Lego has catered to young tinkerers and nascent engineers since it first introduced its signature interlocking blocks in 1949. But the Danish firm is now trying to appeal to a more professional crowd with a new product that targets architects and urban designers. Yes, for adults.
The product, known as Lego Architecture Studio, consists of 1,200 monochrome pieces of 76 unique components, many of which are no different than the bricks sold to 10-year-olds. It comes with a 250-page guidebook, filled with contributed designs from professional architects. It retails on Amazon for very grown-up price of $183.99.
Why would architects and planners, armed with sophisticated modeling software and cutting-edge 3D-printing prototyping tools, turn to the same plastic blocks many of them were weaned on? The reasons come down to time, money, and collaboration. Software and more sophisticated hardware can create beautiful, smart models, but the process can be slow and expensive. For experimental prototyping, it makes a lot of sense to use a dead-simple, cheap material that can be modified just by physically moving around some blocks.
Lego is already used by MIT CityScope, an urban-design unit of the MIT Media Lab, where researchers project different types of digital data onto a model of an urban surface, such as traffic onto models of roads. Ryan Chin, one of the directors at MIT CityScope, told the Guardian that the Lego blocks are most useful when technical requirements take a back seat to malleability and participatory design.
Quartz has reached out to Lego for comment, and will update this story if they reply.
Photo via Eirik Newth and was cropped.