The World’s Great Structures Built With Legos- page 2 | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian
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(Courtesy of Adam Reed Tucker)

The World’s Great Structures Built With Legos

For 15 years, Adam Reed Tucker was an architect. Now, he constructs models of famous buildings with thousands of Legos

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The process is a lot of designing in my head and then taking apart and then building again and then modifying, tweaking, adjusting. I’ll probably build and rebuild a section of a particular model—whether it is a large building or a small set that I’m working on for LegoArchitecture 5 to 15 times just to get it right. So, there’s no answer, there’s no instruction, it’s something that you’re just doing as the model is evolving as you start looking at it and as it starts going together, using different Lego elements. There’s obviously more than one way to design a building.   

So, given all those challenges, which was the most frustrating to create?
I pick a model based on many criteria. But probably the biggest criteria is something I’m personally interested in, thinking, therefore, that maybe other people would be interested in it as well.

So while there’s many buildings out there, there’s many things you could do, that doesn’t mean you should do them. For instance, with the St. Louis Arch, I was trying to replicate a structure that does three geometric complexities all at the same time. Those would be a triangular section, a telescoping or tapering as it goes up—meaning the keystone is exactly one third the size of the base of each leg—and obviously the last and most difficult and tricky component is the catenary curve, which by definition means every single degree of change is different and unique, so it’s not an equilateral arch or a typical arch. Those three factors are interesting and challenging enough, and then trying to replicate it with square bricks, well that’s the challenge there.

No one had really done that before and so, for me, the challenge was: how can that be done? That was probably, even though it was one of my smaller models, it was one of the trickier ones.

You mentioned that you have lots of buildings on your horizon. Which would be at the top of that list?
Well, currently, I’m working on the Miglan-Beitler building, which most people are not familiar with because it was never built. It was proposed, I believe, back in 1987. It was supposed to be a 125-story Art Deco skyscraper in Chicago. I find it to be a very beautiful building, and I think that’s one component I haven’t touched on yet with you. And that is the ability of doing things that were never realized. For instance, most people in the world will get to see what the Chicago Spire looks like, or 7 South Dearborn or the Miglan-Beitler building or maybe ten years from now, no one will get to see or remember what the World Trade Center looked like. And, so, with that I’m able to capture these buildings that no longer exist or never will exist and I think that’s a really neat component that I can share with people.

The one question I do get a lot of is, ”why don’t you do one of your own designs instead of replicating other architects’ designs and other firms, have you ever thought of doing your own?” So, at some point, I think that that might be kind of neat to explore, doing an original design. So, maybe that will be one of my next projects too.

What might inspire you, in terms of that original design?
But what would inspire me would probably be the style that I have, which is very close to the style of Santiago Calatrava, with the proportioning and the vocabulary and characteristics of, say, Frank Lloyd Wright.

One of the great things about doing this is that it gives me the freedom to do things but not live in a world of reality in a sense. It’s kind of like I am my own architect, my own client, my own contractor, my own crane operator, as funny as that sounds. But, really I get to be in control of all these different processes.

Are there any unLegoable buildings?
I would say “no” based on the scale. That’s the tricky component. Anything can be done out of Legos. It’s just a matter of scale. So, for instance, could you replicate Wrigley Field in the palm of your hand? Probably not. But, could you replicate Wrigley Field given a 5-foot by 5-foot base from which to work? Probably.

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