Reviewed in Autumn 2013 RIAS Quarterly Magazine.

Brick City is a celebration of the world's favourite buildings and urban icons, recreated solely using LEGO bricks.

While to many, LEGO bricks are 'just a toy', to an ever-growing army of fans they provide a challenging and enjoyable modelling medium.

These fans, calling themselves 'AFOLs', or Adult Fans of LEGO, have taken it upon themselves to recreate local landmarks using just the bricks that you may find at a local store.

LEGO models created by adult fans, however, don't resemble those that many people created as a child. Created by masters of their medium, these fabulously detailed models may contain thousands of pieces - or perhaps just a handful. Either way, the talented artists have an intimate knowledge of every piece and colour available. Skilfully choosing the ideal piece to recreate a well-known landmark, they may create a model indistinguishable from the real thing, or evoke the spirit of a building in just a few small pieces.

In fact, landmarks and cityscapes - from the New York skyline to the Sagrada Familia, London's St Pancras and the amazing towers of Beijing and Hong Kong - have long been a source of inspiration for LEGO builders.

In this book, LEGO artist Warren Elsmore takes us on a world tour and explores more than 30 global cities and their iconic structures. Below are just some of many cities featured:

  • San Francisco
  • Las Vegas
  • New York City
  • Rio de Janeiro
  • Lisbon
  • Edinburgh
  • London
  • Barcelona
  • Paris
  • Venice
  • Rome
  • Stockholm
  • Prague
  • Moscow
  • Cape Town
  • Tokyo
  • Sydney

And many more...

Each city is examined and recreated in LEGO form. Comprising amazing artwork, exploratory photographs and detailed breakdowns, Brick City looks at the essence of what makes an urban landscape recognizable.

Reviewed by Ciaran Bradley RIAS

Without seeing the cover, the title suggested a philosophical or theoretical book, discussing the nature of the city. The book is, however, quite literally, about Lego for Adults. Colourful, vibrant and graphic throughout, Lego Artist, Warren Elsmore delivers an educational and instructive insight to the art of creating some of the world’s most recognisable building icons, in Lego

The book is roughly divided into two sections. In part one, Warren enthusiastically details the history of Lego, the available components, the Lego design process and lots of detailed ‘know how’, including techniques for more complicated structures. A useful insight for the avid Lego enthusiast.

Part two takes us on a global journey of famous landmarks and objects from New York to Shanghai. From the Empire State Building to the Temple at Chichen Itza, St. Paul’s cathedral and more modern structures, such as the Petronas Towers, ultimately ending at Sydney Harbour Bridge. Along the way Warren provides plenty of building tips to overcome the inherent problem of scale relative to the modular unit available. A Lego brick for example is quite large at 1:1000! The miniature Lego figures (minifigs) are also disproportionate to a real human which brings its own problems. Also included are step by step instructions on making some of the less complicated models illustrated.

It may be difficult to appreciate this book if saddled with the critical baggage of being an architect. Many of the models are extremely impressive and skilfully executed, such as an epic reproduction of St. Pancras Station, The Eiffel Tower or ' The Sail’ (Burj Al Arab) which stand out. A lot of the models, however, lacked detail, looked somewhat out of proportion or seemed to lack grace or reason. The low point is a mini model of The White House which borders on the ridiculous.

I came to realise however this is not a book for architects. This is a fun and educational book for Lego fans and big kids. A book for people who see the fun in the childhood toy being controlled to create large, reasonably accurate models, elegant in comparison to the loose and garish creations of our early years. The key here is fun. A life size scale Lego model of a hot dog (in a bun) may seem pointless, however to many this is a fun return to a roaming childhood imagination.

The apparent skill of Warren and his collaborators is not dissimilar to that of freehand sketch artists. It is not so much about precisely reproducing the original building or object. It is about capturing the essence, the overall form and look of the building within the limitations of the components available. Upon consideration, quite a skill when we look at the models in detail.

Controversially, I think this is actually a book for kids that adults will also enjoy. It is not unlike a Pixar movie offering in that sense. Enough to entertain any age group and plenty for new Lego artists to learn from. Just don’t take the issue of detailed representation too seriously.

All told, a fun book.