• Germany's news in English

Repairing run-down buildings one Lego at a time

Shannon Smith · 13 Oct 2009, 17:54

Published: 13 Oct 2009 17:54 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Jan Vormann hopes you remember your youthful fondness for Lego.

The Berlin-based artist’s “Dispatchwork” project appears simple enough at first glance: observant passersby in the German captial’s Mitte district this summer could spot chromatic constellations of Lego and other building blocks filling holes in the facades of buildings on the Humboldt University campus.

Still pockmarked from World War II and 40 years of communist neglect, the surfaces proved to be the perfect candidates for Vormann’s exercise in collaborative repair.

“We wanted to demonstrate the effect of filling a hole, but also how a repair can highlight it,” the 26-year-old artist told The Local recently.

On certain days, lucky passersby and visitors to the exhibit – sponsored by Berlin gallery Jarmuschek+Partner – could be seen altering the installation, removing, rearranging and reusing the toy bricks as they saw fit. Vormann described public participation as a fundamental aspect of the project.

Click here for photo gallery of the art project.

“I think one of the reasons people are so willing to join in is the excitement inspired by building blocks and creation,” Vormann said. “Almost everyone has some sort of emotional connection to Legos.”

Berlin was one of several stops including Bocchignano, Italy, Tel Aviv, Israel, Amsterdam, Belgrade, Serbia and most recently St. Petersburg, Russia. Vormann said the idea originated as part of a project called 20Eventi on an invitational trip through the Sambina region of Italy.

“I began noticing that the locals would make repairs to damaged walls and other structures with whatever they had lying around,” he explained. “They were repairs made out of necessity, and the special thing was that it worked. In fact, often times something more beautiful was born.”

The Amsterdam leg of the art project took place in cooperation with the Institute for Achitecture ARCAM and Platform 21, an organisation and self-described design platform, which touts repairing rundown objects as a valuable and endangered undertaking. It’s Repair Manifesto has already been downloaded more than a million times, according to the group.

“Whereas our Western society is trained to always want the newer, better and shinier version, dismissing chipped or superficially damaged items as broken, Jan Vormann is not afraid to make his repairs visible,” explained Dewi Pinatih of Platform 21.

Story continues below…

Vormann’s work “shows what repair should be about: a hefty dose of improvisation, mixing old and new techniques and materials and above all, he’s having fun with it.”

Representatives of Platform 21 contacted Vormann and were quick to recruit him as a platform ambassador. Not long after, select parts of Amsterdam received their own “Dispatchwork” repair treatment.

“It was incredible to see a group of serious adults turn into people enthusiastically playing and digging through their bags of Lego looking for the right brick,” recalls Pinatih.

Related links:

Shannon Smith (news@thelocal.de)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Creepy clown scare spreads to Germany
Two of the clowns were apparently equipped with chainsaws. Photo: Pedro Pardo / AFP file picture

Police said Friday five incidents involving so-called scary clowns had occurred in two north German town, including one assailant who hit a man with a baseball bat, amid fears that Halloween could spark a rash of similar attacks.

Student fined for spying on women via their webcams
Photo: DPA

Student from Munich fined €1,000 for spying on 32 different computers, using their webcams to take photographs, or record their keyboard history.

This is how much startup geeks earn in Germany
Photo: DPA

A comprehensive new survey of 143 startup founders shows how much you are likely to be earning at a German startup, from entry level all the way up to sitting on the board.

Man dies after beating for peeing near Freiburg church
The Johannes Church in Freiburg. Photo Jörgens Mi/Wikipedia

A middle-aged man from southern Germany has died after being attacked by a group of men who took umbrage with the fact he was urinating in the vicinity of a church.

The Local List
Seven German celebrities with uncanny doppelgängers
Former Berlin mayor Klaus Wowereit and actor Alec Baldwin. Photo: DPA; Gage Skidmore, Wikimedia Commons

Check out these seven look-a-likes of well known German figures - we admit that some are more tenuous than others...

Israel seeks to buy three new German submarines: report
A Dolphin class submarine. Photo: DPA

Israel is seeking to buy three more advanced submarines from Germany at a combined price of €1.2 billion, an Israeli newspaper reported Friday.

Here’s where people live the longest in Germany
Photo: DPA

Germans down south seem to know the secret to a long life.

More Germans identify as LGBT than in rest of Europe
Photo: DPA

The percentage of the German population which identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is higher than anywhere else in Europe, according to a new study.

'Reichsbürger' pair attack police in Saxony-Anhalt
File photo: DPA.

A "Reichsbürger" and his wife attacked police officers on Thursday, just a day after another Reichsbürger fatally shot an officer in Bavaria.

Five things not to miss at the Frankfurt Book Fair
Photo: DPA

From consulting a book doctor to immersing yourself in an author's world with the help of virtual reality, here are five things not to miss at this week's Frankfurt Book Fair, the world's largest publishing event.

Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
10 things you never knew about socialist East Germany
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
How Germans fell in love with America's favourite squash
How I ditched London for Berlin and became a published author
Sponsored Article
How to vote absentee from abroad in the US elections
12 clever German idioms that'll make you sound like a pro
23 fascinating facts you never knew about Berlin
9 unmissable events to check out in Germany this October
10 things you never knew about German reunification
10 things you're sure to notice after an Oktoberfest visit
Germany's 10 most Instagram-able places
15 pics that prove Germany is absolutely enchanting in autumn
10 German films you have to watch before you die
6 things about Munich that’ll stay with you forever
10 pieces of German slang you'll never learn in class
Ouch! Naked swimmer hospitalized after angler hooks his penis
Six reasons why Berlin is now known as 'the failed city'
15 tell-tale signs you’ll never quite master German
7 American habits that make Germans very, very uncomfortable
Story of a fugitive cow who outwitted police for weeks before capture
Eleven famous Germans with surnames that'll make your sides split
The best ways to get a visa as an American in Germany
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd