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Inside the utopian, brick-loving world of LEGO’s adult fandom

Nathan Sawaya used to be a lawyer. Now he’s a LEGO artist. And, in the parlance of LEGO fandom, that makes him an AFOL – an adult fan of LEGO. “I asked my parents for a dog when I was around ten years old. They said no, so I tore down the sprawling LEGO city set in my room and built my very own life-size dog,” Sawaya recalls. His exhibition, Art of the Brick, is currently on a global tour. “After that, the bricks became an endless source of creativity for me.” he says.

 

Sawaya is a member of a global network of collectors, master builders, crafters and self-confessed brick addicts. “I think physical LEGO, with the brick at its core, is timeless,” says Chiara Biscontin, junior model designer at LEGO. Biscontin went from studying product design and engineering at The University of Glasgow and Glasgow School of Art to landing what she calls her “dream job” in 2016. “If you have bricks on the table you’ll automatically fidget with them, and when you have more you’ll automatically start creating something, whether you’re a kid or an adult.”

LEGO, which celebrates its 60th anniversary this week, has gone from a deceptively simple children’s toy to inspiration for countless creatives. It’s inspired modern architecture in Bjarke Ingels’ LEGO House and helps make kids bionic. The German artist Jan Vormann uses the colourful blocks to repair dilapidated streets, Philippine diners can digest one at Brick Burger, and in ‘Building Language Using LEGO Bricks’, Dawn Ralph and Jacqui Rochester share LEGO-based therapy methods for helping children with severe receptive and expressive language disorders.

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