Dwelling and Building with LEGO

In one of his meditations and critiques of architecture, Heidegger writes, “Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build.”8 Here he links the quality of our dwelling to the quality of our building. According to Heidegger, authentic dwelling is marked by the virtues of sparing and preserving—environmental virtues. Heidegger would include what is now called interior design—a field currently dominated by female designers—as part of construction and architecture. Unfortunately, these fields have now become separated, with engineering being privileged over both architecture and interior design. Heidegger’s emphasis on the interconnections among personal, social, and global building breaks down the boundaries that have developed among these fields. Building and dwelling are ways we make sense of the world and come to understand our existence. For Heidegger, these activities are rooted in a poetic, thoughtful encounter with the world.

LEGO activities help connect adults and children and allow adults to retrieve their more child-like and play-ful natures. In a broad sense, most people have experienced the flow of time and intensity characteristic of childhood. This immediacy and being-in-the-present we feel as children only appears as such to the adult who is able to retrieve the child’s perspective.

Heidegger describes children as in a “twilight of existence,” and helps us understand how children can be part of the adult world yet separate from it.9 Building and dwelling with LEGO toys can help adults retrieve the more poetic modes of revealing discussed by Heidegger, especially in his later writings. Dwelling and building in worlds of LEGO toys is one way to sustain the awe and wonder needed for authentic building and philosophizing. Indeed, engaged philosophizing (including philosophical LEGO building), which is attentive to emotionality and mood, is one way to sustain the awe and wonder needed for more meditative playing, building, and dwelling.10

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