Building Singapore one Lego brick at a time

Mr Jeffrey Kong, 38, began working on Lego sculptures commercially when more and more people asked him about his projects and reached out to commission pieces. Another Lego enthusiast, Mr Davide Sacramati, is trying to get the Danish toymaker to put
Mr Jeffrey Kong, 38 (above), began working on Lego sculptures commercially when more and more people asked him about his projects and reached out to commission pieces.PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, COURTESY OF DAVIDE SACRAMATI
Mr Jeffrey Kong, 38, began working on Lego sculptures commercially when more and more people asked him about his projects and reached out to commission pieces. Another Lego enthusiast, Mr Davide Sacramati, is trying to get the Danish toymaker to put
Another Lego enthusiast, Mr Davide Sacramati, is trying to get the Danish toymaker to put out a Singaporean icon - a river bumboat (above).PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN, COURTESY OF DAVIDE SACRAMATI

'Brick artists' recreate local landmarks, their creations are increasingly getting noticed

From shophouses in Chinatown to office towers in the Central Business District and retro dragon playgrounds in Toa Payoh, Mr Jeffrey Kong has built them all - normally one brick at a time, out of Lego.

While many think of Lego as just toys for children, for a small group of people in Singapore, the little plastic bricks have become serious business.

"Brick artists" here have spent hours recreating local landmarks in Lego form and their creations are getting more attention.

Companies are increasingly commissioning Lego sculptures or looking to create custom Lego playsets.

Meanwhile, some are also trying to get Singaporean designs to become part of the Danish's toymaker's line-up.

The Lego community in Singapore was recently thrust into the spotlight after a Facebook post by Mr Kong noting the similarities between a Land Transport Authority (LTA) MRT Lego set and one designed by Mr Kong started making the rounds online. He had applied for the LTA tender to produce the Lego set, but was not chosen.

And while he was not thrilled about it, Mr Kong said he is putting the episode behind him.

"This kind of thing happens. It has happened to me before and will happen again," he said.

Mr Kong said that his brick business started out as a hobby.

"I started getting into Lego five years ago, when my father was really sick," the 38-year-old told The Straits Times. At the time, he was working in the publishing industry.

"It brought me so much joy in some of my lowest days."

He said the wonder of working with the bricks is that each is a little miracle of precision engineering - perfect and uniform.

He began working on sculptures commercially when more and more people asked him about his projects and reached out to commission pieces. These can range from large-scale display pieces for corporations to personalised mementos for private clients - he even designs and packages building sets for companies and organisations.

From sketching and conception to sourcing pieces and devising unique ways of using certain pieces, each sculpture may well take upwards of two weeks.

Some clients Mr Kong has worked with include business consultancy giant Deloitte and government bodies such as the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

He even has a sculpture on tour with the Piece of Peace World Heritage Exhibit, organised by Unesco.

LOCAL ICON IN LEGO

It would be so nice for Singapore to have a set that is so iconic to it.

If the design wins, the set will be launched worldwide. It is an opportunity to show off Singapore's heritage.

MR DAVIDE SACRAMATI, another Lego enthusiast, on trying to get Lego to put out a Singaporean icon as an official set.

The featured piece is a Singaporean architectural icon - the Botanic Gardens bandstand.

Another Lego enthusiast, Italian Davide Sacramati, 32, who has lived in Singapore for the past three years, said that he was very inspired by the Piece of Peace exhibition, and that drove him to pick up his Lego bricks again.

The children's football coach said that over the past three years, Singapore has truly become home to him.

He is trying to get Lego to put out a local icon - bumboats on the Singapore River. He has submitted his riverboat design to Lego as part of its Ideas project, where submissions which garner 10,000 votes can be produced as official Lego sets to be sold.

Mr Sacramati said that every year, Lego launches only four or five such sets and he has never seen a Singaporean one.

"It would be so nice for Singapore to have a set that is so iconic to it.

"If the design wins, the set will be launched worldwide. It is an opportunity to show off Singapore's heritage," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2017, with the headline 'Building S'pore one Lego brick at a time'. Print Edition | Subscribe