#BetterCities goes LEGO

22 May 2014

The #BetterCities team has been eating, sleeping, dreaming LEGO for a better part of the year now and it has all led up to the launch of our very own The Living City exhibition which gets its first run this coming weekend at The Festival Belia 2014 in Putrajaya!

The Living City is an interactive exhibition catered for groups of all ages and interests to explore the fundamentals of city-making in a playful and unconventional approach using LEGO.
The exhibition is designed as a LEGO board game that breaks down the central theories related to urban growth in an accessible manner as players contribute to the living city with their own LEGO creation while engaging and negotiating amongst one another on the form the city takes as it develops.

The Festival Belia Putrajaya and The Cooler Lumpur Festival set in Publika in June will be a trial run exhibition for The Living City where the game mechanics and interactions will be tested out on a smaller scale. The Living City takes on its full form at The George Town Festival in Penang this year in the month of August where the three components of The Living City will be carried out which includes a master class workshop, a visual exhibition and a week-long larger scale exhibition of The Living City interactive board game.

(Lia Tostes of #BetterCities on a site recce at the MPPP Town Hall in Penang, the venue of The Living City at The George Town Festival)

The rule of the game is simple; players start by having the option of selecting a challenge card which suggests themes and types of structures that makes a city. The challenge card includes suggestions of appropriate housing, landmarks in the city and questions the depletion of resources in the city. Players can either design according to their challenge card or design whatever they feel to be an integral part of the city as creatively as possible. The player will then decide where to place their creation by removing (deforesting) miniature LEGO trees on the green LEGO terrain. As the game progresses and more creations are placed on The Living City, players will have to negotiate with existing constructions and depleting green space to decide what gets demolished to make room for their construction.

It is this thought process of contributing their creation to an existing LEGO landscape which we hope to gain stimulating conversations and ideas from on the issues of urban growth. As players contribute to the growing city, they immediately witness the effects of city-making as they alter the topography of the LEGO landscape, emphasising with the The Living City as a living organism.

Some of the immediate concepts players observe through this exhibition is the act of deforestation, negotiation of resources and the understanding density in a city. The Living City takes its name after Archigram’s 1963 exhibition of the city of the future, an avant-garde architecture firm which influenced the likes of Norman Foster and The Centre Pompidou.

#BetterCities has been working behind the scenes on this for months now and we have even recruited new members to our team to assist in the conceptualisation and follow through of The Living City. Lay Sheng and Jia Ling came on board as our interns during the preparation of The Living City and Syukri was scouted to be the set designer of the exhibition.

(Syukri, Lay Sheng and Jia Ling deciding on the final selection of the challenge cards for The Festival Belia Putrajaya 2014)

We’ve come a long way to get to this point and we hope you will be part of the next leg(o) of the journey. The Living City will be exhibited at these following festival as follows :-

Festival Belia Putrajaya

  • Date : 23, 24 and 25th of May, 2014
  • Venue : Persiaran Perdana, Putrajaya

The Cooler Lumpur Festival

  • Date :  21st and 22nd of June, 2014
  • Venue : Publika Mall, Jalan Dutamas 1, Solaris Dutamas, Kuala Lumpur

The George Town Festival

  • Date : 15th – 31st of August, 2014
  • Venue : MPPP Town Hall, Jalan Padang Kota Lama,  George Town, Pulau Penang

(The team, sans Lia, figuring out the mechanics of The Living City. Photo courtesy of Festival Belia Putrajaya 2014) We look forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Featured Image also courtesy of The Festival Belia Putrajaya 2014


Yasmin Lane is the research lead at BetterCities. She graduated with a degree in International Relations and has since shifted her interest from the people and institutions that make up the city to learning new ways of shaping and improving the structures of the city itself.