Saturday, August 21, 2010

LEGO Displays at the National Building Museum

Name of Display: LEGO® Architecture: Towering Ambition
Created by: Adam Reed Tucker
Photos at:
Details: During my recent trip to BrickFair, I took a short detour to visit the National Building Museum. As I've previously mentioned, they currently have a display of Adam Reed Tucker's work entitled LEGO® Architecture: Towering Ambition. The LEGO display is one of several kid-oriented activities there - some of the other highlights include a separate building area and an arch-building exercise out in the middle of the museum.

The LEGO exhibit features a selection of large landscape models - most of which have some portion intentionally left out so you can get a good look at the internal structure. One model, the White House, was left unfinished so that it can be periodically built during visits from Adam Tucker. The models themselves are mostly noteworthy for their size - the exhibit was well named in highlighting the ambitious heights of the models - and not for their construction techniques. If you look closely, you can even spot a few pieces that are not attached to any other LEGO brick, but rather were glued into place. In our book, that's considered cheating - but I guess it was given the OK since LEGO seems to be supporting the display. About half of the display is devoted to a large play area where kids are encouraged to make buildings and put them on a "map" (the parts, partially donated by the LEGO company, are clearly current to what you can buy in 2010). There's also a gift shop area featuring some of the Adam Tucker-designed LEGO Architecture sets. This exhibit started on July 3rd and runs through September 5, 2011 (yes - you can make it part of a 2011 BrickFair trip).

The National Building Museum is itself an interesting historical structure - it's the "Pension Building" completed in 1887. In my flickr photo set, you can see a few photos of the original building and a minifig-scale LEGO rendition of it - complete with offices. The builder of the LEGO version isn't explicitly credited, but I'd assume that it was also Adam Tucker.

To be honest, I preferred the non-LEGO displays - after seeing landmarks by Arthur Gugick and building part of the new Tower Bridge set at BrickFair, Adam Tucker's large-but-simple-except-for-glue models looked a bit disappointing. Maybe I was getting a bit LEGO'd out after the long weekend of all-LEGO-all-the-time, but I was thrilled to see some of the other displays. If it weren't for the tourist draw of bringing in LEGO fans (and inevitably, families) to see the LEGO-specific display, I actually think a better display would be a larger portion of their construction toys collection.

There were also some great non-LEGO displays (sorry, no pics - photography is prohibited in the non-LEGO exhibits). Cityscapes Revealed: Highlights from the Collection showed a little bit of the collections not open to the public, including photography, bricks (of the fired-clay variety), steel, construction toys, and more I'm certainly forgetting. Washington: Symbol and City was a great treat, featuring historic displays about DC's city planning alongside history of various landmarks and even parts of some of the buildings. Not being able to make time to see more of the city this year, I was thrilled to get to see some of the actual details from various landmarks showcased in the museum - this display is so well-done, it almost justifies not being able to fit in many of the other landmarks during this trip. Drawing Toward Home: Designs for Domestic Architecture from Historic New England was a great look at architectural styles in New England and at how architectural sketches evolved over time.

Overall, it was a great trip, and the "Washington: Symbol and City" exhibit in particular was fantastic. If you're reading this, you'd probably enjoy the LEGO display (especially if you want to try out the play areas), but I'd definitely recommend getting a more thorough look at the museum. The exhibits apparently swap out fairly often, so check the National Building Museum's website to see what's going on before you plan your trip. The museum itself is free (suggested donation of $5) and the LEGO exhibit costs $5 for a scheduled ticket. I have no idea what the schedule is to see more of the White House model being assembled.

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