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Serious play is awesome

‘Danish House’ by Neil Gabaldon, for the ‘Danish Days’ event hosted by the Embassy of Denmark in the Philippines

Some of you may be shy to admit this, but there are toys from our childhood that we just can never outgrow.

Take the case of LEGO. Those colorful plastic bricks from Billund, Denmark, which has been a favorite of kids of all ages, continue to have fans among adults who have gone as far as employing the highly sophisticated toy in their line of work.

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Some have found themselves unearthing long kept LEGO sets, tinkering with the bricks long after they thought they’ve graduated from playing, to come up with even more complicated and impressive structures.

Work turns to play for Mac Evangelista

Perfect visuals

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Mac Evangelista, 37, proprietor of Container Living PH, finds LEGO to be the best way to communicate their ideas to their clients. This design and development startup upcycles shipping containers into various structures such as homes, a food park, locker rooms, a full-service restaurant, food stalls, and even something as simple as a store room.

“Since we work with shipping containers, the toy building element which LEGO
provides is the perfect way to visually explain how we do our builds. I find it to be the best way to communicate our ideas to our clients. I use the 2×4 block to represent a 20-ft shipping container and the 2×8 block as the 40-ft shipping container then attach them on an 8×16 plate,” Evangelista explained.

Client presentations have thus turned into serious play for Evangelista, who gets to tinker with the plastic bricks while closing deals.

“Sometimes during meetings, it can be hard to think of something on the spot. Playing with LEGO while presenting can get my mind to work on other ideas. The challenge becomes less intimidating when I approach it playfully. While other designers doodle to express and combine their ideas, I use LEGO,” she shared.

Evangelista said that learning to combine work with play can stimulate the mind to come up with new ideas. And the presence of the plastic bricks in meetings has even inspired clients to be
reciprocally active.

She said: “In a typical situation, the designer is usually expected to contribute the most to the discussion. The client will [just] usually nod in agreement (or maybe not). When I bring out the blocks, the ‘playing aspect’ equalizes the field and everyone can freely share their ideas. Who doesn’t like LEGOs?”

Bryan Gabaldon’s version of the former Mandarin Oriental Hotel

Architectural models

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Meanwhile, brothers Bryan Gabaldon, 29, an architect, and Neil Gabaldon, 27, a stockbroker, also grew up playing with LEGO. And though they have yet to involve the plastic bricks in their respective jobs, the brothers have been devoting much of their time coming up with architectural builds which are sure to impress even non-LEGO fans.

“I rediscovered LEGO around four to five years ago during a family trip wherein our sister wanted to buy a LEGO Star Wars set that her boss asked for. Being a Star Wars fan as well, it somehow rekindled my love and appreciation for LEGO when I saw the details on a Clone Trooper
minifigure. Soon after, Bryan and I started collecting our own and eventually building our own designs,” Neil shared.

It was in 2016 when the brothers began making architectural models using LEGO when Philippine Lego Users Group (PhLUG) hosted a competition to design three-storey modular sized structures resembling Copenhagen’s Nyhavn for an exhibit to celebrate “Danish Days.”

The brothers joined the event and haven’t stopped making LEGO architectural models since.

“The idea of creating architectural models using LEGO seemed the most fitting as it is one of the classic themes that LEGO has had. The buildings we choose are highly dependent on its goal. For example, the Barasoain Church was suggested by a fellow builder as we aimed to showcase Philippine architecture and local tourism,” Neil said.

It took Neil two months to plan and build his model of the Barasoain Church.

Bryan added: “Often times, we choose landmarks that are nostalgic in nature because this creates a personal connection with our audience.”

Among Bryan’s creations were the Bantay Church Bell Tower, Malacañang of the North and the former Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Neil, on the other hand, recently made a massive, detailed model of the Barasoain Church. The church and the bell tower are currently on exhibit in Baluarte de Santa Barbara in Fort Santiago, Intramuros, Manila.

Aside from landmarks, the brothers occasionally build generic models such as castles and houses where they simply start from the ground up, changing the design as they go along, to fit their liking.

“Anything can be built with LEGO, it is only limited by your creativity. Similarly, in my field, creativity is used every day to ensure all aspects of our architectural design are met,” Bryan added.

Indeed, those interlockable plastic bricks we had as playthings live up to what is written on its boxes—that they are for ages 9 to 99. If playing enhances creativity, resourcefulness and imagination, then bring out the LEGOs. Just make sure you don’t step on it.

Bantay Church Bell Tower by Bryan Gabaldon

LEGO is the best visual aid for Container Living PH.

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TAGS: Architectural models, Lego
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