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The LEGO Architect

Publisher: No Starch Press

The LEGO Architect is a book that combines a history lesson in architectural styles with the directions needed in order to recreate select iconic buildings from the different movements of the years.

This 186 page book by Tom Alphin is designed to work primarily with the LEGO Architecture Studio set that contains 1210 white pieces, but as he states in the first pages of the book, this set isn't necessary to build what will be presented. It's just handy to have this playset as a starting off point, especially since each design style covered comes with at least one set of building instructions to show how to make the iconic features of each movement out of basic LEGO blocks.

Each section is filled with pictures of buildings that fit the design style being discussed, as well as LEGO models that are either of specific buildings or of original designs that really show off the staple principles of each style's design.

The first style covered in the book is Neoclassical. As Alphin talks about the trend that took the Greco-Roman iconic elements and placed them in modern building, he also points out features like columns and domes that are staples of the style. In fact, it is a domed building reminiscent of many government buildings that is this chapter's instruction set.

Alphin then goes on to talk about the Prairie home style. He shows how these buildings emphasized horizontal lines and open floor plans, and of course, you can't talk about the development of this particular architectural style without seeing plenty of houses by Frank Lloyd Wright. This section's instructions include a small Prairie house that can have its roof removed to make it easy to see the aforementioned open floor plan.

Next is a chapter on Art Deco. To help illustrate the design principles that are used in this style, Alphin shows readers how to build an iconic movie theater, complete with large marquee and stair-stepped piers.

Art Deco is followed by the Modernism movement which focused a lot on highrise skyscrapers that could use curtain-walls for their exterior because the load bearing moved to internal pillars rather than the exterior framework. To help show this, Alphin actually has several build projects in this chapter. One shows how to make a curtain-wall, another is to show how a basic multi-floor load bearing structure works. Another is one that fits the style of Louis Sullivan and the fourth is a building called Lever House in New York City.

Alphin claims that the advances in concrete led to a new movement called Brutalism. Here molds were used to make nontraditional shapes. The forms were then filled in with concrete that would hold the unusual shapes once the molds were removed. As expected, these oddly shaped buildings are typically hard to replicate with blocky LEGOs, but Alphin shows how to make two different models, an air traffic control tower and library inspired by the Geisel Library in San Diego.

As a backlash to the "Less is More" motto of Modernism, Postmodern design styles started showing up. Alphin explains that a staple of this style is the use of simple geometric shapes in strange and new ways. Elements like pediments that were no longer triangular, but arched became more prominent, or if they were triangular, there were shapes cut out of them to break up the lines. One of this chapter's how-to sections makes a building similar to the Ransila I in Switzerland that has floors of larger sizes going up instead of sticking to the standard rectangular design typically seen. The other building shown in this chapter is a style seen at a lot of colleges and shows how to put together an arched pediment.

The last style covered in The LEGO Architect is High Tech. This style is apparently hallmarked by the use of computer modeling in order to design the buildings, and as a result, a lot of very irregularly shaped structures are associated with this paradigm. One such building is the Royal Ontario Museum, a building that looks like a crystalline structure has partially engulfed a classic-style church. Other examples in this style are iconic buildings like the Sydney Opera House and the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. Much like Brutalism, the odd angles and strange curves that seem to be associated with High Tech designs are hard to reproduce in LEGO bricks. Alphin does show how to make a train station that uses a parametric design style seen in a lot of Santiago Calatrava's works.

The book finishes with a chapter all about adapting the ideas explored in the earlier pages. Everything from getting inspiration, to deciding on scale and even how much detail you should put into your designs are discussed in this last chapter. There is even a part about how to trick the eye into seeing one color (supposedly the one you really want) when the block is actually a different color.

The LEGO Architect is a good book with a ton of examples of the different types of buildings in each architecture style. The high quality photos combined with solid instructions on making iconic elements from each style makes this a great read for anyone with a passing interest in architecture and a passion for LEGOs.

-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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