LEGO ownership is, in large part, the experience of feeling the plastic bricks’ sharp edges digging into your bare feet at inopportune times. Jeff Pelletier, the proud owner of 250,000 LEGO pieces, does not have that problem. When renovating his Seattle home, the architect created a dedicated room to hold his LEGO collection.
What was once a dank basement is now a nine-foot-tall space that houses a bar and, far more importantly, three walls of dedicated LEGO storage. Shelves were custom-built to house Ikea bins, which are now filled to the brim with bricks. Pelletier’s organizational system is an insight into the mind of the LEGO obsessive. Some bricks are sorted by colour—including shiny gold—whereas others are sorted by function. In order to keep all their faces visible, the heads in Pelletier’s collection are all pressed together instead of being loosely dumped in a bin. The resulting stack of heads looks a bit like a plastic totem pole. There is no Dewey Decimal Classification or Library of Congress system for sorting LEGOs. Instead, Pelletier’s shelves form a mental map or physical memory castle that documents a lifelong relationship with Lego.
According to the biography on his practice’s website, Pelletier “was one of those kids playing in a room filled with LEGO bricks who grew up to be an adult practicing architecture in a room filled with LEGO bricks.” This is a variant of the chicken-and-egg riddle. Which came first: the aspiring architect or the LEGO obsessive? Jokes aside, passions for architecture and LEGO feed into one another. In their excellent book Architecture on the Carpet: The Curious Tale of Construction Toys and the Genesis of Modern Buildings, architecture professors Brenda and Robert Vale suggest that the design and mechanics of building toys have often intersected with architectural currents, and the ways in which buildings are erected. Pelletier has taken this relationship to its fullest extent. To nobody’s surprise, he has also built a model of his house, which is primarily bright green, out of LEGO.
The LEGO cave also doubles as a media room. A big screen drops down from a recess in its ceiling. Surely that screen has witnessed The LEGO Movie many times over.