Filler By Proxy LXII: Take the L…

Thursday 10 April 2008

I never cared much for Norman Mailer, and so didn’t bother noting his passing here until I saw this photo of him at home:

What on earth is that thing behind him? has the answer, along with a photograph of the object itself: a seven-foot high model of a utopian vertical city, designed by Mailer and constructed by him and a few friends with thousands of blocks of Lego.
It looks like a Lego version of one of Constant’s New Babylon models or similar Unitary Urbanist schemes, and seems to have been built in the same spirit.

“It was very much opposed to Le Corbusier. I kept thinking of Mont-Saint-Michel,” he explains. “Each Lego brick represents an apartment. There’d be something like twelve thousand apartments. The philosophers would live at the top. The call girls would live in the white bricks, and the corporate executives would live in the black.” The cloud-level towers, apparently, would be linked by looping wires. “Once it was cabled up, those who were adventurous could slide down. It would be great fun to start the day off. Put Starbucks out of business.”

It was built in 1965 and stayed in Mailer’s living room for the rest of his life. The Museum of Modern Art was interested in displaying it, but found that it was too big to get out of Mailer’s apartment without dismantling it, an idea which Mailer rejected.

It’s times like this I wish I hadn’t agreed to donate my Lego to needy kids when I moved out of my parents’ place. I’d started to soften my stance against Mailer, thinking he was a serious Lego nerd until I read:

Norman acted as the brains behind the project, soon discovering that he didn’t like the sound of the plastic Lego pieces snapping together; it struck him as vaguely obscene.