Do you build your models digitally or using real LEGO bricks? Which do you prefer?

When I originally got into this hobby, I built all my models using real bricks. I designed these models the old-fashioned way using pencil and graph paper. After I had about 5 large skyscraper models built using a combined total of nearly 100K LEGO pieces, I realized that the only way I could keep going was to start building digitally.

With digital builds I don’t have to worry about the space I would need to display or store my models and of course the money I would need to spend on LEGO pieces (did I mention that LEGO isn’t exactly cheap?). I have done all of my builds for the last year or so digitally using stud.io (from Bricklink).

Building digitally is definitely a lot less tedious and the renders that can be created in stud.io are hard to distinguish from real pictures. However, I do miss working with my hands and nothing beats the satisfaction of seeing a skyscraper model that you have just finished putting together one brick at a time. While I plan to continue building digitally for the most part, I do hope to turn at least a few of my digital models into real ones at some point.

Where do you buy the LEGO bricks that you need for your real models

I order the bricks I need from Bricklink (now a subsidiary of the LEGO company) which is an online marketplace with thousands of sellers offering LEGO bricks in all the types, colors and quantities you need.

Why do so many of your models have the same tan color?

Unfortunately, the LEGO color palette is very limited when it comes to colors that can be used to represent buildings with stone/brick facades. Tan and dark tan are about the only two options available in the light brown color spectrum and tan bricks are usually a lot cheaper and easier to find than dark tan ones.

How do you pick the skyscrapers that you build using LEGO bricks? Can I make suggestions?

I usually pick the skyscrapers that appeal to me personally. I am a huge fan of the Art Deco skyscrapers built during the 1930s and my work tends to be skewed in favor of these. When it comes to modern skyscrapers, many of them are too boxy and wouldn’t make for very interesting LEGO models. Others have shapes that don’t lend themselves to LEGO interpretation at a reasonable scale (think the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco or the Gherkin in London). That said, you will see some of the newer skyscrapers represented in my portfolio. If you would like to suggest something for me to work on next (skyscraper or otherwise) please feel free to get in touch with me using the Contact page.

What is your process for creating a LEGO model of a real building?  How do you pick the scale that you use for each LEGO model?

I use Google Earth (which is an indispensable tool for me) to study the building from all angles and to make the measurements that I need. Then I determine the scale that would work best for this particular building. Not all of my models are built to the same scale. I let each building dictate the scale I end up using – I usually pick the smallest scale that would allow me to accurately represent the floor count and window count of the building.  Once I have a scale picked it is just a matter of doing some math to figure out how the dimensions of the real building translate to LEGO bricks and studs.

While I realize that it would be nice to have a portfolio of models that are all built to a consistent scale, this approach inevitably leads to compromising on accuracy and that is not acceptable to me.

How do you ensure that your models are sturdy?

All of my models use walls that are 2 studs thick. This allows me to alternate the direction of the bricks in the odd and even layers to create a sturdy structure. When the building has setbacks, I use inner walls (that are hidden from view) in the lower sections to support the weight of the upper sections.

How do you transport your models to LEGO shows?

While my skyscraper models can get very tall (my tallest model is 6′ 3″ tall) and unwieldy, they are usually built in multiple separate sections. At the seams between sections I use mostly tiles with a few plates sprinkled in. The plates hold the sections in place when they are stacked together while the tiles minimize the number of connection points between sections (allowing the sections to be taken apart easily and put back together as needed).

Do you use glue in your real models? How about modified or non-LEGO bricks?

The answer is no, no and no. I am somewhat of a LEGO purist in this regard. One of the beauties of the LEGO medium is that your creations are never set in stone (so to speak) unless, of course, you have glued your bricks together. In fact, I find myself tinkering with my models, months or even years after I finished building them – to add details that I had previously missed or to incorporate techniques that I was not aware of when I originally built the model.

Have you considered building any other kind of models using LEGO?

I realize that all of my LEGO creations (with one lone exception) are models of skyscrapers. These occupy a tiny niche within an already small niche (architecture) within a hobby that is dominated by minifigs, pop culture franchises, cars, trains, etc. While a majority of these other things do not interest me personally, I would definitely like to take a crack at some original architecture-themed models (skyscrapers or otherwise) and maybe some mosaics.