Vietnamese street scenes join the LEGO world

Minh Phương & Vân Nguyễn

You’d be hard-pressed to find a child anywhere in the world who didn’t grow up playing with LEGO.

Coloured bricks of all shapes and sizes, neatly stacked together to create all kinds of models. Houses, cars, aeroplanes … you name it, you can probably build it.

One local man has taken his love of LEGO to a whole new level.

In a room in Đặng Huy Hoàng’s Hà Nội home are tiny bricks stacked from floor to ceiling, all neatly organised in hundreds of separate draws.

He estimates his collection at around 2 million pieces, and he has created many models with a Vietnamese twist.

“I first played with LEGO when I was young, after my family bought small LEGO models for me,” said Hoàng, an industrial designer by trade.

“I studied design, and LEGO is an outstanding product in the design sector. So I started to buy more and seriously create LEGO models.”

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BEYOND A HOBBY: Đặng Huy Hoàng has more than 2 million LEGO bricks in his collection. VNS Photo Vân Nguyễn

“I have categorised all of the bricks based on their functionality.”

“Some are used to build walls, while others are used for added details. So they are sorted by what they can be used for.”

The first model Hoàng built about Việt Nam was a Vietnamese fishing boat. The model was featured in the book The Art of LEGO Scale Modelling” and received a lot of attention from the international LEGO community.

“I made it six or seven years ago,” he said. “At that time, there were a few incidents involving fishing boats at sea. So I decided to build this model to support the Vietnamese spirit.”

“It took me quite a lot of time to finish. The most time-consuming stage was searching for the right details.”

“For example, the clothes hangers, which are at the front of the boat, are in the Scala production line that was produced in the 1990s. It’s quite rare and really hard to find.”

Hoàng was recently inspired by Việt Nam’s architecture and has created a number of buildings from the bricks.

“I created the first architectural model of Hà Nội two years ago. It was the front of an old French villa,” he said.

“I now have four models in my Vietnamese architecture collection. I have captured scenes that people can spot everywhere in Hà Nội, such as vendor stalls or temples.”

His grandfather’s stall, a temple in Hà Nội’s Old Quarter, or a 1990s living room during Tết (the Lunar New Year holiday), which are all part of his childhood, have been intricately built to make sure every minute detail is captured.

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MEMORIES MADE: A 1990s living room during the Lunar New Year festival inspired by Hoàng’s own childhood home. VNS Photo Minh Phương

“One model was inspired by the living room in my home in the 1990s when I was small,” he explained. “All of the equipment in the house was assembled from very tiny pieces.”

“For example, a TV was not available, so was created from many other details, such as a window frame or even the rings of a character in the Lord of the Rings model.”

“The model that was the most time-consuming was a temple with a banyan tree sprouting from its walls.”

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DEVIL IN THE DETAIL: A model of a temple with a banyan tree sprouting from its wall was the most time-consuming of Hoàng’s creations. VNS Photo Vân Nguyễn

“Trees are difficult to create with LEGO because the pieces are mostly square in shape.”

“It’s easy to make straight lines but hard to make curves.”

Almost all of his models are of ancient buildings. So to add to their historical value, he seeks out old items.

“To give a model some historical values, I try to find old pieces produced in the 1980s or 1990s and not currently available,” he said.

“Việt Nam’s LEGO creators are still few in number -- maybe 10 nationwide -- and little known around the world.”

“Creating our own LEGO models is a new hobby. Normally, people tend to buy models from a shop to assemble.”

“But LEGO really has the ability to create something beyond existing models, simply based on the creator’s imagination.”

Hoàng hopes his work can help spread Vietnamese culture and build a positive image of the country worldwide.

“At first, making LEGO models was just my hobby,” he said.

“But when international friends found out about my models, I was very happy, and I really hope that these models can contribute to spreading an image of Hà Nội and Việt Nam in general to the world.”

“And I hope that, in the future, international LEGO creators will have the chance to come here to visit and see the models for themselves.” VNS

History of LEGO

LEGO was created in 1932 by a carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen, in Denmark. In 1949, LEGO produced its first plastic bricks -- precursors to its signature interlocking bricks.

Five interesting facts about LEGO

1. The name “LEGO” comes from the first two letters of the Danish words LEG GODT, meaning “play well”.

2. The biggest and most expensive commercial LEGO set comes from the Star Wars universe -- Star Wars Millennium Falcon.

3. The amount of LEGO bricks sold in a year would reach around the world more than five times.

4. You can make an actual house using LEGO bricks.

5. The tallest LEGO tower in the world was built in Milan in 2015 and is over 34.47 metres tall.

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