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The Lego installation where anyone can be an artist (pictures)

Internationally known artist Olafur Eliasson's "The collectivity project" uses Legos -- and the creative energy of the public -- to imagine urban utopias.

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Paula Vasan
Build your own ideal city with Legos
1 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

Build your own ideal city with Legos

Lower Manhattan's High Line -- an old elevated railway that's been recycled as a park -- is currently playing host to an ever-evolving utopia made from all-white Legos. That's thanks to "The Collectivity Project," an installation by renowned artist Olafur Eliasson, which encourages visitors to get in touch with their inner child and modify Lego structures dreamed up by local architects.

I stopped by to see how things were shaping up and to photograph cooperative art in action. Click on for more photos, or here for a related story.

A Lego cityscape
2 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

A Lego skyline

Open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, the installation is up till September 30, and it's free. Spokespeople tell me the artist's goal is to make art relevant to society at large. And what better way to do that than by making Legos your medium?

An artwork for all ages
3 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

An artwork for all ages

My contribution to this Lego building party was simply adding a handful of blocks to a bridge, because it really needed some reinforcement. Mostly, though, I stood back, observing a steady stream of people who worked together to create art and who helped the installation live up to its "Collectivity Project" name. I left thinking that Legos are clearly for everyone -- and that maybe I'd have to pick up my own set. The teenagers were having just as much fun playing with the Legos as people in their 60s and 70s were.

Constructing an 'ideal city'
4 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

Constructing an 'ideal city'

Eliasson collaborated with a number of architectural firms in the area. Each firm built one structure out of Legos for the opening of the project. The only instructions were to make a structure of their “ideal city." Once the project opened to the public on May 29, all the firms’ structures were quickly built and rebuilt by visitors.

The goal: For people of all walks of life and ages to create a collective cityscape.

The structures morph over time
5 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

The structures morph over time

The High Line staff doesn't touch the structures -- with the exception of adding more Legos to the tables when they're running low. The public is invited in each day, and what they decide to create is up to them.

"Play well"
6 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

"Play well"

Why did the artist choose Legos? And specifically white Legos? The iconic snap-together blocks originated in Denmark, where the artist was born. The word "lego" comes from the Danish phrase "leg godt," which means "play well." The choice of white Legos had to do with creating a neutral, collective project. In other words, everyone can use the same tools -- white Legos -- and share a vision to create something together...or they can build something completely on their own from scratch.

'I've got to make this as tall as possible'
7 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

'I've got to make this as tall as possible'

Here, 59-year-old New Yorker and professional sculptor Freddy Borges is shown working on his Lego creation. He spent a total of eight hours doing it.

"I forgot to eat lunch today, drinking a small amount of water," he says. "I was just thinking, 'I've got to make this as tall as possible.'"

A New York City logo
8 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

A New York City logo

Thirty-four-year-old Massimo Moschiettini is visiting New York City from Belgium. "I love Legos because they're simple but you can create very complex objects," he told me. "You can create what you want! There are no limits."

His creation: A New York City logo.

A reminder of childhood
9 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

A reminder of childhood

Moschiettini says playing with Legos brings back the days of his boyhood. "My children will also play with Legos," he said.

Taking pride in art
10 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

Taking pride in art

Brooklyn resident Mark Roden is shown here determinedly building a bridge. “I wanted to do something that I could easily point to as mine,” he said.

Artist takes his Lego idea around the world
11 of 11 Paula Vasan/CNET

Artist takes his Lego idea around the world

This isn’t the first time Eliasson has created collective art with Legos. Before he had the idea to showcase this project on the High Line, the artist presented it in public squares in Tirana, Albania (2005), Oslo (2006), and Copenhagen (2008).

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