Commission (on-faith): Museu da Imaginação, São Paulo
Dimensions: 56in x 72in (143cm x 183cm)
Design Time: 400+ hours in 43 days
Build Time: 300+ hours in 34 days
PC: Brianda Mireles
- Benevolence 仁
- Righteousness 義
- Propriety 禮
- Wisdom 智
- Integrity 信
These are the Five Constant Virtues of China; values on which the Chinese people have formed their moral code and looked to for guidance in social development and progress throughout the centuries. Predicated on the ancient tenets of Confucianism, the Five Constant Virtues have retained their fundamentally humanistic role in the broader Chinese culture and have been passed down to modern society. While the state is and has always been overseen by law, law can only restrain. It is incumbent upon individuals, therefore, to pursue virtuosity and civil progress by observing a moral code which encompasses benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, & integrity.
600 years ago, these as well as other fundamental Chinese principles beyond count, were implemented at an unprecedented scale in the construction of a new capital city, now known as Beijing. The entire city was planned along a single north-south axis. Emperor Yongle of the newly established Ming Dynasty ordered the construction of an Imperial Palace at its center. The undertaking would last fifteen years, resulting in the conscription of numerous soldiers, 100,000 skilled artisans, and one million civilian laborers. By 1420, they had created the largest palatial complex the world has ever known, covering an entire square kilometer with nearly a thousand palace structures consisting of a fabled 9,999 rooms. Such a monumental feat of construction was indicative of imperial supremacy in ancient Chinese culture and, indeed, befitting for the official residence of the Ming and Qing Dynasty emperors, each of whom were known as the “Son of Heaven” in their own times. To the everyday Chinese person, however, the Imperial Palace was little more than the occasional glimpse of yellow rooftops above the ten-meters-high walls and fifty-meters-wide moat surrounding the perimeter, and was known as the Forbidden City as unpermitted entry was punishable by death.
Today in 2020, at a time when typical daily life has been thrown into disarray, it might seem somewhat imperceptive to personally commit to realizing an 84,000-parts landscape; especially when that commission has been put on hold indefinitely; especially when the principle architectural hierarchy of that piece is based on balance and order; and especially when that landscape would turn out to be my largest yet by a margin of 20,000 parts. Eccentric artistic impulses aside, I rest more easily on these uncertain nights grateful for an audience who perhaps find themselves just as much in need of the inspiration beneath Forbidden City’s imperial yellow of the tile roofs and the elegant red of the endless brick corridors, as I certainly was at the bleak mid-March outset of this undertaking. Ultimately, I consider this piece an exercise in virtue- the five most constant of which would be the benevolence not to expect perfect circumstances in order to create, the righteousness to recognize and remain steadfast in the pursuit of growth, the propriety to sometimes take a risk in such pursuits without promise of reward, the wisdom to seek positive influences while recognizing the profound lack of access many face, and the integrity to uphold the other four while striving to remain true and honest in intention.
Tags: LEGO LEGOArt LEGOArchitecture ChineseArchitecture Beijing Peking AncientArchitecture Ming Qing
© All Rights Reserved
(circa 320 CE under Constantine I)
Commission: Museu da Imaginação, São Paulo (permanent exhibition)
Dimensions: 91in x 54in (231cm x 137cm)
Design Time: 300+ hours in 32 days
Build Time: 220+ hours in 24 days
PC: Brianda Mireles
On this day in 69 CE, the accomplished military commander Vespasian entered Rome to claim the title of Imperator, establishing the Flavian Dynasty and overseeing the largest empire the world had ever seen. At the time, the city of Rome was the preeminent bustling metropolis of the ancient world and was home to more than a million people. It would be nearly a half-century before the Empire reached its greatest territorial extents under Trajan I in 117 CE, spanning the entire Mediterranean from modern-day Iberia to Iraq and Scotland to Egypt.
As decorated as Vespasian became, and as incredibly vast as the empire was for its time, both came from humble beginnings. Vespasian was the first Roman Emperor to ascend from the level of commoner through a series of increasing senatorial ranks coupled masterfully with a distinguished military career. Similarly, Rome was once a lowly tribal settlement atop the Capitoline Hill which, over the centuries, grew to cover seven hills and served as the seat of the Roman Republic, and later the vast Roman Empire.
After being commissioned by the Museu da Imaginação to design and build ‘a large, 1m x 2m historical layout of Ancient Rome’ with little more to go off than said prompt, I immediately dove headfirst into the incredibly vast rabbit hole that is Ancient Roman history. Quite early on, I realized the approach to designing something so mindbogglingly vast in such a relatively small window of time would critically depend on having a strict schedule of target deadlines by which to design compartmentalized stages of the overall layout. After all, considering Vespasian or the Roman Empire at the heights of their power would be such an inconceivable notion without having also studied the respective contexts and timeline of events leading to each of their zeniths.
For this reason, the design of the layout was subdivided into eight regional stages and executed over the course of about five weeks between September and November 2019. Not only did this subdivision ease my sleepless nights of nearly being overwhelmed by the commitment, it was also my crossing-the-Rubicon moment when I truly considered this to be something I could commit to accomplishing within the timeframe, without sacrificing any of my signature design rigor. It has always been a creative dream of mine to design a vast, comprehensive city layout in which individual landmarks can be appreciated as integral parts of a much broader historical and cultural landscape. That is why I am immensely grateful to the Museu da Imaginação for commissioning this piece. Not only has it been an incredibly humbling and educational collaboration for myself, but I can rest more easily knowing our efforts will inspire countless guests and museum patrons for years to come. No time to rest on my laurels though! The question now is, “What comes after the Eternal City?”
Tags: LEGO LEGO Art LEGO Architecture LEGO Artist Rome Roman Architecture SPQR Colosseum Landscape Imperial Rome Capitoline Hill Palatine Hill Caelian Hill Forum Romanum Roman Forum Tiber Circus Maximus
© All Rights Reserved
Precedence: World’s first contiguous LEGO landscape of an entire sovereign country
Parts: 67,000+ (~1,300 unique)
Dimensions: 52in x 68in (131cm x 173cm)
Design Time: 500+ hours in 70 days
Build Time: 300+ hours in 28 days
PC: Brianda Mireles
VC: Dave Flores
TV ES PETRVS ET SVPER HANC PETRAM AEDIFICABO ECCLESIAM MEAM. TIBI DABO CLAVES REGNI CAELORVM
"You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church ... I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven ..."
(Vulgate, Matthew 16:18–19)
This is the Latin verse inscribed in five-foot tall letters on the interior drum of the dome atop St. Peter’s Basilica. With vested heralds such as this, it would seem as though Vatican City were preordained to serve as the beating heart of Christendom long before Matthew’s scripture was written. In point of fact, however, this once marshy floodplain between the Janiculum and Vatican Hills is hardly exempt from the same amount of mythical overlay among the seven original hills of Rome. Nevertheless, one thing remains certain: while Vatican City may be the smallest nation on Earth, it can scarcely be argued that its offices have had perhaps the most significant impact on Western civilization of any of today’s countries.
From archaic beginnings in lore of the distant past and the humble teachings of lowly fishermen, to the sovereign entity of today’s Holy See, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest and oldest continuously functioning international institution - and Vatican City is the spiritual, religious, and diplomatic center of the Catholic Church. Since the time of Peter, the church has been overseen by a single monarchical figurehead; a Bishop of Rome; a Pontifex Maximus; a Pope. Today, Pope Francis is the 266th Bishop of Rome and resides within Vatican City. The country is also home to the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican Gardens, St. Peter’s Square, and the Papal Basilica of Peter in the Vatican (or simply, St. Peter’s Basilica). Across its 121 acres, Vatican City contains an innumerable sum of significant works of cultural and architectural heritage. For this reason, Vatican City represents far more than a spiritual center for 1.3 billion Catholics; it is emblematic of the shared knowledge and heritage among all of today’s billions and is a rare extant connection to the billions beyond count of millennia past.
This shared heritage is what drew me to visit Vatican City in November 2019; it’s what inspired the subsequent year’s worth of reading on the Renaissance masters whose works lay within the city-state’s borders; and it’s what had me visually measuring the façade of St. Peter’s in imaginary LEGO bricks the first time I set eyes upon it one starry November night. Despite being raised Catholic, I would consider myself far more spiritual than religious in the traditional sense. That being said, faith is a gift that, like art, takes many forms. I would be lying if I said that gazing up at Michelangelo’s Genesis and Last Judgement, studying the Laocoön and Pietà from behind stanchions, or marveling at the indeterminably ancient obelisk of St. Peter’s Square did not elicit viscerally emotional responses verging on faith in something greater at work or at least longer-lasting. For myself, I know it was that intense recognition and admiration that drove me to design and build what I believe in no uncertain terms is my most cumulative piece to date. For others viewing this piece in these images and in person before long, it is my earnest hope and faithful wish that in light of the shared difficulties of the past year, this piece will ultimately serve as a reminder of our shared past and our ever-enduring capacity to overcome adversity and find renewed faith in one another.
Tags: Vatican City Landscape LEGO LEGO Architecture LEGO Art LEGO Artist Baroque Architecture Renaissance Rome SPQR Roma Roman Architecture
© All Rights Reserved
"Solomon, I have outdone thee," declared Byzantine Emperor Justinian I upon first entering his newly completed basilica, Hagia Sophia, in 537 CE.
Hagia Sophia (pronounced "eye-uh so-fee-uh"), Greek for Holy Wisdom, was originally built as a Greek Orthodox Church in the Byzantine capital Constantinople. After the Ottomans conquered the city and renamed it Istanbul in 1453, Hagia Sophia was converted to an Imperial Mosque, and was used as such until 1931 after which it was secularized and reopened as a museum in 1935.
Hagia Sophia is unquestionably unique for its cultural significance at a confluence of faiths (Christianity and Islam) as well as continents (Europe and Asia). But perhaps even more significant than these attributes is the architectural turning point marked by its construction, over a relatively short five-year period. Its watershed innovations, pioneered by geometers Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus, are numerous and will be discussed further throughout the images of this model.
Ever since I first studied this structure in my second year of architecture school back in 2013, I have wanted to one day make a LEGO model at my signature 1:650 scale. The main obstacles I had to overcome when designing this model were not only comprehending the complex, asymmetrical massing of the footprint, but more so the earth-tone color palette and the considerably limited parts selection therein. The completed model is likely my most abundantly colored to-date, with a palette of primarily medium dark flesh, tan, sand blue, sand red, dark orange, pearl gold, white, light bluish-gray and dark bluish-gray. I'm grateful to my friends Markus Rollbühler and Paul Hetherington for their suggestions on the color palette, and especially Markus for all the invaluable creative input at numerous points throughout the design process! The model made its debut at Brickworld Chicago 2018.
Tags: LEGO Architecture Byzantine
© All Rights Reserved
The Golden Gate Bridge is a 1.7 mile suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate Strait between the San Francisco Peninsula and Marin County in Northern California. Carrying both US Route 101 and California State Route 1, the bridge is considered one of the greatest feats of engineering in history and has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers. Not only is the Golden Gate Bridge one of the most uniquely designed suspension bridges, it is also one of the top ten most-visited landmarks in the United States and is arguably the most well-known and most photographed bridge in the world.
The model made its debut at BrickUniverse in Raleigh, North Carolina in April 2017.
© All Rights Reserved