, it’s important to understand the materials that you’re working with. If your structure isn’t sound, then a number of things can go wrong. When thinking about creating anything that you intend to be inside for an extended period of time, it’s essential to think about static loading, dynamic loading, and even static loading capacity. These are all big terms that basically mean one thing: the building needs to be safe.

And these concepts are more or less teachable through LEGOs®. I mean, if you’re trying to build the world’s largest tower out of LEGOs® (which is apparently 114 feet tall, so good luck!), you probably don’t want to start with your smallest, weakest, tiniest block on the bottom, right?

But, as a child without formal architectural training or the basic concepts of engineering, how do you know this unless you try?

The beauty of LEGOs® is that they give you the opportunity to experiment with the basic concepts of architectural engineering without real-world consequences. You also learn pretty quickly that if you want to build something massive, then you need a stronger foundation and base, usually with reinforcement. 


Utility: The State of Being Useful, Profitable, or Beneficial

I’ll admit that a massive, 114-foot tall LEGO® tower is pretty cool. But can my LEGO® friends hang out comfortably inside? Probably not. 

When designing a structure, it’s also important to think about the purpose that the structure is working to serve (especially when you’re an architect). The purpose of a 114-foot tall LEGO® tower can serve as a model. The purpose of a home, skyscraper or library, however, is to be functional, usable, and able to accommodate many people and hold countless items in specific rooms. Few people, when given the choice, would choose to live in cramped, uncomfortable quarters. These preferences don’t mean that the buildings aren’t unstable or somehow unsafe; it just means that they’re not optimal. Their initial design isn’t useful, profitable, or beneficial. That’s why, when designing any building or structure, architects need to consider both stability as well as utility.

You may be wondering how LEGOs® help convey this concept? Well, LEGOs® teach you to build with intent. If you want to design a home, you need to know its purpose. Most likely, the purpose is to comfortably fit someone or something inside. As a result, you need to understand the concept of scale. 

As a child, a scale helps you design a space big enough for your LEGO® friends. Thus, understanding the purpose of scale is fundamental. As an architect, a scale helps you design a space big enough for people. Still, stability and utility aren’t the only things that matter when designing a house. To achieve what often seems elusive, let’s move to the last virtue: beauty.


 Beauty: A Combination of Aesthetic Qualities

LEGOs® come in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Piecing these together in a way that is beautiful is a skill that shouldn’t go unnoticed, as it’s an extremely important component of architectural design. But even beauty can’t stand on its own. 

It’s true that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and eyes often have different interpretations of beauty. This is why it’s so important for architects to work closely with the people who they are designing for. That way, they can create something they are not only proud of but which also gives their client a feeling of pride. 

These are just a few appreciative thoughts as to why LEGOs® are truly useful in teaching some of the initial concepts of architectural design. Designing something that is aesthetically appealing takes practice, and it’s arguable that the design process begins with LEGOs®.