The LEGO fan community is mourning the loss of kindhearted and prolific builder, Arthur Gugick of Ohio. On March 30th Arthur and his significant other, Barbara Becker, were tragically killed in a car accident. If you ever attended North American fan events like BrickWorld Chicago or BrickFair VA, you may have run into Arthur before. At these events, you could catch a glimpse of his elaborate architectural builds and mosaics. Arthur was featured in the Winter 2008 issue of BrickJournal magazine, and he was even contracted to recreate his model of the Taj Mahal for the Australian independent film, Taj (2011).
In addition to being an avid LEGO enthusiast, Arthur taught math at Beachwood High School. He was passionate about his job and had a knack for harnessing his creativity to make math fun for his students. In an interview with ABC News 5 Cleveland, Ed Bernetich (who had been responsible for hiring Arthur) commented:
I was very sad because he is one of a kind. He’s a total unique individual. There are many great math minds, but sometimes they don’t relate to other people very well. And here we had a guy with a mathematician’s brain who also was extremely skilled at reaching kids.
Arthur’s death has been a difficult time for Beachwood School District staff and students, whose lives he has touched over the years.
Ever the mathematician, Arthur approached his LEGO models from a mathematical angle. Some of his structures utilized calculus, and he even wrote his own software for building domes like the one on his Taj Mahal. According to Arthur, “I look at my buildings as more an exercise in mathematics than necessarily an art form, which might be a little different of a take than other people do, or maybe it’s the same… For me it’s a puzzle” (BrickJournal – Winter 2008).
Arthur is perhaps best known for his model of the Taj Mahal, which included a gorgeous brick-built mosaic of the reflection pool. This building earned him a lot of notoriety, to the point that he was contacted about working with the independent film, Taj. The central plot of the 2011 film is a father and daughter reconnecting through building a LEGO model of the world-famous Indian landmark. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Arthur, and he worked hard to make models that met the film’s specifications. This included a version that had to be built to easily fall apart in one of the scenes.
He was also an extremely talented LEGO mosaic builder. Elaborate examples have used printed tiles to make recognizable personalities, as well as LEGO nets in a life-size flexible cape depicting Batman’s Joker. Especially impressive were his lenticular mosaics in which the image would change depending on the viewing angle.
While Arthur didn’t necessarily view himself as an artist, his work speaks for itself. We here at the Brothers Brick are deeply saddened about Arthur’s passing, and our condolences go out to his family, students, and colleagues. According to his obituary, Funeral services will be held at Berkowitz-Kumin-Bookatz Memorial Chapel, 1985 South Taylor Road, Cleveland Heights, OH on Wednesday, April 3 at 11 AM. Graveside funeral services will be held in Beth David Cemetery, Elmont, NY on Friday, April 5 at 1 PM. The family will receive friends Friday following burial at the Rita Kestenbaum residence, located at 2108 Legion Street, Belmore, NY 11710.