Three new models by LEGO Architecture founder Adam Reed Tucker
Adam’s creating some exciting new Architecture sets, but he had to move away from the LEGO brick to make it happen. We talked with Adam to learn more…
If you love it, let it go… This sentiment echoed through my conversations with Adam Reed Tucker about his journey; from creating the LEGO Architecture series in 2007, becoming a LEGO Certified Professional in 2008, and regrettably letting it go to pursue his vision by founding The Atom Brick.
In this article, we will learn more about the first three new architecture sets by his company The Atom Brick, and look back at Adam’s history with LEGO and Architecture. (Quotes are from my interview with Adam on February 6th, 2020.)
New Architecture Sets
The main reason for this article is to learn more about three new architecture sets based on famous buildings by Frank Lloyd Wright. All three are new designs which have not been included in the LEGO Architecture series, making them especially interesting to fans of the series.
To be clear, these sets are not made by The LEGO Group, and do not use LEGO Bricks. (I’ve included more information about the 3/4 sized bricks later in the article…)
New sets based on Frank Lloyd Wright homes:
- Martin House (1904, Buffalo, NY), 1961 pieces, $149.99
- Taliesin West (1937, Scottsdale, AZ), 1763 pieces, $134.99
- Unity Temple (1908, Oak Park, IL), 912 pieces, $74.99
Let’s take a closer look at all three of these models…
Darwin D. Martin House
The Martin House is the largest estate home that Frank Lloyd Wright designed in the eastern United States. The home has been restored, but the conservatory and carriage house were rebuilt in the 1990’s. It is considered one of the finest examples of his Prairie Style.
With 1961 pieces, it is the largest of the three new models and has a base of 44×62 studs. The smaller bricks make it just 26×37 cm (14⅝×10⅜ inches.) If it were build using LEGO bricks, it would be 35×50 cm (13¾×19⅝ inches.)
You may notice some similarities to Robie House, such as the gently pitched roof, large overhanging eaves, and integrated patio spaces. This is not surprising, since both buildings are part of the Prairie Style, and Robie House was built just 5 years later in 1909.
Taliesin West is the sprawling complex which Wright used as his home, studio, and school during the winter months. It’s more angular features reflect the evolution of his architectural practice from the largely rectangular forms of his Prairie Style to more expressive geometric forms.
The model uses 1763 pieces, and focuses on the section of Taliesin West surrounding the triangular pool, which includes the Drafting Room, Dining Room and part of the Apartments.
The entire complex is so large that it is not practical to re-create in a commercially available set. That said, Adam designed and built a gorgeous 4’×8′ model of the whole complex in 2015, which was on display at Taliesin West for several months. You will see many similarities between the new set and his larger model, even though the scale is much smaller.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s design for Unity Temple is very unusual for churches built in this period, with no steeple, relatively little exterior decoration, and a difficult to find entrance. Once inside, the building is a joy to explore, with lots of natural light coming through art glass windows and a huge central skylight.
The smallest of the three new models, it uses just 912 pieces. It includes both Unity Temple, and the adjacent Unity House which is used as a meeting room and for sunday school. The building is a natural fit for plastic bricks, since it has a very regular, rectangular form.
I hope to review one of these sets soon, so I can give an objective assesment of both the design of the models, and the quality of the bricks.
Interview with Adam Reed Tucker
Brick Architect: Why did you decide to create models of these three buildings first?
We wanted to come out with three models [and] not to compete with LEGO. I wanted to make sure we did models I hadn’t done before to start the line. We are doing three more for the summer that haven’t been done before either.
Honestly, I plan as doing as many as it makes sense to do… At some point, I don’t see why we wouldn’t get around to doing 40 or 50 different models [of Wright’s buildings] when it’s all said and done.
Brick Architect: You are clearly drawn to the work of Frank Lloyd Wright… Why do his buildings speak to you so strongly?
I know it’s going to sound cliché, but I like a lot of different architects… Michael Graves, Adrian Smith, Greene & Greene, Arquitectonica, Morphosis, [Zaha] Hadid; I mean there’s a lot of different ones. But I don’t think any one has the breadth of portfolio of meaningful architecture as Frank Lloyd Wright does.
He is, in my opinion, the first architect that didn’t ascribe to form follows function… I’ve [visited] enough of his architecture and know enough about philosophy of design theory (which is my understudy) to know that … function can follow form. … He was more about creating spaces to stimulate different aspects of how you live your life.
He was original. He was an inventor, innovator, and creator of architectural styles which balanced scale, proportion, harmony, rhythm, color, use of materials, use of outdoor vs indoor, the natural [and] the built… How they dance poetically with each other. I feel like [only] Santiago Calatrava is an organic architect equal to Frank Lloyd Wright.”
Brick Architect: The packaging for these models show the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation’s logo. Can you tell me more about your partnership with them?
I’ve always maintained a strong relationship with the FLW Foundation. There is a partnership with the FLW Foundation; It’s all officially licensed products. Right now what we are working on just his landmarks, [and] there’s a bunch of criteria going into the selection of models we are doing.
Brick Architect: Are there buildings by other architects which you would like to create in the future?
I can tell you that I’m working on Corbusier, [the] Charles and Ray Eames House, Barcelona Pavilion [by Mies van der Rohe], Glass House [by Philip Johnson], and just finished Saint Louis Arch by Eero Saarinen. I don’t think I’ll end up doing any Michael Graves work because … it’s virtually impossible to do out of bricks. [I might also] do some Bauhaus stuff.
Brick Architect: Can you tell me more about other themes beyond architecture that you want to explore with The Atom Brick?
I’m doing a lot of ancient architecture as well. We’re doing the Roman Coliseum, we’re doing the Parthenon, we’re doing the Egyptian Pyramids, we’re doing Macchu Piccu, we’re doing Angkor Wat, [and] I’m doing a couple Mayan structures.
I’ve also got 8 other categories I got to fill out. We have about 20 designers right now that were working with … and I’m always looking for more designers to help with creating subjects that fall in the other areas [such as] Transportation, Nature, History, and Engineering. [Designers will get] a percentage of sales of the set in perpetuity.
About The Atom Brick
Adam was forthcoming that the bricks aren’t quite perfect, but is working with the manufacturer to continue improving the quality over time. He said “based on doing SNOT studies … the 1×1 plate is a little taller, like ¼ of a millimeter taller than it should be.”
I also learned that you may be able to build these models using LEGO bricks instead; He indicated that “I don’t think there are any elements in these sets that LEGO doesn’t make.” (That said, the parts might not be available in the color you need.)
Note: In researching this article, I learned that LOZ has a mixed reputation… LOZ bricks are better quality than many other brands, and their smaller size allows more detail than models of the same size built using LEGO. That said, many of the sets they produced in the past were copies of official LEGO sets, with apparent disregard for copyright and licensing concerns. (This includes many of the earliest sets in the LEGO Architecture series that Adam designed! Adam worked with LOZ to stop producing copies of other people’s designs in 2018.)
About Adam Reed Tucker
Adam was an architect in Chicago when the real-estate downturn in 2006 caused him to consider new opportunities. As outlined in the 2014 book LEGO Architecture: The Visual Guide, he “visited a Toys R Us, filled 11 shopping carts with LEGO sets, and set about refamiliarizing himself with the bricks he played with as a child.”
With these bricks, Adam built several large-scale models of iconic skyscrapers which he shared with other LEGO enthusiasts at LEGO conventions (such as Brickworld Chicago, which he co-founded in 2007.) Recognizing that LEGO can help people understand and appreciate architecture, he designed smaller versions of two iconic Chicago skyscrapers. 1250 hand-packed sets based on the Sears Tower and John Hancock Center were produced with a little help from The LEGO Group, and sold to fans as a proof-of-concept.