Building blocks of the city

Published 27 June 2014

On Sunday, the RA played host to a great LEGO challenge.

  • Teams of architects from the four most recent Stirling Prize-winning practices went head to head to make the most imaginative and creative piece of city.

    Starting with a carefully laid out square on the floor of the largest gallery of the Summer Exhibition, each team had one hour and 45 minutes to create their masterpiece. Each team worked with students from our attRAct programme which offers A-level art students the chance to engage with art and architecture.

  • attRAct students and visitors to the exhibition get to work on the LEGO project

    attRAct students and visitors to the exhibition get to work on the LEGO project

    Photo: Agnese Sanvito

  • The brief was to create a new slice of London, comprised of buildings and structures that would demonstrate how the capital might look in the future. Teams were encouraged to be as speculative and imaginative as possible, and could include housing, public spaces, offices, spaces for leisure or culture.

    A crowd gathered to watch the spectacle, observing quietly at first, but as the teams started to develop their designs, kids visiting the Summer Exhibition crept nearer and were invited to become LEGO builders themselves. Some teams carefully separated out the colours, using them to differentiate different building types in a city plan, while others focused on creating colourful structures that were at a much larger scale.

    A panel of judges which included Patricia Brown, the Chair of the London Festival of Architecture, Anna Winston of Dezeen, artist Anne Desmet RA, Chris Turner of Icon Magazine and LEGO artist Joe Perez, had the task of selecting a winner from the four inspiring creations.

    After careful deliberation they chose the design by the Zaha Hadid team, who considered London on a huge scale and used curving buildings of different typologies which echoed the shape of the Thames.

    Find out more about each team’s creation below:

  • Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

    “Our design was to create a city with high, multi-level platforms which allowed everybody to create their individual environments. The LEGO towers were built on their side, with the whole team carefully lifting them in unison through 90 degrees to create our vertical city - no glue was used!”

  • The creation by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

    The creation by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

    Photo: Agnese Sanvito

  • Stanton Williams

    “We created a scheme for a dynamic city consisting of various elements: the landscape – rivers, hills, trees – and the buildings – represented as sculptural elements, some gridded, others more abstract – all linked by the movement and connectivity of people, vehicles and infrastructure. The interconnection of these elements and the spaces between buildings are just as important as the design of the buildings. A truly dynamic city, we believe, is one which is greater than the sum of its parts and not just a collection of isolated elements.”

  • The creation by Stanton Williams Architects

    The creation by Stanton Williams Architects

    Photo: Agnese Sanvito

  • Witherford Watson Mann

    “We came into the competition without any fixed ideas or a scheme – only to work with what we found; interesting, energetic young people and lots of Lego! Working at the city scale we established key public spaces and routes within a master plan, and outlined different uses within the city blocks. We then invited members of the public to participate, especially children.

    The distinctive pyramidal forms were thought up by a young boy, which others adopted in their buildings; much like in London, where existing languages are interpreted and re-used. It resulted in a scheme which was varied, surprising and something which all those who participated could feel proud of.”

  • The creation by Witherford Watson Mann Architects

    The creation by Witherford Watson Mann Architects

    Photo: Agnese Sanvito

  • Zaha Hadid Architects

    “Team ZHA explored the idea of a modern city making maximum use of the concept of ‘Live-Work’ which allows for the boundaries between downtown offices and residential neighbourhoods to be blurred and to reduce commuting. The location was near the Docklands, which is seeing massive redevelopment and allowed us to examine the possibility of the river becoming much more integral to the new fabric. The focus of the installation was not specific to any particular building form but working with the LEGO blocks to play with different configurations from orthogonal high-rises to softer curved structures.”

  • The team from Zaha Hadid Architects and attRAct students with their winning entry

    The team from Zaha Hadid Architects and attRAct students with their winning entry

    Photo: Agnese Sanvito