As many of you know, the new Lego House in Billund, Denmark is going to be opening soon. During my very first visit to the home of Lego, I saw the house under construction.
Thanks to my loose connections, I was given the opportunity to have a preview of the Lego House. There were two dates available for AFOLs: last Friday and another in September.
In preparing for this post, I didn’t want to spoil things for anyone interested in visiting the Lego House once it opens. But what kind of AFOL would I be if I didn’t provide at least some coverage?
So without further ado, here’s a preview of my Flickr photo set.
Highlights of the Lego House.
Again, without trying to give too much about the House away, here were some of my favourite parts.
The Masterpiece Gallery.
After climbing the stairwell surrounding a giant brick-built tree, you’ll get to the Masterpiece Gallery. As well as housing three huge dinosaurs – built using Duplo, System and Technic parts – you’ll spot a number of MOCs by famous and high-ranking AFOLs.
Admittedly there was envy on my part, as I didn’t even know that such a thing existed. However, having an MOC hosted in the Lego House has become one more thing I want to accomplish.
The Architecture section of the Blue Zone.
There are plenty of activities in the Lego House, and many have an interactive element to them. My favourite of these was the Blue Zone’s interactive city, which is something I wish I came across sooner.
Choose between a Blue, Red, Green or Yellow 6×6 plate, build something and then add it to the interactive map. Each colour represents a different type of space, and you’ll notice little minifigures running around the map in response. They also provide motivation to add more spaces to the map.
The Mini Chef restaurant.
As well as the obvious reminders of being in a Lego-themed restaurant, what was particularly interesting about the Mini Chef restaurant was how immersive the service was. I found it particularly humorous when the waitress told me my meal would be prepared by minifigures.
Customers use bricks to order food from the menu, and the food is served in these giant boxes (the colour is selected at random, I think). Rather unusual is that, while drinks are brought to your table, you have to pick these boxes up yourself.
No doubt there will be plenty of adults nagged by their kids to eat here, but at least there will be plenty to keep them occupied.
The brick combination gift.
You’ll often find people trying to impress you with random statistics about Lego that they read somewhere. Someone had the brilliant idea of addressing one of them directly.
A university professor (with the help of their students) had calculated that there are over nine billion unique ways to connect six 2×4 bricks. In the spirit of those unique combinations, every visitor to the Lego House will receive their own, along with a pack of six Red 2×4 bricks.
To make things even more interesting: there’s actually a machine on the ground floor that produces the packs of bricks. Yes, visitors will get to see the machine in action!
I was told that the generated combinations exclude those where a brick is connected by only one stud, for the sake of stability. Even so, they expect to “run out” of unique combinations in the next 300 years.
As part of my “break” from Lego this year, I was unaware of most things going on. I had no idea what to expect of the Lego House, nor did I have any idea of what would be in it.
I can honestly say that I was amazed by the whole experience. Even after four hours in the building, I didn’t get to experience everything. Unlike either Legoland Windsor or Billund, I knew I had to make a second visit at some point.
One particular thing I liked was the emphasis on vegetables in the Mini Chef restaurant, and the overall encouragement of healthy eating within the Lego House. In contrast, Legoland is full of vendors offering sweets, ice cream and hot dogs.
But as much as I was glad for the opportunity to visit, I am concerned about its long-term appeal.
For one, the Lego House is going to be a completely different experience once kids are involved. Part of the appeal of the visit was that there wasn’t a horde of spoiled little brats running around, destroying everything. (Don’t get me started on the mess, crying and tantrums.) It’s one thing to be around other AFOLs, but when it comes to Lego experiences, nonFOLs tend to ruin everything.
For another, I’m concerned about the Lego House’s effect on the surrounding town. The building itself actually blends in with the town, and no doubt it’s going to be great for tourism. It’s expected to draw thousands of people a day from all over. However, I don’t know if the nearby trade is going to be able to handle the attention, as well as the dramatic changes that tourism will inevitably bring. As “boring” as many visitors to Billund might have found it, there’s something appealing about the town being quiet.
This also assumes that Lego will maintain its appeal. I’ve been concerned that Lego is reaching a point of over-saturation, which hasn’t been helped by the waves of expensive sets, more Lego-related events than ever, and two almost carbon copy movies (with a third on the way). From brief conversations I’ve had with other AFOLs, it might already be happening.
You should also be aware that the experience itself is expensive. The GBP has been suffering recently, and at the time the exchange rate was 7.92 DKK (instead of the 10 DKK we’re often told). Even so, virtually everything in Denmark was much more expensive than at home – even in Euros. On the bright side, perhaps the overall cost of the experience will help keep the riffraff away.
On pricing: even though the Mini Chef restaurant is also expensive, I was disappointed about not being able to tip the wait staff. They – and all the staff in the Lego House – did a really good job, and it would have been great to acknowledge it at the time.
A pleasant closing thought.
The Red Zone of the Lego House contains a library of books and magazines. It was great to see both of the DK books I’d collaborated on (in English and Danish).
The icing on the cake was the issue of Bricks Culture that features my [current] magnum opus.