Lego book does world landmarks in plastic (Q&A)

Warren Elsmore's colorful "Brick City" takes Lego to new heights, with re-creations of famous landmarks made from thousands of Lego pieces.

120,000 bricks: London's St. Pancras Station by Warren Elsmore is featured in his new book. Warren Elsmore

Lego fans! If you can't get over to Legoland Malaysia to gawk at its plastic architecture, here's the next best thing. A new book titled "Brick City" looks at Lego re-creations of global landmarks and shows you how to build them.

The 256-page manual has more than 400 illustrations of architectural icons such as the Taj Mahal, Buckingham Palace, the Eiffel Tower, Chicago's Tribune Tower, and Westminster Abbey, as well as 46 instructions and two posters. Author Warren Elsmore and 13 other builders constructed the 100 models in the book, which includes vehicles such as New York cabs -- check out the eye-popping creations in "Brick City" in the gallery below.

Elsmore is a Lego modeler known for his 13-foot re-creation of London's famous St. Pancras Station. I asked him how his passion and "Brick City" all came together.

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Q: You worked as an IT consultant, but now you're a professional adult fan of Lego (AFOL). How did that happen?
Elsmore: I've been juggling both careers for a few years, but towards the end of 2012 there was too much going on to be able to continue that. So I decided to follow my heart and take up Lego as a full time career. So far things seem to be working OK!

I've been building Lego since before I can remember, all the way through my childhood. I stopped around 14 or 15, but came back to it in my 20s. I've been commercially building Lego models for about five years for all sorts of clients. I'm not really sure how many original creations I've built--but there are at least 75 in this book alone!

I source Lego from the same places that any other fan would - from Lego sets, Pick-a-Brick walls and online. There is a chapter in the book (towards the end) of where to source parts from.

What motivated you to build these architectural icons out of Lego bricks?
Elsmore: I've always been a fan of architecture so when I first had the chance a few years ago to build Saint Pancras station I jumped at it. That building, which is so recognizable in London, was the starting point for the book. Lego works very well as a medium in which to re-create architectural features so the challenge of writing a whole book of architectural models appealed very much.

In terms of the number of pieces and time to build, was the most challenging structure in "Brick City"?
Elsmore: Probably the most challenging model was the London Olympics. Though it wasn't built specifically for the book (but for the Danish tourist board during the Olympics), all of the stadiums are very difficult shapes to create in Lego. It also had a very tight timescale. I've estimated 300 hours building in just three weeks. Obviously there was a deadline I couldn't miss!

You've also done a number of vehicles for the book. Which is your favorite, and why?
Elsmore: I think the San Francisco cable car. It's a very iconic shape and I'm really pleased with the result. It does also work! While there's no motor on board -- which I guess is realistic! -- it will run on Lego train track.

Beyond being a plastic toy, what does Lego represent to you?
Elsmore: To an extent and now that I'm working commercially, Lego represents an income! But more than that, I love the community that surrounds the Lego company. I've been to conventions all over Europe and met many great friends through a shared love of the product. It's a similar story when I work at trade show or on team building events. Everyone has a shared connection to Lego so it's something immediately breaks down barriers and gets people talking.

Any tips for Lego builders who want to attempt architectural icons?
Elsmore: I'd probably suggest starting where I did -- with your own house. It's a structure that you'll be familiar with and hopefully won't be too hard to build! Don't be too concerned with scale either. Work with a scale that suits the building -- it doesn't have to fit Lego minifigures inside!

Where will your Brick City tour be taking you?
Elsmore: I've only just launched the tour, so currently we're booking up locations. Most of the venues are in the U.K., but I'd love to take the tour further afield to the U.S. and Asia, where Lego is very popular.

 

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