Billund: It started with some surplus wood - Now LEGO® is the world's largest manufacturer of toys (Can you move mountains?)
Discover the wonderful story of the LEGO city of Billund.
Had it not been for the agricultural crisis at the beginning of the 1930s, it is not certain that the world would have known about LEGO®. Because then LEGO's founder, Ole Kirk Christiansen, would have concentrated on his joinery and carpentry business. But those were strict times. And Ole was in the crisis of his life. The Wall Street Crash of 1929 was a worldwide economic tsunami. And in Billund, no one could afford to use a carpenter. On top of that, things went from bad to worse when Ole's wife died after a short illness. Now he was alone with four minor sons. And had to come up with something to feed the little family. Something with wood. Toy. It was close. Because Ole was a skilled craftsman and had both surplus wood and spare machines from the carpentry shop at his disposal.
He also had faith. Of the more tangible kind. For Ole Kirk Christiansen was part of the inner mission congregation. And when it looked the blackest, God spoke from him: 'I saw, as if in a vision, a large factory, where busy people were hurrying in and out, and where raw materials were brought in, and finished goods were dispatched' - Ole Kirk Christiansen has told many years after vision.
Whether the vision was from God or just a dream, it held water. The small community grew with LEGO. In 1926, the town contained 30 houses and had 100 inhabitants. In 1950 the number had increased to 418 and in 1970 to as many as 2,015. In the same year, LEGO reached 1,000 employees.
From toys to developmental play
In 1946, LEGO bought its first plastic molding machine. But it wasn't until his son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen got the idea to develop a building system based on a LEGO brick in 1955 that modern LEGO got its direction. And in 1958, the LEGO brick we know was patented. The blocks could now fit together, and Godtfred came closer to his vision of making toys that could prepare the child for life.
LEGO and Billund's history are closely woven together. So close that you can call Billund a company town, where everything develops in step with LEGO's plans and visions.
On the initiative of Godtfred Kirk Christiansen, Billund got an airport. The first plane landed in 1962. Today, Billund Airport is Denmark's second largest.
In 1968, Legoland opened its doors for the first time and is today Denmark's biggest tourist attraction outside of Copenhagen. The latest addition to the list is LEGO House from 2017.
Meanwhile, Billund has reached 6,700 inhabitants, while LEGO today has approx. 24,500 employees worldwide.
The LEGO city of Billund is built on faith. Initially, a personal belief in combination with a high work ethic and quality. But the development really took off when LEGO saw the light in a belief in the value of children's play and the ability of play to develop children. The current 3rd generation in LEGO, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, has cultivated that effort over the past decades. And that has made LEGO the world's largest company in its field. At the same time, LEGO and the minds behind it have pushed our country in a more open and democratic direction by taking children's play seriously. It has helped to create an innovative, playful and developing environment in our learning environments and further out into our society.
Experience the real LEGO city where it all started. Enter rooms with great LEGO secrets.
Book this tour with a guide from home and see how Billund has changed from 8 farms to housing the world's strongest brand for children.
Faith can move mountains – this applies to both cities and LEGO bricks.