“The Brick by Brick Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry to Close Soon” by S.M. O’Connor

Adam Reed Tucker, the LEGO® Certified Professional featured in the Museum of Science and Industry’s temporary exhibit Brick by Brick, will sign special edition copies of Bricks Culture magazine on Saturday, August 26, 2017 from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.  This event is free with Museum Entry (General Admission) tickets. It is taking place in front of the Brick by Brick entrance on the Main Floor.  The 7,000-square-foot exhibit Brick by Brick opened at the Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) on Thursday, March 10, 2016 and was supposed to be open through February of 2017 but was extended until April, and then until Monday, September 4, 2017 (Labor Day).  [Please note that after I posted this article the M.S.I. extended Brick by Brick again until Sunday, January 7, 2018.  Then M.S.I. extended it again through Sunday, April 1, 2018 (Easter Sunday).]  To enter Brick by Brick, one must have an additional, timed-entry ticket, included in Explorer ticket packages.

This is a fun exhibit that is about more than fathers, uncles, and elder brothers bonding with sons, nephews, and little brothers over a common love of building with LEGO® bricks.  It presents an opportunity to teach children about architecture and civil engineering.  The temporary exhibit Brick by Brick on the Main Floor pairs nicely with the permanent exhibit Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle on the Ground Floor, as well as the Thorne Miniature Rooms at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Brick by Brick features a collection of giant LEGO®-built structures 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.  “At the essence of innovation, science and engineering is creativity, and the simple act of ‘play’ is its catalyst,” stated Kurt Haunfelner, Vice President of Exhibits and Collections at the Museum of Science and Industry (and the boss of this writer’s former boss). “This exhibit explores that close relationship, using a very relatable and much-loved toy, the LEGO® brick. We want both kids and adults to come in this exhibit and leave motivated by the idea that play is a powerful thing, and that a new world can come from a single brick.”

Structures designed and built by Mr. Tucker contain up to 64,000 bricks.  They take hundreds of hours to design and build through trial and error.   “As I design and build, I gain a greater appreciation for the structure I am working on and try to capture the essence of the building in its sculptural form,” said Tucker. “My hope is that people looking at my work will also appreciate and learn about each architectural wonder and the creativity and imagination that’s possible with the LEGO brick.”

In a press release, the M.S.I. stated, “As guests view Tucker’s work, kids and adults can engage in various hands-on building challenges that reinforce key principles of engineering, construction and architecture—and encourage creativity. Guests learn how architects and engineers push the limits of design, materials and location to make the seemingly impossible, possible; witness how form follows function; and learn how building beautifully uplifts us all.”

When he was five years old, Tucker visited the Museum of Science and Industry 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. On average, every person on Earth has eighty-six LEGO® bricks.  In 2012, The LEGO Group manufactured 45,700,000,000 LEGO® bricks at a rate of 5,200,000 per hour. Laid end to end, the number of LEGO® bricks sold in 2012 would stretch around the world over eighteen times.  To reach the Moon, one would have to build a column of about 40,000,000,000 LEGO® bricks.  Two eight-stud LEGO® bricks (2×4) can be combined in twenty-four different ways and three eight-stud LEGO® bricks can be combined in 1,060 ways.  Six eight-stud LEGO® bricks can be combined in 915,103,765 different ways.  The LEGO® Architecture theme has fourteen kits: LEGO® House (Set #21037), Arc Di Triomphe (Set #21036), Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum® (Set #21035), Sydney (Set 21032), Chicago (Set #21033), London (Set #21034), United States Capitol Building (Set #21030), Buckingham Palace (Set #21029), Burj Khalifa (Set #21031), Venice (Set #21026), Berlin (Set #21027), New York (Set #21028), The Eiffel Tower (Set #21019), and Studio (Set #21050).  Discontinued kits in the series include The Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Flatiron Building, the Seattle Space Needle, Villa Savoye, Lincoln Memorial, Imperial Hotel, the United Nations Headquarters, the Brandenburg Gate, Trevi Fountain, and the Louvre.

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 Museum of Science and Industry, The Henry Ford (also known as the Henry Field Museum and Greenfield Village), and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West.  In a press release, the Museum of Science and Industry 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.”

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Figure 1 Figure 1 Photo Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Adam Reed Tucker built a LEGO® model of the Palace of Fine Arts (the building that houses the Museum of Science and Industry) in 2013.  This is Micoscale (or Miniscale) model.  The LEGO® Group uses Micoscale models for extremely large structures.  Note that the Palace of Fine Arts did not gain the Henry Crown Space Center until the 1980s. This model depicted the building in its original symmetry.

(Multiple values)Figure 2 Photo Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: LEGO® Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker building a LEGO® brick model of the Palace of Fine Arts (the building that houses the Museum of Science and Industry) for the exhibit Brick by Brick.

BrickByBrick_LegoMSI_wideFigure 3 Photo Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Adam Reed Tucker’s model of the Palace of Fine Arts, which was built for the World’s Columbian Exposition (1893) and now houses M.S.I., is 8’ wide, 2’ tall, took 41 hours to design, took 187 hours to build, and is comprised of 18,500 bricks.

csm_Vertical_Hero_0b97fc14ec (1)Figure 4 Credit: Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Caption: This promotional image for the Museum of Science and Industry’s exhibit Brick by Brick exhibit highlights LEGO® Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker’s model of the Golden Gate Bridge, which, at sixty feet long, is the largest model in the exhibit.

Brick By Brick Exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry ChicagoFigure 5 Photo Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: LEGO® Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker’s model of the Golden Gate Bridge is 60’ long, took 215 hours to design, 260 hours to build, and is comprised of 64,500 bricks.

Brick By Brick Exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry ChicagoFigure 6 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: LEGO® Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker builds a LEGO® model of the Burj Khalifa for the exhibit Brick by Brick at the Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in Jackson Park in the Hyde Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago.

csm_Bricks@ART_130_d6c37e3013Figure 7 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry Caption: Adam Reed Tucker builds a LEGO® model of the Burj Khalifa for the exhibit Brick by Brick at the Museum of Science and Industry (M.S.I.) in Chicago. It is 12’ tall, took 45 hours to design, took 60 hours to build, and is comprised of 16,500 bricks.

Brick By Brick Exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry ChicagoFigure 8 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Caption: LEGO® Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker’s model of the Great Pyramid of Giza is nearly 12’ long, took 50 hours to design, took 45 hours to build, and is comprised of 24,000 bricks.

Brick By Brick Exhibit at the Museum of Science and Industry, ChicagoFigure 9 Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago Caption: LEGO® Certified Professional Adam Reed Tucker’s model of the Roman Colosseum is over 6’ feet long, took 120 hours to design, took 75 hours to build, and is comprised of 22,500 bricks.

At exhibit stations, guests can build and test structures to determine if they can withstand earthquakes at the tremor table and heavy winds at the wind tunnel. Guests can walk on an I-beam to get an inkling of its strength.

One can us simple machines and engineering to lift one’s friends or one’s self; build one’s own LEGO® creations in an open build area; view time-lapse footage of the construction of real and LEGO® structures; and see futuristic LEGO® structures built by global architecture firms anticipating predicted challenges cities will face in the future, such as rising populations, climate change, and water scarcity.  The architectural firms include SOM of Chicago, Adjaye Associates of London, Kengo Kuma and Associates of Tokyo.

Adam Reed 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 real One World Trade Center in New York City opened on November 3, 2014.  The architects and engineers paid homage to the original World Trade Center, as well as to convey resilience and inspire hope. 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 and Industry, “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 the Museum of Science and Industry.

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.

Completed in 2017 in Shenzhen, Guagdong, China (immediately north of Hong Kong), the real Ping An Finance Center is the third-tallest Chinese skyscraper and the fourth tallest in the world as a whole at 115 stories and 600 meters or 1,969 feet (above ground with another four floors below ground).  In thirty-five years, the population of Shenzhen has grown from 300,000 people to 10,000,000 people.  Designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (K.P.F.) in New York City for Ping An Insurance, the megatall skyscraper houses the headquarters of the Ping An Insurance Group Company of China, as well as a hotel, a shopping mall, and a convention center.

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.  These were 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.  It 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 and Industry 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 the Museum of Science and Industry hosted from Wednesday, October 16, 2013 to Sunday, January 4, 2015.  Tucker redesigned and rebuilt the castle for Brick by Brick.  Visitors who appreciate Tucker’s model of Cinderella’s Castle in particular should make a stop at the exhibit Colleen Moore’s Fairy Castle, the centerpiece of which is an enormous dollhouse built by Hollywood craftsmen for the silent film star and businesswoman Colleen Moore (1899-1988).

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.

ArcelorMittal, the sponsor of the exhibit, is a Luxembourg-based conglomerate.  It exists as the result of mergers between Indian, European, and American steel producers.  The world’s largest steel and mining company, ArcelorMittal has a presence in sixty countries and an industrial footprint in nineteen countries. Lakshmi Mittal, the largest shareholder, Chairman, and C.E.O., is an Indian business magnate who resides in London.  His company stated, “ArcelorMittal believes in creating a talented pipeline of scientists and engineers for tomorrow. These individuals are key to both its business and industry. The company also recognizes the importance of scientists and engineers in our communities. Yet, creating this pipeline is challenging when students in the United States are falling behind in the sciences. ArcelorMittal wants to be a part of the solution. To do so, all children must have access to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) experiences.”

ArcelorMittal and MSI stated, “ArcelorMittal invests in STEM education across the country. In the Chicagoland region, the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) is a dedicated partner. MSI is the largest science center in the Western Hemisphere. The Museum hosts nearly 1.5 million visitors each year, including approximately 350,000 children on field trips. Since 2012, ArcelorMittal has invested $375,000 in programming with MSI. This partnership has funded the museum’s Institute for Quality Science Teaching.  This helps more than 200 teachers from Chicago and Northwest Indiana train each year in STEM disciplines. In 2016, ArcelorMittal has expanded its work with MSI by sponsoring the Brick by Brick exhibit.”

STEM education is at the core of Brick by Brick. Museum guests practice the skills scientists and engineers use, including asking questions, developing models and designing solutions. Brick by Brick supports the type of thinking that all children need in an increasingly STEM-focused world.

“We are proud to expand our STEM partnership with the Museum of Science and Industry,” said Marcy Twete, Division Manager, Corporate Responsibility, ArcelorMittal Americas. “Through the exhibit, guests will have the opportunity to experience firsthand how architecture and materials shape our modern world. This partnership complements ArcelorMittal’s focus on STEM by facilitating hands-on educational experiences for thousands of museum guests. We are also excited to see the exhibit showcase many notable structures around the world that were made with ArcelorMittal or legacy company steel.”

As mentioned above, exhibit admission requires an additional, time-entry ticket, included in Explorer ticket packages.  [Museum Entry (general admission) tickets are $18 for adults and teenagers and $11 for children (ages three-to-eleven).]  Museum Members can enter Brick by Brick with $6 tickets for adults and children (ages three-to-seventeen). One can buy tickets online in advance at https://www.msichicago.org/visit/tickets.  This time of year, the Museum of Science and Industry is open from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

The Museum of Science and Industry gratefully acknowledges the support it receives from the people of Chicago through the Chicago Park District, as well as sponsors, donors, and visitors.  For more information, one can visit www.msichicago.org or call (773) 684-1414 or (800) GO-TO-MSI outside of the Chicago area.

The Museum of Science and Industry 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.

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