Welcome to the Academy house of fun - London Festival of Architecture

Welcome to the Academy house of fun

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Lego might seem like a plaything for children but the gloves were off for the 4th annual architecture challenge at the Royal Academy of Arts. With established practices facing off against smaller firms, this fiesta of plastic bricks has become a staple of the LFA calendar.

This year’s event responded to the festival theme of memory, asking representatives from Grimshaw, David Chipperfield Architects (DCA), SODA and Sam Jacob Studio to consider the legacy of Cedric Price’s unbuilt Funhouse. The challenge was to draw upon the concepts raised by this seminal project and render them in Lego with students and children in less than two hours. Simple.

The team from Grimshaw explored the technical complexities of creating a series of flexible structures that could be repurposed in an imagined future. Football pitches hung from sky bridges and members of the public were given the option of adding their proposals to a series of towers via standardised base plates. SODA examined a particular viewpoint of Price’s original Funhouse concept from the position of an overhead helicopter. Ziggurats, beams and smaller structures were the order of the day, drawing upon their team of helpers to create a miniature city against the clock. DCA built multicolored towers that seemed to demonstrate a huge variety of designs but followed a 12-brick-high limit, allowing for easy assembly at the last minute. Mobile phones were used to create screens that could beam information from all over the world, demonstrating an interconnected global community. The final entry from Sam Jacob Studio sought out the fundamental intention from Price, eschewing the idea of a proper built structure and instead offering a framework for design. They reformatted and extended the boundaries of their 2x2m square and created a series of spaces for freeform creations, including graphic images alongside walls and even furniture.

All the entries raised interesting ideas about the Funhouse concept in completely different ways but their could be only one winner. Judges Tamsie Thomson (LFA Director), Oli Statford (Editor of Disegno) and Gonzalo Herrero (RA Programme Curator) were unaminous in their decision that Sam Jacob Studio best captured the spirit of the brief. After an afternoon of architectural discourse via tiny Danish bricks, there was only time left for the wanton destruction of the models by the children that had helped to create them.

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