Most of us have been privy to the raw power of the best building block in the world: the Lego. They come in almost any size and color imaginable and can help you create just about anything: a castle, a spaceship, a jungle, a bridge…the possibilities are virtually endless. As we grow up, though, we (sadly) don’t get enough time to sit cross-legged on the floor and dream up our next masterpiece. The Museum of Science and Industry out of Chicago, however, understands the world’s affinity for Legos and the creativity they cultivate. Hence their project and exhibit, “Brick by Brick.”

Lego Mus

Brick by Brick was started in 2016 by a simple gesture and presented some of the top architecture firms in the world with an unconventional challenge. What did this challenge consist of? It was modest and unassuming – a box of 1,200 white Legos. As summarized by Fast Company,

“Lego is the great equalizer. It requires no skill to wield, unlike CAD software or cardboard models. So when the Museum of Science and Industry (MSI) shipped boxes of Lego bricks to some of the top architecture firms in the world, what it got back had none of the high production values of a big-budget Bjark Ingels promotional video. Instead, it was a series of 10 models that any eight-year-old could have built.”

The challenge involved more than creating just any old building, however. The talent was urged to create pieces of work that responded to a problem of the future, with examples such as overpopulation and climate change cited for inspiration. Their capabilities stretched beyond the average Lego set, with the contest allowing them to use methods such as 3D printing to bring more to their creation. At the end of the day, though, no matter the methods to their madness, each submission had to fit into a 14-by-14-by-18 display case that would serve as a space for the project to be revealed to the public.

The results, as is the case with most art projects, exceeded all expectations. Firms rose to the challenge and delivered creations ranging to include a self-sustaining ocean reef tower that demonstrates how we might purposefully tackle rising sea levels in coastal cities (Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill architecture), an infinite lattice that takes on the possibility of a future with fewer resources (Skidmore Owings and Merril), and modular design intended for easy, efficient assembly and use (Adjaye Associates).

Perhaps the most artistic statement made was by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Architecture. The team there bypassed the competition’s rules, ditched the provided Lego Kit and swapped it out for chunkier Lego Duplo, which was subsequently broken down to resemble a pile. The explanation? “Solutions to future conditions can only be discovered through unconventional and disobedient methods.” Touche.

In addition to the originality that came of MSI’s challenge, “Brick by Brick” also features Lego handy-work that is just plain cool. Professional Lego guru Adam Reed Tucker built a replica of the world’s first Ferris wheel for the entry hall. The Ferris wheel towers at 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. There’s also a replica of the Golden Gate Bridge – no small feat made up of 64,500 Legos which took 260 hours to arrange just so.

Brick By Brick Exhibit @ the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago

The exhibit, which came together in 2016, was supposed to be displayed through February 2017. However, due to its popularity, it has been extended through September 4th. So, without further adieu, now would be the time to visit Chicago and get your architecture nerd on…Brick by Brick!

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