Architects in different cities around the world have found uses for LEGO bricks other than entertaining children and tripping their parents. The latest – and tallest – LEGO intervention was unveiled in Tel Aviv on December 27, honoring Omer Sayag, a child who lost his life to cancer in 2014 at the age of eight. Knowing his passion for building blocks, his teachers started the initiative to build a LEGO tower and call it after him as a memorial.
Omer Tower is a collaboration between Tel Aviv City Hall and Young Engineers, a program that uses LEGO to help teach kids engineering. Construction of the 35.95-meter (117-feet-11-inch) tower used half a million interlocking bricks. Thousands of people at more than two dozen community organizations around the city worked from December 12 to 24 to build sections of the tower in Rabin Square in the city center. What makes Omer Tower different than other LEGO towers in other cities around the world is that it isn’t entirely built with and sponsored by “LEGO,” the Danish plastic toy brick giant.
In 2015, the tallest LEGO tower rose in Milan, Italy. Sponsored by LEGO for the occasion and with the patronage of EXPO 2015 and Fabbrica del Vapore, adults and children of all ages were invited to join hands to construct what was at the time the tallest LEGO tower in the world. In support of the initiative, LEGO said they would donate €7 ($8.44) for every centimeter built of the tower to support the protection and development of Urban Oasis. Built in collaboration with the World Wildlife Fund, the project aimed to increase citizens’ knowledge of and appreciation for nature.
Budapest also tried to stand out with the world’s tallest LEGO tower in 2014. Sponsored by LEGO, the tower in the Hungarian capital was built by a group of local school children who were joined by an official group of LEGO builders who travel around the world to build LEGO structures. The construction of what Guinness World Records calls “Modern Obelisk” took four days, using over 450,000 LEGO bricks, and reached 34.76 meters high in front of Saint Stephen’s Basilica.
In November 2017, the Spanish winner of Gothenburg Art21 competition, Christo Guelov commissioned the painting of a LEGO Bridge in Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city. His installation is part of a larger project called “Let’s Colour Gothenburg,” which aims to unite Gothenburg by working with unemployed youths to paint the city. As part of the project, The Älvsborg Bridge, a suspended bridge which connects the northern and southern parts of the city, originally constructed in 1966, is getting a makeover by Guelov and his crew. The bridge’s pylons are being painted to look like brick-shaped LEGO blocks in an attempt to make the city of Gothenburg more colorful while giving the youth space to leave a footprint in their neighborhood.
Other than being a bridge, what’s differentiates Guelov’s project from other LEGO interventions is that he engaged unemployed youth in the Gothenburg community. According to a report by the Swedish Public Employment Service, registered unemployed youths between the ages of 18 and 24 currently stands at 9.1 percent of the entire work force. Gothenburg stands behind Stockholm, which has 6.6 percent youth unemployment, and behind Malmö, which has 20.3 percent youth unemployment.
But LEGO bricks aren’t just used for sentimental, artistic, record-breaking structures; they are also used for sustainability purposes – like saving crumbling walls. Dispatchwork is a group of urban interventionists who – with LEGO bricks – “have infiltrated cultural heritage, facades and fortifications. From cottages to skyscrapers, Dispatchwork [has] sealed and healed fissures, completed the material compilation in urban construction and added people and color to the greyscales of the cityscapes,” their mission reads.
Run by a Berliner sculptor, 33-year-old Jan Vormann, Dispatchwork has invested about eight years traveling around the world to fix crumbling walls and buildings with multi-colored LEGO bricks. So far, they have covered 40 cities in Europe, Central America, Asia, and the United States. Vormann uses up to £20 ($27.17) of LEGO bricks on a project.
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