A few weeks before an exhibit company had contacted me and said that their client (BARD, cardiological company) wanted a four foot tall cross-section of a human heart built out of LEGO. They wanted to know if I could build such a model and finish it on-site at the Heart Rhythym Society conference in Denver during mid-May.
I had not built a large 3D sculpture in several years (focusing mainly on mosaics recently), but I knew one thing: designing, preparing, and constructing a huge heart out of LEGO bricks in just six weeks would be pretty tough. At first I was actually reluctant to tackle the request because of the tight schedule, but the client convinced me after a couple of days of back-and-forth (that is, they offered me more money).
One of the biggest issues was that a year earlier I'd sold off all of my surplus pieces, so I did not have the quarter million stockpile to casually draw upon for projects. Mosaics are easy to estimate pieces counts on, so I had not been keeping an inventory of loose pieces around my studio. Sculptures, however, are much harder to build and estimate piece requisites, and trying to minimize overbuying of bricks for this one project was a daunting prospect.
Fortunately, the fellow to whom I sold all my extra pieces back in 2009 still had most of my original pieces separated from his stash, and he was kind enough to allow me to retrieve my pieces, and then when the heart project was complete, I would only be responsible for paying him for the bricks I actually used. It was this arrangement that finally convinced me the whole commission probably would not turn into a disaster. Thanks, Mark!
Of course, by the time I had the pieces on hand (tens of thousands of red and blue bricks), the contract signed, and the initial deposit received, I only had about three weeks to build the darn thing (this is the way things typically go in LEGO project negotiations, and why I always tell potential clients that you can never have too much lead time). At four feet tell, the model would be 128 rows of bricks tall. Since I wanted the model done with a week left over to ship it away, I was basically looking at about 8-10 rows of building a day.
That may not sound like much building to complete each day, but one should keep in mind that I had no schematics, diagrams, or instructions to follow... just a few drawings of heart cross-sections. There was really only time enough to build this thing once, and, to be honest, I hadn't thought a bit about the human heart since 10th grade Biology class so many years ago.
Anyway, long story short, I got the thing done, got it shipped to Denver, and "performed" on-site for a few days at the conference. I estimate that about 15,000 pieces were used, and the final model weighed about 120 pounds (it was built in modular sections for easier transport).
By now you've already seen on this page the pictures documenting the experience. Here are some more:
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