Each year during the holiday season, the White House transforms into a veritable forest of glittering Christmas trees with festive decorations as far as the eye can see. But this year, the highlight of the White House holiday décor began in Enfield, Connecticut, with seven LEGO Master Builders.
They were fast at work like Santa’s elves, designing and building 56 unique gingerbread-style houses representing each U.S. state and territory. The team also created two massive gingerbread men and a first-of-its-kind 18-foot long interlocking brick-built paper chain. 500 hours and more than 200,000 pieces later, the LEGO-built decorations are on display in the White House State Dining Room.
The LEGO gingerbread houses were built “studs out” in order to reduce the weight on each tree while still maintaining detailed exteriors customized to each U.S. territory and state. (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)
In this exclusive interview with The Brothers Brick, Amanda Santoro, Senior Manager of Brand Relations for LEGO Systems, tells us more about building a display for the White House which has been seen by nearly 70,000 people this holiday season.
The Brothers Brick: From the Winter Village product line to advent calendars, Lego has become a holiday tradition in many homes. How did the opportunity arise to create such an impressive display for “The People’s House”?
Amanda Santoro: We were contacted by the amazing events group that works directly with the White House to develop the holiday décor theme. There were some exciting discussions about potential opportunities and ultimately, we were asked to provide the decorations for the State Dining Room.
56 LEGO-built gingerbread houses representing each U.S. territory and state adorn the trees in the White House State Dining Room, along with two massive “ginger-friends” and an interlocking brick-built paper chain. (ALEX WONG/Getty Images)
In June, French artist Mat Green amazed us with a pair of life-size LEGO minifigures made of steel. Those figures, named Hugo and Pablo, were a classic minifigure and a punk rock LEGO skeleton. Mat has now finished his next project — more classics you’ll surely recognize, the pirate Sparrow and his parrot Jacquot. We spoke with Mat about his work translating these iconic LEGO figures to life-size metal sculptures.
Canadian brick artist Chris McVeigh is one of our favorite builders, and No Starch Press is one of our favorite LEGO-friendly book publishers, so their new book The LEGO Christmas Ornaments Book: 15 Designs to Spread Holiday Cheer is a match made in holiday heaven.
No Starch released the book back in September, but between a lengthy overseas trip for work followed by BrickCon, I simply dropped the ball — my sincerest apologies to Chris and our friends at No Starch for the delay. But the good news is that it’s now officially the Christmas season, so I guess this is even more timely? Enough excuses. On to the interview!
The Brothers Brick: We first featured you here on The Brothers Brick way back in 2008, when you were taking pictures of chipmunks with action figures. When did you start focusing more exclusively on LEGO?
Chris McVeigh: It happened rather quickly! Pairing Star Wars action figures and chipmunks was a fun challenge, and it motivated me to do more photography of action figures and other toys. Unfortunately, Hasbro wasn’t producing any play sets (aside from large ships), so it fell to me to create my own sets and backdrops for action figure photos. This was a rather time-consuming task that ultimately prevented me from getting on with toy photography.
Click through for our full interview with Chris McVeigh
Today the world’s largest LEGO store opens in Leicester Square, within the bustling heart of London. The Brothers Brick were invited to an exclusive pre-opening event to take a tour of the new store, preview the exclusive London skyline set, and talk to Glenn Abell (LEGO’s Vice President of Direct To Consumer) about the future of LEGO’s retailing.
The London flagship store is the largest in the world, covering 914 sqm over two floors, and features a number of signature brick sculptures — all themed to the City of London. The doors open onto an archway with the classic London Underground sign stating “Leicester Square” and a map of the London Underground lights up one wall.
Brick To The Past is a collective of UK builders who specialise in large-scale collaborative historical displays at LEGO shows. Their latest model is this thoroughly-impressive layout of the Battle Of Hastings, a key moment in British history…
I was lucky enough to see this display “in the brick” at Bricktastic in Manchester recently. The layout is a monster, with stark yet impressive terrain, and a wonderful collection of minifigs arrayed in battle formation ready to fight.
Brothers Brick got in touch with James Pegrum, one of Brick To The Past’s leading lights, to discuss this display and get more details on the challenges of collaborative building.
Click to read the interview and see more of Brick To The Past’s creations
Following on from the introduction of the Build Your Own Adventure books last year, August 2016 sees the launch of two new titles in the series: Build Your Own City Adventure, and Build Your Own Star Wars Adventure.
The Build Your Own Adventure series is different from most other LEGO books in that it comes with an exclusive LEGO set. The book features set instructions followed by a story illustrated with models created by builders from the LEGO fan community. The Brothers Brick’s very own Rod Gillies worked on the Star Wars book and we pestered him into giving us a sneak peek before the book is officially released.
The model in the set is very cool — a microscale Y-Wing fighter, built in a “chibi” style similar to the Microfighter range of collectable sets. The spaceship is piloted by Zin, a Rebel pilot and the hero of the book’s story. The tale sees Zin traverse the galaxy on a secret mission, visiting famous Star Wars planets and locations.
After taking a flick through the pages, we arranged to ask Rod a few questions about the book, the building process, and getting to work with the LEGO Star Wars designers…
Click through to read the interview and see more images from the book
It seems that wherever there are technical and creative people, there is also LEGO. LEGO has been taken into space to the International Space Station and, as it turns out, there is also LEGO on the South Pole. Recently I was contacted by Ethan Rudnitsky, who works at the U.S. Amundsen–Scott South Pole Station, located on the geographic South Pole in Antarctica, with a question about building a Hercules aircraft out of LEGO, with the purpose of displaying the model at the station. Ethan is part of the crew who are spending the winter there. He told me that there are other LEGO enthusiasts on the station as well and that, as part of the last supply flight in February, the crew were sent a shipment of LEGO sets.
LEGO models and their builders on the South Pole. Builders, from left to right: Ethan Rudnitsky, Rachel Cook, Christian Krueger, Jennah King, Chet Waggonger and Adam Jones. Photograph courtesy of Christian Krueger.
We’ve taken this opportunity to find out a bit more about life and LEGO on the South Pole, by asking Ethan a few questions via e-mail.
Read the full interview after the break
A pillar of the classic LEGO Space community, Mark Neumann has emerged from myth and legend to bring us Universal Explorer LL2016. This 11-foot-6-inch behemoth of a ship is complete with giant guns, a science module, a motorized ring, interior lights, a huge cargo bay big enough to fit most official LEGO sets, and over a dozen smaller vehicles stored on board. We’ve sat down with Mark to learn a bit more about this incredible creation and Mark’s journey to build it.
Click to read our interview with Mark!
LEGO and Porsche have announced the brand new LEGO Technic Porsche 911 GT3 RS, the new flagship model for the Technic line. It will have 2,704 pieces, and will be available starting June 1 via LEGO.com and select LEGO stores in Germany and Austria. It will see wider release in retail stores beginning in August. It will retail for $299 USD. Read our review of the Porsche 911 GT3 RS here.
Click for more pictures and information
LEGO’s newest Ideas set, 21305 Maze, is available starting today. Jason Allemann, the Maze’s creator, has long been known known for helping out fellow fans by providing instructions to many of his models, and this time around, Jason has put together a special Maze website which hosts instructions several alternate maze layouts, and inspiration for even more. Jason has even created a motorized miniature golf-inspired maze (video below).
We got our hands on the Maze last month and had fun reviewing it, but we wanted to know what its creator had to say. Jason was kind enough to speak with us about the Maze, his design process, and how to create a successful LEGO Ideas project.
Click to read the full interview with Jason
Set 64044 Ardun Observatory is part of the new wave called Mythic Machines in the Dragon Lands theme, and features a semi-circle three-tiered castle with astronomical equipment in the tower. Arrayed around it are the forces of evil, orc-like creatures with a battering ram, small catapult, and a fearsome red dragon. Play features include hidden passageways, spring-loaded catapults, a working drawbridge and portcullis, and breakaway walls.
Not familiar with LEGO set 64044? That’s because you can’t buy this set from the LEGO company, or anywhere else — it comes from the mind of Aaron Newman.
64044 Ardun Observatory by Aaron Newman
Aaron Newman doesn’t simply look at his LEGO collection and wonder what he can create; instead he looks at his bricks and asks, “What if LEGO sold different sets?” A 21-year-old UCLA theater student, Aaron’s got a knack for designing LEGO creations to fill his own alternate universe where LEGO produces the sets he’d like to see. And he’s got a fantastic sense of style. Aaron’s models center around a castle theme called Dragon Lands, which is a hybrid of LEGO’s official Vikings and Fantasy-Era Castle lines. He creates sub-themes to mimic LEGO’s habit of releasing sets in waves, and includes a set designed for each price point. His latest sub-theme, titled Dragon Lands: Mythic Machines, features crude orc siege machinery pitted against dwarven and elven strongholds. And, of course, there are lots of dragons, because no Castle theme is complete without them.
I recently had the opportunity speak with Aaron about his unique style and learn a bit about how he designs fan creations that look like sets.
Click to read the full interview
Carl Greatrix‘s Caterham 7 was recently revealed as the next LEGO Ideas set. The announcement was met with almost universal approval, mixed with some surprise that such an obviously adult-oriented and complex model had made it through the review.
The Brothers Brick got in touch with Carl to get some of his thoughts following the announcement…
TBB: So, you’ve got to be delighted about the news. How does it feel to have an official LEGO set coming out?
Carl: I’m obviously super-excited. It means that everyone who wanted one, will now be able to get one. The realization is slowly but surely sinking in — the fact there will be an official LEGO set, available in practically every LEGO shop around the world, it’s quite a humbling thought and feels like a huge achievement.
Click through to read the rest of the interview