If you’ve been coveting a trip to Denmark to visit LEGO House (see Nathan Barry’s original announcement of the project and my post about its grand opening) but can’t justify the expense or exposure to COVID, Chronicle Books has you covered.
A brand new book by Jesús Díaz, The Secrets of LEGO House: Design, Play, and Wonder in the Home of the Brick, comes out today, featuring a complete tour of the building; tons of photos, interviews, and essays; and stories behind LEGO House. It’s 160 pages of wonder for the child and child-at-heart.
Tl;dr: LEGO House isn’t just a place for you and your family to go to play with LEGO bricks all day. It’s an immersive and interactive experience that will engage your senses and your imagination through targeted activities and experiences. I thought it would be cool, but this book showed me just how meaningful LEGO House is.
Learning Through Play
Though the book is about LEGO House specifically first and foremost, it begins with some of the background philosophy put into designing and creating the attraction. Reading the book, we learn how LEGO promotes Learning Through Play as an effective method of learning that takes people through three phases: connection, exploration, and transformation. The book is divided up into these same three steps of the learning process, with the most pages devoted to exploration. (You can learn more about Learning Through Play at the LEGO Foundation website.)
The book also explains how playing with well-designed toys actually works to engage people and cause them to learn. It’s fascinating stuff. (Read page 20 in the book for a basic description of how we learn through play. I kind of want to rearrange my life now. I feel like the veil has been lifted.)
The author, being a big nerd himself with a lifelong love of LEGO, writes the book in a very accessible style, taking you along on his journey of discovery with personal stories and experiences of his own learning about LEGO House.
“As this book guides you to explore how Learning Through Play shaped LEGO House, perhaps this philosophy can help you transform the way you build your life too, hopefully improving your learning and creative powers in the same way it helped LEGO House creators and designers refine their own skills and apply the creative process.”
You’ll learn so much from reading this book, including the seven principles of design that went into building LEGO House and the many smaller steps of Learning Through Play.
Inside (and Outside) LEGO House
The Learning Through Play model is rooted in five areas: social, creative, cognitive, emotional, and physical, and the LEGO House is similarly organized into these areas, with the first four located indoors and the fifth located in the outdoor terraces and playgrounds. (Now, how do I get them to build grown-up-sized playgrounds?)
The interior of LEGO House is just as playful as the exterior, with furniture and interior spaces made to look like they were built with giant LEGO pieces. Visitors can explore on their own; there is no single path to follow. This means it’s possible to miss things, though, so be sure to check out every nook and cranny if you visit! There are bins of LEGO bricks to build with pretty much everywhere, and no building instructions in sight. It’s up to you to figure out what to build and how. Play Agents, who receive play facilitation training, act as helpers in each room and can add to your family’s experience.
The middle of the building’s interior is a completely open space, and the staircase gives visitors a perfect view of the huge Tree of Creativity. This giant tree features nods to LEGO history, the generations of people who have run the company, and plenty of vignettes, featuring LEGO themes like Town, Castle, Space, and Friends.
Most of LEGO House’s interior is divided into four color-coded areas: red for creativity, green for social competence, blue for cognitive skills, and yellow for emotions. Each of these areas contains so much to take in, activities to do, and little LEGO scenes to discover.
The History Collection within the building takes you down memory lane to LEGO sets of yesteryear, perhaps ones you recognize from your own childhood. The Masterpiece Gallery includes builds, large and small, made by Adult Fans of LEGO.
The focus in LEGO House is truly on the classic LEGO experience. There are very few references to LEGO’s partnerships with franchises, so visits won’t feel outdated or too commercial.
A Personalized Experience
One of the most fun features of a visit to LEGO House is the digital wristbands. Each visitor gets one to wear that includes a unique identifier on an RFID tag. This allows visitors to connect with kiosks throughout the building, take photos of the LEGO builds they’ve been working on, and log achievements. Once they are home, visitors can then download their mementos from the website and reflect and share with others. This replaces the need to be glued to your smartphone all the time, causing you to miss out on being present.
The Photos and the Text
While the book’s text is what really gives meaning and context to the LEGO House “behind-the-scenes tour through a book” experience, the photos are what will grab your eye. LEGO is known for colorful bricks, and the quality of these photos and the printing are top notch. Just a quick browse will inspire you to get out your own LEGO bricks and create something new, or re-build a set you’ve loved for years.
Still, I do encourage you to read the text. While your kids will love the photos, you’ll get the most out of both the book and subsequent Learning Through Play opportunities if you actually read the book. I implore you. You won’t regret it. The more of it I read, the more excited I get about being alive. It’s been a real salve to my constant anxiety, actually. I’m not exaggerating.
Can’t Visit LEGO House? The Book Will Deliver
I’ve only scratched the surface here of what’s included in this book and in LEGO House itself—I don’t want to give away all their secrets!—so do check out the book to learn more. Secrets of LEGO House takes you through every aspect, from planning and design of LEGO House, to what the creators envisioned for a visitor experience, to seeing photos of its construction. Though looking through this book gives away a lot of the visual secrets of LEGO House, the experience of being there would be even more exciting. I hope to be able to make it with my family one day to uncover its many surprises.
So, if you can’t make it to Billund, Denmark, The Secrets of LEGO House is the next best thing. It’s a great gift for travel lovers and LEGO lovers of all ages. I can’t guarantee epiphanies or life-changing lightbulb moments for everyone, but, in addition to giving you a tour of a really cool place, this book is filled with plenty of wisdom and life advice disguised as a study in child’s play.
Note: I received a copy of the book for review purposes, but all child-like wonder is my very own.