BILLUND, DENMARK (NYTIMES) - Legoland, the Lego toy company’s flagship theme park, draws some 2,000,000 visitors annually to the tiny town of Billund, Denmark, where the company has its headquarters. Now, there is a new attraction on the block.
Lego House, which opened in late September in Billund, is a brick-shaped behemoth in the centre of town that is both a shrine to the toy and a place to let loose.
Each part of the 130,000 sq ft building has been designed with Lego in mind, from the climbable exterior of yellow and blue Lego bricks (scaled up to human size) to its “tree of creativity”, an over 15m-tall, 6.3-million-brick centrepiece built as an homage to Lego’s roots as a wooden toy.
Although it's been some years since I've had a serious Lego encounter, Lego House drew me in as easily as it did my boyfriend’s nieces and nephews, ages nine and seven, whose romps through the four play zones uncovered new building opportunities and challenges at every turn.
“My vision with this house is to create the ultimate Lego experience which truly unfolds the endless possibilities there are with our bricks and our Lego system of play,” said the Lego Group’s majority owner, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, at the house’s opening, “and (have) together all these experiences in one house, the home of the brick.”
A climb up the spiral staircase at the centre of the building deposits visitors at the Masterpiece Gallery of Lego creations, where the possibilities of the brick are highlighted in sculptures – including three 3m-tall dinosaurs. Visitors then make their way into one of the zones designed to stimulate creativity, communication, emotion and cognition.
Employees in each zone offer suggestions and help small hands find the perfect piece for their creations among some 25 million bricks. In the Blue Zone’s race track activity, a niece and her engineering-minded stepdad grazed through a trough of Legos in search of an aerodynamic addition to their cars, then raced them against the family.
In the Robo Lab, they practiced programming skills to navigate robots across an Arctic terrain. The Duplo Train Builder playscape encourages toddlers to become conductors using interlocking tracks and moving trains.
In addition to the experience zones and public playgrounds, the house includes Mini Chef, the world’s first Lego restaurant. Orders are taken and food is “prepared” by Lego minifigure chefs “living” in iPad boxes at each table, our hostess explained.
The chefs, she said, speak only in brick: to get it right, we must first build our meals in Lego. Each diner is given a packet of red, green, blue and black bricks, which correspond to items on the menu.
To order, we picked one of each colour block, snapped our meals together, then slotted them into a special tray attached to the iPad. The orders were then scanned and “read” by the minifigure chefs.
Our meals - 169 kroner (S$36.40) for adults, 98 kroner for children - arrived via conveyor belt from a hidden kitchen in giant blue Lego bento-style boxes.
There are no traditional waiters – meals are picked up at a counter staffed by two animatronic Lego robots – though human “helpers” stationed throughout the restaurant serve alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks and answer questions.
The food is surprisingly upscale and health-conscious: adult-friendly ingredients like beetroots and kohlrabi, alongside crispy fries or fried organic chicken for the kids, who each received a minifigure chef toy with their meal.
“We really try to take the Lego brick into everything we are doing in the house,” the Lego House general manager, Jesper Vilstrup, said.