We’ve all come across a LEGO set from childhood and felt the temptation to try building it one more time — making the generous assumption, of course, that all the pieces are in the box, to say nothing of the instructions. If you’re missing a few bricks, you can always turn to the robust secondary market in LEGO components. If you’re missing the manual, there’s now one place you should look first: the LEGO building instructions collection at the Internet Archive. There you’ll find digitized materials for more than 6,800 different sets, including such popular releases as the LEGO Chevrolet Camaro Z28, the LEGO International Space Station, and the LEGO cover photo of Meet the Beatles.
Since they were first brought to market in the late nineteen-fifties, LEGO’s signature building bricks have been primarily considered children’s toys. And of course, most of us got to know LEGO in childhood; I myself have fond memories of working my way up to the Ice Planet 2002 series, with its still much-referenced transparent orange chainsaws.
But even after coming of age, the serious enthusiast need not leave LEGO behind: the company has put out such adult-oriented models as the Colosseum, Andy Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe, the Eiffel Tower, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, to name just a few whose instructions are downloadable from the Internet Archive.
The Metafilter discussion of the Internet Archive’s LEGO building instructions collection reveals not only that some are excited indeed about the existence of this resource, but also that others consider building from instructions to be a misuse of the medium. It may be true that following specific documented steps for hours on end may encourage a certain slackening of the imagination. But then, it may also be true that physically working one’s way through a complex assembly process can build dexterity and generate ideas for later freeform constructions. However we approach LEGO, and whatever age at which we approach it, we need only keep in mind the Danish imperative that gave the company its name: leg godt — play well. Enter the collection of instructions here.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.