The new exhibit Brick by Brick at the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago features a collection of giant LEGO® models of engineering marvels, including a sixty-foot-long Golden Gate Bridge, the International Space Station, the St. Louis Gateway Arch, Hoover Dam, and the Roman Colosseum and more, all constructed by LEGO® Certified Professional and Chicago native Adam Reed Tucker. The exhibit opened on Thursday, March 10, 2016 and will run through February of 2017.
Tucker’s model of the One World Trade Center is ten feet tall, took fifteen hours to design, took forty-five hours to build, and is comprised of 25,500 bricks. This model is hollow, lacking any internal structure or supports. The architects and engineers paid homage to the original World Trade Center, as well as to convey resilience and inspire hope.
The real One World Trade Center in New York City opened on November 3, 2014. The tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, it is 1,776 feet tall, a tribute to the year the Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence.
Tucker’s model of Burj Khalifa is twelve feet tall, took forty-five hours to design, took sixty hours to build, and is comprised of 16,500 bricks. The real Burj Khalifa is in downtown Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
The tallest building in the world is double the size of the Sears Tower at 163 stories, contains over 24,000 windows, and has the longest elevator shaft in the world. According to the Museum of Science & Industry (M.S.I.), “It was built by bundling structures of smaller size for strength, and a Y-shaped buttressed core prevents twisting in the wind.”
Tucker’s model of the Golden Gate Bridge is sixty feet long, took 215 hours to design, 260 hours to build, and is comprised of 64,500 bricks. It is so long, it could not be fully completed until installed within M.S.I.
The real Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 4,200 feet when it opened in 1937. It was built to withstand both high winds and earthquakes.
Each cable is comprised of hundreds of wires. A deck truss prevents the bridge from swaying too much, but even so the cables can move twenty-seven feet to accommodate winds.
Tucker’s model of Ping An Finance Center is six feet tall, took twenty-five hours to design, took sixty hours to build, and is comprised of 20,250 bricks. To simulate rebars (steel rods in concrete), Tucker used silver-colored antennas from LEGO® Star Wars™ sets.
Scheduled to open this year in Shenzhen, Guagdong, China (immediately north of Hong Kong), the real Ping An Finance Center will be the tallest Chinese skyscraper at 1,965 feet. In thirty-five years, the population of Shenzhen has grown from 300,000 people to 10,000,000 people.
Tucker’s model of The Gateway Arch is eight feet tall, took twenty-five hours to design, took thirty hours to build, and is comprised of 7,500 bricks. This model is self-supporting like the real structure.
The real Gateway Arch (the “Gateway to the West”) in St. Louis is the tallest memorial in the U.S.A. It has a catenary curve, with its height and width equal at 630 feet.
Finnish architect Eero Saarinen (1910-1961), the son of famed architect Gottlieb Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950), designed the Gateway Arch, which was completed in 1965. Via an elevator system, visitors can reach the top of the Gateway Arch.
Tucker’s model of the International Space Station is four feet wide, took thirty hours to design, took twenty-five hours to build, and is comprised of 2,500 bricks. He made the solar panels by culling 2,500 gold bars from LEGO® Harry Potter™ sets.
The real International Space Station (I.S.S.) houses a team of international astronauts while it orbits the Earth at 17,500 miles per hour. It is modular, like the LEGO® model.
The Russian Federation launched the first I.S.S. module in 1998. Adding additional modules has been a challenge in part because rockets have to be launched in a window of minutes each day to reach the I.S.S. at the right time.
Tucker’s model of the Great Pyramid of Giza is nearly twelve feet long, took fifty hours to design, took forty-five hours to build, and is comprised of 24,000 bricks. The pieces Tucker used to form the corners are very rare and are no longer being produced.
The real Great Pyramid of Giza was the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and today it is the most intact. [Five of the structures have been completely destroyed: the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse of Alexandria, the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, and the Statue of Zeus in the Temple of Zeus at Olympia.] Pharaoh Khufu (also known as Cheops) built the Great Pyramid and other buildings as mausoleum-temples for himself and his family.
It was completed in 2560 B.C. The Great Pyramid of Giza remained the tallest manmade structure for almost 4,000 years. It is comprised of 2,300,000 stones.
Tucker’s model of the American Eagle Roller Coaster is twelve feet long, took fifty-five hours to design, took seventy hours to build, and is comprised of 14,500 bricks. At 127 feet tall, the real American Eagle Roller Coaster was the world’s tallest wooden roller coaster when it opened at Six Flags Great America in 1981.
It has 8,300 feet of track. Construction entailed 20,000 man-hours, 9,000 gallons of paint, and over 1,000,000 feet of lumber.
Tucker’s model of the Palace of Fine Arts – the building erected to house a temporary art museum for the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893), that subsequently housed the Field Museum until 1920, and has housed the Museum of Science & Industry (M.S.I.) since 1933 – is eight feet wide, two feet tall, took forty-one hours to design, took 187 hours to build, and is comprised of 18,500 bricks. This was the first model Tucker made entirely of white bricks.
Memory of the Great Fire of 1871 made foreign governments hesitant to place artworks on display in Chicago for the World’s Columbian Exposition. To assuage their fears, the Palace of Fine Arts had a fireproof brick substructure whereas most of the other exhibit halls in the White City were simply railroad sheds with neoclassical façades painted white with new spray-paint technology. Fires consumed most of the other buildings.
Tucker’s Cinderella’s Castle model is five feet tall, took 145 hours to design, took 230 hours to build, and is comprised of 36,000 bricks. Tucker had to use almost every technique in his repertoire to build this model castle.
Note that this is a different castle from the one he exhibited in D23: The Official Disney Fan Club’s traveling exhibit Treasures of the Walt Disney Archives, which MSI hosted from Wednesday, October 16, 2013 to Sunday, January 4, 2015. Tucker redesigned and rebuilt the castle for Brick by Brick.
In 1953, artist Herbert Dickens Ryman (1910-1989), a former Wald Disney Company employee, drew the initial designs of Disneyland at the personal request of Walt Disney (1901-1966), which led to him rejoining the company and designing the Sleeping Beauty Castle, Main Street, and New Orleans Square. Ryman later designed the Cinderella Castle at the Walt Disney World Resort.
He also contributed to the Pirates of the Caribbean and Jungle Cruise rides. In retirement, he contributed to Epcot. A Disney Imagineer, he was posthumously inducted into the Disney Legends Hall of Fame.
Ryman used forced perspective to make the fairytale castles seem larger than they really are, to appear to be the size of real castles. The windows and bricks on the upper levels are smaller so they seem farther away.
Steel framed construction and a ten-inch-thick concrete wall lie beneath the façade of the Cinderella Castle in Disney World. It can withstand 100 mile-per-hour gusts of wind.
Tucker’s model of the Roman Colosseum is over six feet tall, took 120 hours to design, took seventy-five hours to build, and is comprised of 22,500 bricks. To get the oval shape, Tucker re-designed his Colosseum model more than a dozen times.
Emperor Vespasian built the Colosseum between 70 and 80 A.D. in honor of his son, Titus. The largest amphitheater ever built, it was a gift to the Roman people.
They gathered there to watch gladiatorial games, wild animal shows, and battle re-enactments. The building could accommodate between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators, and yet they could quickly depart thanks to eighty entrance/exit arches, corridors, and staircases.
Tucker’s model of Hoover Dam is five feet long, took 215 hours to design, took 160 hours to build, and is comprised of 42,800 bricks. He experimented with over half a dozen ways to build the model.
Completed in 1935 as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, the real Hoover Dam is one of America’s Seven Modern Civil Engineering Wonders. Meant to distribute Colorado River water to the American Southwest and generate hydroelectric power.
It is an arch-gravity dam. An arch dam works best in blocking a narrow passage between sheer rock walls, while the massive weight of a gravity dam holds back water.
Tucker’s model of Fallingwater is five feet long, took 170 hours to design, took 130 hours to build, and comprised of 21,100 bricks. This model is capable of being taken apart like a puzzle.
The American Institute of Architects considers the real Fallingwater, the National Historic Landmark designed by Frank Lloyd Wright (1867-1959), the “best all-time work of American architecture.” Completed in 1938, it was built in southwest Pennsylvania as a private residence for Edgar J. Kaufmann, Sr. (1885-1955), President of Kaufmann’s Department Store in Pittsburgh, and his wife, Liliane.
Their son, Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr. (1910-1989), was a former student of Wright’s. Wright designed Fallingwater to incorporate and compliment the surrounding waterfall and woodland.
When he was five years old, Tucker visited the MSI where his aunt, a civil engineer, bought him one of his first LEGO® sets at the Museum Store. His love of the LEGO® brick continued far into boyhood.
He studied architecture at Kansas State University, from which he graduated in 1996. He then went on to practice as a professional architect in Chicagoland for ten years. In 2002, he returned to his love of LEGO®. One day, he filled multiple shopping carts with various sets and then experimented with them as a medium for architect’s art.
His work attracted the attention of The LEGO Group. In 2007, he became a LEGO® Certified Professional, of which there are currently only fourteen in the world.
The next year, he worked with The LEGO Group to conceive and design the LEGO Architecture Series. Each set contains the pieces and instructions to build a model of a famous architectural building in LEGO® Microscale.
The larger-scale models that Tucker creates for public display contain tens of thousands of LEGO® pieces and take hundreds of hours to complete. He has had his work displayed at many museums and organizations around the world, including the National Building Museum, the MSI, The Henry Ford (also known as the Henry Field Museum and Greenfield Village), and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.
MSI stated, “Tucker begins the design and build process of each structure by examining photos, elevations and artist renderings. As an artist and architect, he considers design principles such as proportion, scale, form and aesthetic. His next step is to identify the LEGO bricks and colors best suited to create study models, which are mock-ups or prototypes of sections of structures. His pieces are ‘scratch-built,’ meaning that Tucker doesn’t use computer modeling, pencil and paper or written directions in his work. Tucker has built and rebuilt certain sections of buildings five or six times until he feels they are right.”
The simplicity and nostalgic quality of the LEGO affords a new, detailed look at the familiar buildings and structures that Tucker builds. Guests can lean in close to see the complexity of a building’s intricate design and engineering—or take a step back to appreciate its sculptural form in full.
“As an architectural artist, I want to capture the essence of a particular architectural landmark into its pure sculptural form,” said Tucker. “I don’t view my models as literal replicas, but rather artistic interpretations through the use of LEGO bricks. As I explore how to capture these buildings with the basic shapes of the bricks and plates, I find the challenge in the endless possibilities.”
ArcelorMittal is the sponsor of Brick by Brick. Exhibit admission requires an additional, time-entry ticket ($9 for adults and $7 for children ages 3-11), included in Explorer ticket packages.
MSI is located at the northeast corner of Jackson Park in the neighborhood of Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, at the intersection of 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive. The address is 5700 South Lake Shore Drive, Chicago, Illinois 60637.
Last month, LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago in west suburban Schaumburg, Illinois unveiled additions to MINILAND™ Chicago and the new City Builder attraction. The Soldier Field LEGO Replica is over seven feet wide, almost four feet tall, is comprised of 50,000 bricks, and is home to 2,000 Minifigures. The football game is interactive.
The Chicago O’Hare International Airport LEGO Replica is over three feet wide, four feet tall with additional buildings and vehicles such as the control tower and radar tower. It is comprised of 10,000 bricks and has three airplanes.
At the City Builder attraction, children can make additions to a cityscape. A spokesman wrote, “kids can… help accessorize an entire city.”
General admission is $18 per person. One can purchase special-rate tickets online.
LEGOLAND® Discovery Center Chicago is located at The Streets of Woodfield mall across from Woodfield Mall. The address is 601 North Martingale Road, Schaumburg, Illinois 60173.