LEGO® Architecture: An Interview with the Master Architect
In July 2010, the National Building Museum opened the exhibition LEGO® Architecture: Towering Ambition, which features 15 large-scale models of some of the most famous and impressive buildings in the world—made entirely of LEGO® bricks! The models were all made by Adam Reed Tucker, a Chicago architect who decided to leave the world of traditional practice and become one of only 11 LEGO® Certified Professionals in the world. As such, he creates models that may eventually become the basis for new LEGO® kits and other products. National Building Museum Online interviewed Mr. Tucker about how he came to work with LEGO® bricks and how he learns from his model-making activities.
The LEGO® Architecture exhibition includes a play area, where young visitors may follow their own creative impulses to create model buildings and sculptures. The exhibition is open until September 2012. Admission is $8 adult; $5 youth (ages 3-17), student with ID, and seniors (age 65 and over); free for children 2 and under; and Museum members receive free admission based on membership level.
National Building Museum (NBM) Online: You practiced architecture before embarking on your career as a LEGO® master builder. Describe how you made that transition.
Adam Reed Tucker: Making the decision to leave a job that I really did enjoy was a matter of refining what it was I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Working with my hands, creating art and sculpture, the freedom to create and explore my own vision of design without computer reliance, and to share architecture with the world all made this a natural move for me. I wanted to work on ways to inspire and motivate those familiar with architectural elements and those with no design knowledge at all.
NBM Online: Has creating LEGO® models of specific buildings taught you anything surprising about those buildings or about architecture in general?
Adam Reed Tucker: It is only natural to learn more as you design and build. I learn or more so develop a new appreciation for each given structure I am recreating. I think since I am focused on capturing the essence of the structure into its sculptural form this appreciation is more broad than it is in the details. I work to discover new ways to build and design to capture each building and piece.
NBM Online: You are one of only 11 LEGO® certified professionals worldwide. Have you met any of the other LEGO® certified professionals?
Adam Reed Tucker: I have had the chance to meet with the other LEGO® certified professionals a few times at various events. We also meet at a yearly summit that provides us with a chance to share the work that we have been a part of and to inspire each other with new building and outreach ideas. It is great to have a group of diverse people involved with one common element come together and share all experiences.
NBM Online: There are lots of toys that children can use to build model buildings, yet LEGO® bricks seem to have a uniquely broad appeal. Why do you think that is?
Adam Reed Tucker: Simple: they require no skill to use, no glue, no cutting or modifying, they provide an endless palette which one can use to explore their creativity and fabricate anything their imagination can dream up. On top of that [LEGO® bricks are] a familiar medium that [most] everyone has either used or seen. It is using the brick as a medium and not a play item that is different for most.
NBM Online: Have you spoken with any of the architects or engineers whose buildings you have represented in LEGO® bricks? What were their reactions to your work?
Adam Reed Tucker: When the Trump Tower was being constructed in Chicago I had the opportunity to speak with a few of the engineers and construction teams working on the project. All were interested to hear how a different material was being used to recreate the same building that they were completing. I actually drew more inspiration from my conversations with them and their passion for the building.
NBM Online: What are some interesting aspects of your work with LEGO® bricks that people don’t tend to ask you about?
Adam Reed Tucker: Truthfully, I think that I have received almost any question I can imagine related both to my work and architecture and design in general. I continue to be surprised by the questions I receive—even fielding a question about whether the pyramids could really have been constructed by people and how. Using the LEGO® brick as a medium seems to have sparked a curiosity among viewers [about] how and why many other structures are made and having that occur [only] makes me want to continue challenging myself to develop new styles and new buildings to keep any questions coming.