When top architects meet LEGO

Published 21 July 2015

As part of the London Festival of Architecture, we set four teams a challenge to build a model city in under two hours. Here’s what they did.

  • The teams of the second annual LEGO Challenge were given a mission: produce a template for a creative city, and translate it into physical form using only little coloured bricks, in under two hours. Architecture practices Farrells, Wilkinson Eyre, Studio Weave and Ordinary Architecture were each joined by a team of students from the RA attRAct programme to help them build their model city.

    As in life, the practices’ approaches to planning a tiny brick city varied wildly. Some teams chose to sketch out basic ideas and approaches, others talked for as long as possible, and some just dumped their allotted 15,000 bricks onto the floor and started building a city from the debris. Then, when the doors were opened and the public poured in to “watch”, they soon found that their task was also to manage teams of willing workers to achieve their aesthetic vision – again, much like the real architecture they practice (with perhaps just slightly fewer specialist craftsmen). So, what did they build?

    Studio Weave

    A young practice known for their innovative work such as the Longest Bench in Littlehampton, Studio Weave created an “ancient city” outside of the confines of their allotted square (bending the rules) which then connected by a monorail into a sprawling modern metropolis.

  • Studio Weave's LEGO city

    Studio Weave's LEGO city

    One of the smaller practices in the competition, Studio Weave went beyond their allotted space to create a multi-coloured metropolis – complete with monorail

    Lucie Goodayle

  • Ordinary Architecture

    The new practice in the competition were Ordinary Architecture, which was founded last year by Charles Holland and Elly Ward, formerly of FAT, who have just completed the House for Essex with Grayson Perry RA. Ordinary Architecture started with the concept of a ruined warehouse that they allowed their helpers to populate with different kinds of creative uses.

  • Ordinary Architecture's  LEGO city

    Ordinary Architecture's LEGO city

    This practise, who have recently finished a project with Royal Academician Grayson Perry, based the shell of their city on a “ruined warehouse”

    Lucie Goodayle

  • Wilkinson Eyre

    Headed by Chris Wilkinson RA and Jim Eyre, two-time Stirling Prize winners Wilkinson Eyre, were the other big practice in the competition. Their team, which included architects from across the practice, took inspiration from existing creative areas within London and built a place where the public could add their chosen elements in a kind of organic evolution.

  • Wilkinson Ayre's LEGO city

    Wilkinson Ayre's LEGO city

    This large, award-winning firm took London as their starting point. Well, we are a creative bunch..

    Lucie Goodayle

  • Farrells

    The large international practice headed by Sir Terry Farrell, and best known for London’s MI6 building and the KK100 tower in Shenzen, Farrells chose to create organised plots for creative activity to take place and constructed their buildings off-site, which were then added at the last minute to create a glorious whole.

  • Farrells LEGO city

    Farrells LEGO city

    Best known for the MI6 building, Farrells took a strategic, off-site approach to their LEGO building

    Lucie Goodayle

  • And the winner is…

    The judges were the London Festival of Architecture chair Patricia Brown, Senior Reporter from the Architects’ Journal, Laura Mark, the architect and curator of this year’s architecture room at the Summer Exhibition, Ian Ritchie RA, and RA curator Owen Hopkins.

    Assessing the processes and the ways that the public were engaged with collaborative design, and watching for creativity and teamwork throughout the challenge, they finally selected Studio Weave (kindly overlooking the team’s slightly flexible approach to the rules). Applauding the practice for thinking outside the box, the judges applauded “the way that they ensured their design with the public was truly collaborative.”

    What would you build?

    Take the LEGO Challenge! We challenge you to respond to build your ideal city in LEGO – tweet a picture to @architecture_RA with #RALegoChallenge.