Almost 16 metres high and made up of more than six million "bricks", the Tree of Creativity, the epicentre of Lego House, is not just any tree. "We tell our guests 'you can't buy any more brown bricks' because we used them all to build this", laughs Viktor, one of the staff, as he beckons me towards it.
Taking 25,550 hours to create and install, with the model built in Prague before being brought to its home in Billund, where Lego was created in the early 1930s by a Danish carpenter, the tree is just one well-thought-out creation in a house of well-thought-out creations.
Opened in September after seven years of planning and construction, Lego House is like Willa Wonka's Chocolate Factory, but picture the river of chocolate replaced by a Lego waterfall; and the mountains of sweets replaced by an endless supply of the ever-familiar two-by-four Lego bricks.
Children run up the winding staircase, the tree towering over them, as they head towards the interactive play zones. "Carved" into the trunk is the wooden duck, one of the first Lego toys produced; the initials of founder Ole Kirk Christiansen and his son, Godtfred, the name Kjeld, Ole's grandson and the third-generation owner of Lego, and more. "Up here," Viktor says, pointing towards Lego buildings placed on some of the branches, "you can see some of the very iconic Lego sets throughout time, [such as the] Yellow Castle."
The level of detail is not just contained to the tree. It is seen in every part of the house, from the name tags each staff member wears to the top block of the building, the keystone, the latter of which looks like a giant two-by-four brick.
Encased in the 12,000-square-metre house, filled with 25 million bricks, are four experience zones – red, to stimulate creativity; blue, which focuses on cognitive thinking; green, which explores the social aspect of playing; and yellow, which highlights the connection between playing and emotion.
“The whole house has a lot to do with building and using your imagination,” says Trine, a Lego spokesperson. “The idea is that when you play, you [mix all these] different competencies. When you play everything is happening at the same time, but here as a principle, we’ve sort of isolated [them].”
In the green zone, young and old alike flit between the different activities on offer, passing by posters for fictional films such as 20,000 Bricks under the Sea and 3001: A Brick Odyssey (3001 being the design ID of the two-by-four brick).
For Peter, who heads the blue zone, the greatest thing people take away with them when they leave is the inspiration to keep playing. "You can bring your own Lego alive," he says. "I have my Lego at home in a box, but after being here, I can take it out and do something totally different with it. A lot of people go home from here inspired to bring out their Lego and build something new. I like that."
It is more than like, though, that has led to Peter and his siblings keeping the Lego sets they played with when they were children, and which led Viktor to become the second generation of people in his family to join the company after his father, who previously worked for Lego.
Belgian visitor Chris has played with Lego almost every day since he was a boy. "I grew up with it. I had a 10-year-old brother and so I got his Lego. It all started with a brick," he laughs as he navigates the museum on the house's bottom floor. The top section is his favourite, although the whole house sings to him. "It's all interesting – there's a lot of hidden humour, and if you take your time to look, you can take small laughs, as we say."
Billund is also home to the original Legoland theme park, first opened in 1968, and Hotel Legoland. Since then, Lego's bricks and mortar have spread across the world, reaching the UAE last year with the opening of Legoland Dubai and the Legoland Waterpark. But if Dubai's offerings aren't enough to whet your appetite, then a trip to the heart of Lego should be next.
While longtime Lego aficionados such as Chris – known as AFOLs (Adult Fans of Lego) – have never let go of the habit, some older visitors to the house need a bit of prompting to let go and have a bit of old-fashioned fun, says Karoline, another staff member.
"Some adults just go into it and play but some … have forgotten how to play and have forgotten their imagination, but you just have to help them a little bit. They might say 'oh no, I'm too old', but give them just five to 10 minutes [and] they won't leave," she says, turning back around to help visitors.
Across the zones, people are busy playing and building, or closely inspecting some of the magical miniature worlds on display – from snow-capped mountains with running trains and a waterfall, to a mini city complete with builders working on-site and people sitting in cafes – that are hard to drag your gaze away from.
Even at the exit, visitors are treated to one last surprise: the opportunity to see Lego bricks being made and the chance to take home a bag of six bricks – the number needed to “build” the Lego House itself.
The house is always alive and full of people building, learning and having fun, which was the aim of the founder of Lego. But the journey is not over.
"Do you know why we've put a crane on there?" Viktor asks, as we look to the top of the tree. "If we put this really nice crown on top, then actually Lego would be done with their mission. This symbolises Lego is organic and still growing, creative and full of different opportunities, endless possibilities. If we stopped [building] it, Lego would stop being innovative, [stop] fighting for its mission to inspire the builders of tomorrow.
“Maybe we’ll go through the roof one day,” he smiles, looking up. “Who knows.”
If you go
The flights Emirates flies direct from Dubai to Copenhagen from Dh2,735 return, including taxes. The flight time is six hours.
The location Lego House is in Billund, a three-hour, 265-kilometre drive west from Copenhagen. Direct flights are also available with SAS from €98 (Dh423). The flight time is 50 minutes. Entry costs from 199 Danish kroner (Dh155) for visitors ages 3 and above. The park is seasonally closed for school visits Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Booking recommended.
Where to stay Lego enthusiasts can stay at Hotel Legoland or Legoland Holiday Village from 895 kroner (Dh519) per night, including taxes.
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