Video: Lego got adults to build a futuristic Singapore, then let kids have a go

One of the children gets ready to build. Image: Lego.

Let's start by making one thing clear: what follows is an account of a big marketing exercise by a major multinational corporation. But, as these things go, we think the outcome of this particular marketing exercise was pretty interesting, so we're covering it anyway. 

This coming Sunday, as you may be aware, is the 50th anniversary of Singapore's independence. Over the last half century, Singapore has come on rather a long way, becoming one of the most developed economies in Asia.

So as part of the city's panoply of birthday celebrations, Lego Singapore ran an experiment it called "Rebuild", in essence asking how Singapore will change over the next half century.

First, Lego asked local "adult fans of lego" (yes, this is a thing; they even have an acronym) to build their vision of the future of Singapore out of the miniature blocks. The AFOLs, as one might predict, built a vista of towering, futuristic skyscrapers:

Then, Lego invited in some kids (KFOLs, we assume) to rebuild the city. Encouraged, we hope, by their own instincts, rather than by hovering Lego representatives, the kids added trees, animals, parks, food trucks, and people to the dystopian landscape.

Here's one park the kids created: 

Below is Legos' video of the project. In one particularly satisfying moment, a child yanks off a white silo structure and thrusts it aside. Another installs a brightly coloured house next to a soulless office block so a worker "can get home faster". 

While the project is a little gimmicky, it does contain lessons for urban planning. The children seemed to have a more rounded view of a city than the adults: perhaps because kids are generally more selfish in their outlook, they never forgot how the cityscape would affect the individual who has to travel a long way for work, or who wants to buy a hot dog as they're walking along.

City planners – in Singapore, and elsewhere – would do well to do the same. 


Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

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The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

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In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.