The year was 1989 and Christmas had arrived, what a time to be a 9 year old, the magic of Santa was still alive and kicking.
I woke up just before 6am and scrambled out of bed only to be faced with waiting and staring at presents for an hour and a half before the family got up (no presents without everyone together). Sitting under the Christmas tree was a present for me in a large rectangular box, it was the biggest and I went straight for it, smashed the wrapping paper and uncovering Lego set #6270. Forbidden Island, Pirates! This was my first encounter with Lego.
Late last year something long forgotten was awoken whilst planning a trip to Scandinavia. The first destination was the small town of Billund, Denmark. With a population barely over 6000 people, it would be easy to overlook as a typical bucket list destination but a few things fell into place that allowed me to visit this birthplace of Lego.
I had forgotten something that was discovered during that Christmas of 1989, a defining moment of fascination and dreams coming from a tiny peg legged pirate mini figure called Captain Red Beard, fast forward 30 odd years to Billund, Denmark and I had nabbed myself a VIP ticket to an exclusive evening with four designers from the Lego Group. Although Lego has been scattered throughout my life ever since that fateful Christmas, including my desk at work and umm a room dedicated to it at home, I had truly forgotten that original spark.
This fateful day was at the Lego House, my initial impression was almost undescribable but it was as if I was seeing colour for the first time (on a side note Im a colourblind designer but that’s another story), and was a kid about to be let loose in a candy shop.
The outside of this architectural wonder has the appearance of giant sized lego bricks, and you can climb it! At 23 meters tall and made up of 21 overlapping bricks all I could say was ‘wow’, and scaled It before I even ventured inside.
“My vision with this house is to create the ultimate Lego experience which truly unfolds the endless possibilities there are with our bricks and our Lego system of play,” said the Lego Group’s majority owner, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, at the house’s opening, “and [have] together all these experiences in one house, the home of the brick.” This is exactly what the house was.
What waited inside was an abundance of experiences and exhibitions. The experience zones were colour coded for different themes. Red for creativity, Green for storytelling and role-play, Blue for logic and Yellow for play with emotions. There is even a history museum taking you back to when Lego was invented and the story behind its development, along with Lego collections including the very 1st lego set.
Something that rekindled the magic from my childhood was the worlds first Mini Chef Lego restaurant! A mini figure took my order, I got to build my food combinations with bricks and insert them into a special computer on the table! Watching as Lego characters make your meal it appears on a track and is delivered by robots. This was beyond Back to the future cool for me.
Before I knew it 8 hours had passed and the Lego House was closing up, but I was still that kid in a candy shop. I walked into that 40th anniversary of the mini figure event just as excited as the day I received my first lego set, and the result was priceless. I got to hear from Lego’s Senior Design Manager Tara Wike! She had snippets of information that were infinitely inspiring which was equalled also by her colleagues.
It’s hard to put some experiences into words but some thoughts that summed up my experience are that Lego Group and their philosophy and culture is evident and ingrained in every nook and cranny of everything they do and say. It’s OK to play and have fun. Much of this sentiment is lost as we grow up.
I am 38, and couldn’t be more happy about loving Lego as much as I do.
Written by: Michael Bogalo