Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas, Lego and Building Your Own House

My eight-year-old son announced yesterday that he preferred Lego to God. The dilemma that brought about this announcement was the time clash of the local church carol concert and James May’s TV special on building a real house from Lego. Set against this competition God never stood a chance.
In case you didn’t see it, the programme got thousands of volunteers to build a full size house out of Lego bricks allowing James May to live in it for a day and night. It was a TV triumph and if I’m honest more entertaining than the carol concert (which you may have gathered, I missed as well).

Building a house without complicated building skills or the expense of architects, builders, and without digging big holes or messy mortar sounds a great idea. In fact it’s an idea that predates this TV programme by many years. Architect Walter Segal came up with a similar concept in the 1960s. His system of timber frames and wooden panelling was easy and cheap to put together and allowed anybody to become a hosuebuilder.

Ok the houses look a bit quirky but I’m convinced that there’s something very special in this idea. For most of human history people have built their own homes, and in much of the world people still do today. It’s just us, a few western nations like ours, that have subcontracted this role out to house building companies.
Now that it is obvious that the builders can’t keep up with our demands. And frankly their most recent efforts have shown that they are not building what most of us want. Hasn’t the time come to think about building homes again ourselves. Lego may not prove to be the building material of choice, but if it inspires people to think about whether they really could build a house, then perhaps God may forgive us for missing his carol concert this year.