Two weeks before I had to travel out to California for the AMGEN Tradeshows I thought I'd have a brief respite from LEGO. However, immediately after I shipped the models off for that that exhibit, I received an email from a corporate education company, FORUM, asking whether or not I could build 'skyscrapers' for a tradeshow in Orlando in early June (their slogan this year at ASTD - The American Society of Training and Development - was 'Building the Future of Workplace Learning').
Turns out they needed such buildings to cover roughly an 8'-by-8' platform area, to be of varying heights up to about 6 or 7 feet, to be colorful, and to be built *onsite* over the course of the show of 3 days.
All of these buildings had to be designed, all the prototypes built, and any necessary pieces purchased by the show's start date of 4 June 2001. That was only five weeks away when I was first contacted, and two of those intervening weeks I was to be away from my studio on the AMGEN exhibit. Hmmm.
Time to call for back-up.
Henry Lim and I have been friends now for over a year, but had not yet had an opportunity to collaborate on a LEGO project. If this FORUM request was going to be filled, then collaboration would be necessary.
We decided that Henry would design four smaller buildings while I would design four larger buildings. We discussed overall layout of the 'cityscape' (roughly two basic blocks with interweaving road baseplates), color scheme, and such. We would not build skyscrapers which actually existed (trying to design and construct buildings from reality would have taken much too long), rather we would just study some buildings and find inspiration.
We will be the first to admit that the designs of the buildings are rather straightforward and simple, but keep in mind that TIME was the main parameter we had to deal with here. Not only did we have to design and build these relatively quickly, we had to then disassemble them, get them to Orlando, and then rebuild them during the tradeshow (we discovered we would actually have about 5 days of building if necessary -- two days of setup, three of actual tradeshow interaction).
After various designs, we each settled on our buildings. We used about 100,000 bricks total among all the buildings.
Henry flew from Los Angeles to my place with all of his needed LEGO bricks in tow. Once he arrived, we completed the disassembly of my buildings (after sketching quick notes as to how to reassemble them onsite). A couple of days later we then loaded up my car and drove to Orlando with many, many bricks.
The actual preshow and exhibition went off without a hitch. Before opening day we each managed to get some significant building completed, and as per the request of the FORUM folks we managed to finish building the last (yellow) skyscraper a few hours before the show ended on the last day.
The trick, we had learned, was to have 'pre-fabricated' groupings of bricks which made reassembly go much more quickly. For example, the tall red building (which alone used about 22,000 bricks) had a lot of repition. In fact, it consisted of seven identical rows interrupted by an intermediate row. Those seven identical rows used pieces which were kept assembled in larger pieces between prototype and final display phase.
Such modularity allowed me to build the massive red building in a matter of 6 hours rather than the original 16-18 hours during prototype design.
We also kept some of the trickier roof assemblies fully intact instead of rebuilding them from scratch onsite.
99% of the bricks were just standard pieces available from the Blue Tub. We used 72 base plates total (some of them road plates), dispersed a few dozen trees for the hell of it, and the black building roof used a few hundred medium slope pieces.
In all, we (and FORUM) were quite pleased with the results. While certainly not the most intricate designs, the main reason for tradeshow exhibits is to draw people into the booth with an attention grabbing display. Our 'performance' of constant building thoughout the three day show did just that.
Many people stood nearby and snapped pictures, and, of course, Henry and I were bombarded with a bazillion questions (actually only about 10 or so *different* questions asked again and again: 'Is this REALLY your JOB?', 'Did you build all of these?', 'Have you been to LEGOLAND?'...)
Teardown was amazingly unfun. Once the show was over, we had to disassemble the buildings as quickly as possible so that the exhibit hall laborers could clear out the rest of the booth.
We managed to get all 100,000 pieces stuffed into 23+ blue tubs in the course of four hours. We still have to go through and resort all of the pieces (which will take a number of days)... but for right now we both just need a break.
We had a time.
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