Lego Marks Singapore’s 50th Anniversary by Asking Kids to Redesign the City

Imagining a better 2065

Leave it to a bunch of 6-year-olds to put urban planning into perspective.

In honor of Singapore's 50 years of independence from U.K. rule, Lego and creative shop Iris created an impressive model of the city, made of the toy brand's tiles, representing what the metropolis might look like 50 years hence—then invited some kids to improve on it.

Today, Singapore is already an impressive, modernistic marvel. Shimmering skyscrapers thrust into space, and dense, complex grids snake through the concrete canyons below.

But the adults' Lego vision of the city in 2065 takes things to an extreme you might see on the cover of a sci-fi magazine. Many of the office towers resemble fearsome Transformer robots, as if poised to break loose from their foundations and set out on fantastical adventures. There's an especially striking modular building with a black-and-white "dice" motif (ready, no doubt, to roll big in high-stakes games of future commerce). Taken as a whole, the model looks a bit like a combustion engine, or circuit board—perhaps an energy grid—primed to power Singapore through 2065 and beyond.

The kids have other ideas.

These "future builders," as the project's three-minute "Lego SG100: Rebuild" video calls them, focus on what's taking place closer to the ground. They create intimate, comforting spaces, like parks and playgrounds, that people of all ages can enjoy. Predictably, they tug at your heartstrings. A small girl builds a house next to an office so her dad can get home faster to play with her. Meanwhile, one boy notes that he "put them together with animals, so they can make friends. Dogs without friends are very poor things." True enough. (And hopefully, future Singapore will have strong leash laws.)

"It was fascinating to see what their priorities were for Singapore," says Dan Luo, country manger for Lego. "Sometimes we might lose what is most important in the pursuit of development: spending time with loved ones, and taking care of our communities."

Sure, it's all a bit too precious, and, of course, shameleslly manipulates our emotions. What did we expect the kids to build, a hoverport holo-tainment shopping-mall complex? (Frankly, I hoped that one of them would.)

Regardless, the film does an admirable job of illustrating that "home," for kids of all ages, consists largely of the small pleasures that make each day a gift. While it is necessary for a city to build up and out—building inward is equally essential for nurturing progress.

Ultimately, cities failing to nourish the human spirit are poorly constructed—because their true building blocks are the joys and aspirations of the people who live there. And the dogs, too.