Just Another Brick in the Wall

German Artist Jan Vormann Uses Lego to Put Colorful Twist on Urban Design

MAINZ, Germany — An artist is repairing buildings and structures around the world, but he’s using colorful Legos instead of traditional bricks and mortar.

Jan Vormann, a 33-year-old sculptor from Berlin, has invested about six years traveling the planet to fix crumbling walls and buildings with multi-colored plastic toy blocks.

Image: A wall in Valparaiso, Chile
Plastic toy blocks on a painted wall in Valparaiso, Chile. Jan Vormann / dispatchwork

And now the colorful project, called Dispatchwork, has turned into a globe-spanning, voluntary design challenge.

“Dozens of organizations, foundations and strangers have already sent me photos of their repairs, which now have become a wider part of the art installation,” said Vormann, who publishes the images in an interactive map that he wants to turn into a user-run platform.

Vormann carefully chooses the objects for his “repairs,” before embarking on a creative journey.

Image: Dispatchwork art project in Tel Aviv
A Dispatchwork art project in Tel Aviv, Israel, which was done in collaboration with Darom Gallery and the Goethe Institute Tel Aviv. Jan Vormann / dispatchwork

To date, he has visited nearly 40 cities in Europe, Central America, Asia and the United States. He can use up to 20 pounds of plastic toy bricks on a project.

Many of the locations that he has visited have a historical background or a political meaning. “One idea is to juxtapose the dark history of the architecture with colorful modern elements,” Vormann told NBC News.

But Vormann is not only motivated by an “art project with a link to architecture,” he said — often times it is the interaction with bystanders.

“People go crazy and want interviews on the street with me,” he said. During an installation in Israel, children in the Jaffa district “swirled around” the group of artists, and “kept asking us when they finally can take the toys home.”

Image: Art installation on an old wall in Bocchignano, Italy
Art installation with colorful plastic bricks on an old wall in Bocchignano, Italy. The project was part of the contemporary art festival 20 Eventi in the region of Sabina, north of Rome, with friendly support of the Goethe Institute Rome. Jan Vormann / dispatchwork

Vormann also wants to “be part of the public sphere” and to “embrace the city.” And many of his contemporary art designs are an expression of “transience.” One of his most recent works included soap bubbles.

And sometimes, he said, reactions to the installations are unexpected.

In some places, officials have interpreted Vormann’s “patchwork” as a plea for permanent repairs, according to Vormann.

“Suddenly, a few days later, my colorful toy stones were gone and the object was renovated,” he said.

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