Notre-Dame rises again… in Lego

Arnaud Gaudillat, a history teacher in France, recalls bursting into tears as he watched television coverage of the fire that tore through Notre Dame Cathedral in 2019. “We couldn’t do anything but watch it burn, ” he said.

Now, 5 years later, when hundreds of architects, engineers and metalworkers race to the finish line rebuilding the church’s roof and electrical cable system later this year, Mr. Gaudillat will not sit out. He would build his own Notre-Dame. One is made from 4,383 Lego pieces.

Lego, the world’s largest toy company, on Saturday released a model of Notre Dame Cathedral, complete with rose window, bell tower and central spire surrounded by statues. The set is designed for adults and will be part of the company’s collection of sets based on architectural feats, including the work of Frank Lloyd Wright. Falling water and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum.

“I just want to have this beautiful thing in my house,” Mr. Gaudillat, 25, said of Notre Dame. He started building complex Lego sets a few years ago and became fascinated.

The Danish toy company is famous for its colorful toy sets for children, including animal sets, train sets and the best-selling Harry Potter-themed sets. But since 2020, when Lego began rolling out a new category of toys aimed at people aged 18 and over, the company has doubled the size of its range aimed at adults. About 20% of the company’s toy sets sold are for adult Lego fans, known as AFOLs.

According to Lego’s official historian, the Notre Dame set, which sells for $229.99, is attracting attention for its design and because it is the company’s first religious structure. released after 67 years.

Thomas Lajon, a Paris-based screenwriter and director, said he wanted to buy Lego Notre-Dame because of the importance of the actual cathedral, a jewel of medieval Gothic architecture, to him.

“This is a moment to reconnect with the cathedral by going there or rebuilding it with Lego bricks,” said Lajon, 28, who designed the Lego Orient Express model through. a company program solicit design ideas from the fan base.

Construction of the (real) Notre Dame Cathedral began in 1163, during the reign of King Louis VII, and was completed in 1345. During the French Revolution in the 1790s, a mob beheaded the statues. statues of the kings at Notre Dame, and the church fell into disrepair.

Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” highlighted the cathedral’s condition and fueled the impetus for its renovation, which took place from 1844 to 1864. Architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc designed and added a tower.

Genevieve Capa Cruz, head of adult products at the Lego Group, said in an interview that the company’s adult Lego fan base has grown in recent years, especially among young adults. who she describes as adults with high-pressure jobs who see themselves assembling Lego sets. as a way to relax.

The company is trying to turn playing with Lego into “a legitimate entertainment activity” for adults, she said. “The same way you invest time and money into making ceramic bowls.”

Themes that resonate with adults include architecture, flowers and movies, such as “Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars,” she said. Adult Lego fans are important to the company and not just because adult sets are more expensive – Star Wars Millennium Falcon model costs $850 – but because they also tend to buy Lego gifts for children, she said.

Lego reported a 4% increase in sales last year, even as other toy companies like Mattel and Hasbro saw declines. Against this backdrop, Lego plans to open at least 100 more stores in the next 10 months, CEO Niels B. Christiansen said in a statement. an interview with Yahoo Finance

Sonia Hudson, an intensive care physician at a hospital outside London, said she plans to buy two Lego Notre-Dame sets. She will build one to display in her living room and the other she will buy in bricks to add to her collection of about 500,000 bricks that she uses to create her own designs.

“I don’t consider Lego a toy,” said Dr. Hudson, 50. “I see it as a means of construction. I can build with wood, I can build with clay, but if I do it wrong I have to start over.”

Rok Zgalin Kobe, the Lego designer who created the Notre Dame set, said he designed the cathedral so that users would have to build it in stages like the real cathedral is built, instead of from the bottom up, tracking almost completely. 900 years of history.

“Once it’s finished, you can actually see through the front door,” he said. “You get a sense of space, a sense of majesty that comes with it.”

The process of designing this set involved experimentation, requiring daily trips to a room in the company’s headquarters in Billund, Denmark, which houses versions of all available Lego bricks. to create new projects.

Like Dr. Hudson, the doctor who uses Lego sets to relax, Gordon Finlay, 62, picked up the bricks again after not playing with them for a long time. He and other Lego fans call that period, from when people stopped playing with Lego sets as children until they rediscovered them as adults, the “dark ages.”

Mr Finlay, who lives outside Glasgow, said he planned to build the Lego Notre Dame Cathedral next month, just before 15 million tourists are expected to arrive in Paris for the Olympics.

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