Photos by Derek Kouyoumjian
On the third Wednesday of every month in Boston, grown-ups gather at the Legoland Discovery Center for Adult Night to revisit artefacts from their preschool years. You may think people are attending because they’re obsessed with nostalgia, but Adult Night’s appeal is more complicated.
“I had come by here, and they told me I wasn’t allowed because I had no child,” said Leah, a local woman who won a tower-building competition. “Being told that you can't do something makes you want to overcome that.”
On most days, Legoland Discovery Center only admits adults who are chaperoning youngsters – playtime evidently sucks when children compete with adults for the same toys – but on Adult Night, Legoland serves beer and wine and lets those of legal age go HAM.
During a one-armed tower-building challenge, participants stacked oversize, injury-proof soft Legos as high as they could for two minutes. Once they completed their towers, they bashed their handiwork back into Lego rubble so the process could begin anew. In fits of manic exuberance, players fulfilled their primal impulses to create and to destroy.
“Lego bricks and creations are timeless, no matter what your generation, whatever your age,” said Ian Coffey, the curator of the festivities, who brandished a Lego sword and periodically yelled, “Happy Adult Night!”
Coffey didn’t invent Adult Night, but he transported the idea to Somerville after he became this Legoland’s official master builder. Yes, “master builder” is an actual job title. Coffey earned the title by winning a building tournament where he put together a ski jump, self-portrait, and tributes to Toy Story and Cool Runnings out of Legos.
He’s not the only one who’s serious about Legos. During the event, I saw grown-ups compete in a speed-building tournament to win a Lego lobster. One station provided the means to test the integrity of Lego buildings through miniature earthquakes. Some patrons sat around Lego-loaded basins, focused on sundry construction projects, which made no sense. They’re not allowed to take anything they build home, so what’s the point?
“It’s Legos. It’s all temporary,” explained Jared, who had almost finished a Lego facsimile of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue.
This work and other Lego statues catered to adults who have interests besides frolicking around like toddlers. The hall seguing into the main room featured detailed Lego recreations of Boston landmarks: Faneuil Hall, MIT, the TD Garden, and Government Center. Lego Logan Airport came complete with a functional moving sidewalk. This exhibit could make life convenient for tourists who want to see the entire city but, for some reason, only have time to visit one building.
In addition to the Lego-oriented activities in the main room, there’s a flying carousel ride, volleyball, and a karaoke station where I had the misfortune of overhearing a butchered version of “Call Me Maybe.”
The so-called 4-D movie theater failed to deliver on its promises. Instead of taking guests to the fourth dimension, the theatre showed a 3-D cartoon with a few added low-tech sensory effects: including an unseen fan to simulate wind and artificial snow.
I was a little miffed about the false advertising, but grateful I decided to pass on the opportunity to take shrooms at Legoland. I would’ve reacted quite a bit differently to the 4-D gimmickry. Well, scratch that. I wouldn’t have made it past the lobby, where vivid colors abounded and ambient music that belongs in a Pixar movie filled the hall.
Although, psilocybin would’ve enabled me to sit outside and talk to the life-size giraffe, composed of approximately 20,000 Legos, that maintains a sentinel-like watch over the Assembly Row shopping complex, and that would’ve been awesome.
Could this brown and yellow monolith – and other Lego constructs like it – be the ultimate mix of art and product placement? Pretty much everything is an advertisement for itself, but at least Lego is a distinct brand that you can build new shit out of.