Friday, January 07, 2011

James May's LEGO House

As a child, James May loved LEGO bricks, and he wondered, 'if one had enough bricks, could you build an entire house out of LEGO and have it stand?' In 2009, he found the answer, as he and the BBC came together with the LEGO company to build a two-story house out of LEGO and see if it was possible to build a free-standing two story house of LEGO bricks.

The bricks used to build the house were not standard LEGO bricks. These were larger versions of the same bricks one can buy in any toy store. And it wasn't just slapping bricks together willy-milly. This house had designers and everything in it, from the toaster in the kitchen to the bed in the bedroom, was constructed completely out of LEGO, even down to the slippers on the bed. And then James May got to stay in it for a single night, after throwing a housewarming party with real wine drunk out of LEGO goblets.

This book shows the construction of the house, from the planning stage to the construction itself, and the setbacks and problems that developed. For one thing, the house was constructed in a grape orchard, but the lawyers for the project insisted that the house have supports of known construction materials, like wood, because the actual strength of Lego is unknown. To get around this, the wooden supports were completely enclosed in LEGO, but none of the bricks actually rested on them. And to build the house, even with the much larger LEGO bricks they were using, still took over 3 milliion individual bricks. And the house was constructed so that the bricks ran in parallel colors, creating a house with a bold, striped look.

Even the windows were LEGO- clear bricks for the main windows and transparent colored bricks for an upstairs window. The pictures in the book are wonderful, showing the house under construction, and several shots of the areas in the finished house, like the coffee table made to look like a British Flag. Apparently, the house itself only took several days to construct, but preparing for construction, including making the concrete-like blocks used to construct the outside of the house, took a lot longer, as well as building a LEGO chair that could support the weight of a human man. And it had working taps and a working shower, with hot and cold running water. Amazing.

Though the book is short, it's also a fun look at a building material that many people only think can be used to create things in miniature. James May is also fairly well known as a presenter of the BBC series "Top Gear". And although it's not covered in the book, I was rather saddened to hear that the house was torn down later that year when the BBC LEGO Park refused to take it. For a short book, it's full of wonderful pictures and you will constantly be amazed at what LEGO bricks can be used to build.

This book is a must-read with an amazing story and an amazing creation at the end of it. Although James didn't think the bed was too bad to sleep in at the beginning of the night, he'd completely changed his view by the end of it. His only concession was a non-Lego blanket to sleep under. This book is full of fun and will appeal to just about anyone with a slightly zany view of life or a love or appreciation of LEGO bricks. Highly recommended.

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