How Lego House came to be: brick by brick
BILLUND, Denmark — There’s a chicken-and-egg-like conundrum facing visitors to Denmark: Is the reason the Danish are so happy is that they created Lego? Or did they create Lego because they’re so happy? Either way, the impossible riddle plays itself out in real life here, birthplace and world headquarters of the iconic brick and home to Lego House, an out-of-this-world Lego experience center and the global ground zero for everything Lego.
The first thing you notice when approaching Billund by car — a roughly three-hour drive from Copenhagen — is that you’re entering . . . well . . . Billund, not the town where the first Lego system was created in 1955 (the first Lego brick was created three years later, in 1958). Sure, there’s a massive Legoland amusement park on the town’s outskirts, but that’s no relation to Lego House. (Legoland is operated by Merlin Entertainments, a UK company, which operates eight Legoland parks around the world.)
You head deeper into the town center, following your phone’s GPS prompts closely, and just around the corner from a hardware store, boutique, and bakery, you find it: the Lego House, a majestic, Lego-like structure in its own right, impossibly integrated into BIllund’s town center.
“This is not Lego Town, it is Billund,” says Trine Nissens, spokesperson for Lego House, responding to this writer’s inquiry as to a dearth of Lego House signage in Billund. It’s characteristic Lego humility, a welcome attribute where the core focus is on the visitor. And as you step inside the sleek structure, you’re immediately bathed in a warm yet pristine aesthetic that adheres closely to Lego founder Ole Kirk Chistiansen’s edict: “Only the best is good enough.”
That unofficial corporate mantra is on display from the moment you enter the Lego House, where the Tree of Creativity stretches — impossibly — 50-plus feet in the air. As the world’s largest Lego model, the Tree is made up of more than 6.3 million standard Lego bricks, which took nearly 25,000 hours to build.
Four color-coded zones dispersed throughout Lego House allow for interactive play and construction, while LH’s top floor features a Masterpiece Gallery, which includes a display of creations from Adult Fans of Lego (AFoL), a global community of accomplished Lego building enthusiasts.
The Red Zone is anchored by a huge, 2 million-piece waterfall, whose kaleidoscope of colors teases visitors into separate areas featuring traditional Lego bricks as well as its larger, toddler-friendly Duplo varieties. There’s an endless supply of bricks here, while a Creative Lab area promotes creative free builds.
The Blue Zone incorporates coding strategies, as visitors help propel robots across the South Pole to save frozen mammoths. It’s an interactive race to the finish, appropriate for all ages.
The Green Zone takes Lego movie-making to a personal level, as visitors access their own moviemaking setup, complete with minifigs, props, and polished set designs to create stop-motion, animated videos. Roaming LH staff exuding Trader Joe’s-like friendliness are ready to lend a hand as needed, even if it’s just encouragement to complete a meandering story line.
While appropriate for all ages, the Yellow Zone attracts younger builders, who can construct sea creatures and floral creations at various digital aquarium stations.
While Lego House naturally attracts children looking to ramp up their Lego building skills, it’s by no means a kids-only center. Indeed, during this writer’s visit, it was the adults who tended to linger over build sessions, while their kids urged them to press on for additional exploration.
The lower level of Lego House is dedicated to a historical installation that traces the story of Lego, while a digital, interactive display allows visitors to find a virtual image of every Lego set ever created, preserving one’s favorites as digital memories, for download with a free Lego app (see below).
Paying visitors to the Lego House receive a wristband that they can scan at any one of a dozen or so capture stations, which take photos of their creations and save copies of their stop motion videos, allowing them to access and download the videos after their visit, with the help of a free Lego app.
Visitors to Lego House — even those who don’t purchase entry tickets to the experience zones — will find tasty Lego-centric food options. The Brickaccino cafe offers snacks, sandwiches, and drinks, while Le Gourmet features Nordic specialties in a French brasserie backdrop. The most popular option is the family restaurant Mini Chef, which neatly integrates the interactive Lego brick-building experience. How so? Customers build their own order with Lego bricks, following — what else? — traditional Lego-like visual instructions. No need to worry that you’ve messed things up. As you feed your build into a 3-D scanner, an LED readout confirms your order, ensuring you’ll receive your meatballs and cola, for instance, rather than, say, shoelaces and a sofa.
The exterior of Lego House features 13 terraces shaped like giant Lego bricks, each with a distinct children’s play area. The terraces are open to the public and, like the Lego House food options, are accessible even without a ticket.
There’s an on-site gift shop that sells Lego House exclusive sets — the Lego House and Tree of Creativity — and in keeping with the humble Lego approach, one is hardly bombarded with standard gift shop tchotchkes or offerings. Indeed, during this writer’s visit, adult Lego House shirts were relegated to size 4XL, with the other sizes on order for several months.
Yes, the Lego House is decidedly focused on its visitors, a singular architectural achievement that offers endless opportunities for creative exploration and expression.