Arts, Culture & Media

Building peace and security one LEGO brick at a time

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Credit:

LEGO

LEGO Model UN Headquarters

Since its completion in 1952, the flat, rectangular, modernist masterpiece on the East River, that is, the United Nations Headquarters has been the site of much geopolitical intrigue as well as a backdrop for films like North by Northwest.

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It even makes an appearance in the video game, Grand Theft Auto IV.  But now for the first time, you or I or anyone can build the UN one LEGO brick by LEGO brick. Why would LEGO want to recreate the UN? For that I turned to LEGO expert John Baichtal, author of the book, The Cult of Lego.  For the record he owns around 20,000 LEGO bricks. And although the UN model boxed set says it's for 12 and up LEGO's emphasis says John is on the up.

"They create very large and sophisticated models for the benefit of these parents who grew up in the 1970's with LEGO of their own and they bought some for their kids realize they still like it," said Baichtal.

The LEGO brick that you know was invented by a Danish carpenter and his son in the 1950s. The term LEGO is a abbreviation for the Danish phrase "lei godt" or "play well."  Since the 1950's LEGO has taken a life outside the box you could say. There have been life-size LEGO houses, LEGO cars, there's even an unsanctioned LEGO Breaking Bad model set --- meth making materials not included.  And several years ago, the little bricks caught the fancy of Adam Reed Tucker who spoke with me elbow deep in LEGO bricks in his studio.

"I'm re-creating Cinderella's castle for a Disney traveling exhibit that starts next week at the Museum of Science and Industry," said Tucker.

He's one of little more than a dozen certified LEGO artists. That means he gets paid to play with LEGO bricks.  He got into the LEGO building business after 9/11.  He found himself out of work as an architect and still extremely affected by the destruction of the twin towers.

"At the time it was reported that the Empire State Building and the Sears Tower were not being visited as much because of that fear," explained Tucker. "I wanted to do my little part to ensure that the people that I could come across that 'Hey don't be afraid of going into that observatory. Don't be afraid of being a tenant in these buildings.'"

Tucker thought that a good way to assuage fears and memorialize the Twin Towers would be to build them out of a kids toys.  It had been years since Tucker had even held a LEGO brick in his hand.

"So I literally went to a Toys R' Us one afternoon and filled up like 8 shoopping carts of LEGO sets," said Tucker.

He built an 8-foot replica of the Twin Towers out of 26, 000 bricks.  The model is still traveling around the country.  It caught the attention of LEGO and they comissioned an entire line of architectural wonders from around the world from the Brandenburg Gate in German to the Burj Khalifa in Dubai to the Sydney Opera House.  Tucker has designed at least 14 building in the series --- though not the UN model.  People have become obsessed with collecting and building these models. The reason why according to Tucker is the same as the reason people continue to love LEGO

"Just looking at a pile of parts and realizing that anything is possible."

Seems like that kind of optimism might be a good model for what happens inside the United Nations Headquarters as well.

 

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    Credit:

    Claire Lancaster

    The World's Andrea Crossan and Nina Porzucki put together the UN Headquarters.

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    Credit:

    Claire Lancaster

    The World's Nina Porzucki. Her fingers are too big to fit the pieces together!

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    Credit:

    Claire Lancaster

    After an hour we didn't get very far.

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