Even if they weren’t your favorite, you may have spent a portion of your childhood building things out of blocks. I loved playing with the blocks at school because they were huge; I could stack the pieces into symmetrical piles half my height and stomp around the mess durring recess. Sadly, at home I was relegated to playing with lincoln logs or Legos, neither of which are any fun to stomp on with bare feet. As it turns out, some architects grow up and never stop playing with blocks. Instead, when these architects start to work/play, the result becomes more complex than anything I made when I was little and their building blocks become much more expensive. But not always.
Here are two recent works by the Dutch firm MVRDV. To me, most of the firm’s work can appear blocky at times, but these tall white towers made for an exhibition in Cannes are especially blocky because they are made from white legos. The exhibition is called Porous City and these towers (which were made with help from the Why Factory) are investigations about how to break up the solid mass of a skyscraper. These legos are the building blocks that aren’t so expensive.
The expensive building blocks are the ones used for building the new DnB NOR headquarters in Oslo. And they’re not super expensive for a building… just more expensive than legos. And maybe after seeing the massing of the towers in the exhibition, it’s not surprising that this project is the work of the same firm. The headquarters is an intricate mass of cubic modules that come together to resemble a game of Tetris gone berserk. Communal spaces (which read from the exterior as glass pixels) wind their way through the building, connecting all the way from the entryway to a rooftop bar. It’s a project that is playful while at the same time responding to the demands of the client and climate. These works are not just whims of an architect, but serious play that’s advancing an architectural inquiry one block at a time.