Frequently referred to as the “heart” of the LEGOLAND theme parks, Miniland is a section made up of scaled-down versions of national
LEGO® and Philosophy: Constructing Reality Brick By Brick, First Edition. Edited by Roy T. Cook and Sondra Bacharach.
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd. Published 2017 by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.
landmarks and icons, artfully arranged around winding paths. At the flagship LEGOLAND park in Billund, Denmark, the Miniland area is full of scenes from around Scandinavia (with a few outliers). Likewise, the UK outpost at LEGOLAND Windsor features a miniature Big Ben, London Bridge, and the like. At Miniland USA, this same strategy is adapted for an American audience, with individual sections corresponding to different regions or cities from across the United States. What sets the American location(s) apart is the way in which this racially diverse, culturally heterogeneous, and geographically expansive nation differs in its representation in the (older) Carlsbad, California location and in its (newer) version in Winter Haven, Florida. The evolution of Miniland USA between the two locations gives us an insight into the ways in which “America” is constructed—symbolically, at the level of the nation-state, and literally, in Miniland scale.
On their way to Miniland USA, visitors to LEGOLANDs East and West run a gauntlet of scenes based on current LEGO products and sets, each with a corresponding ride or display and a similarly themed gift shop. Interestingly, the sub-themes employed in these scenes—“The Knight’s Table,” “Pharaoh’s Revenge,” etc.—are established popular theming elements in American society.1 In this context, the Miniland USA section designates “America” as a thematic device on a par with medieval and desert motifs and locates it on the same plane within the geography of the park.
The overall effect of Miniland USA is a pastiche of American iconography, culled from a touristic itinerary of the United States in the late twentieth century. Absent are scenes of mundane everyday life. Residential neighborhoods or workplaces are eschewed in favor of portrayals of already popular tourist destinations and the ludic celebrations—Mardi Gras parade, inaugural marching band, etc.—performed there. This is in keeping with the “view of the world” presented in the original LEGOLAND in Denmark, where designers purposefully constructed tableaux of life as a “comical pageant” in which “the work of the world” becomes “a carnival of quaint motions.”2 Accordingly, the designers of Miniland USA present an American landscape where this ethos is reflected and fulfilled through the visitor’s encounters with the models. Also absent are any scenes from American history. The America of LEGOLAND takes place in a “now” that references a scant few historic sites and then only as components of the built environments of their contemporary locations.