New York University, SCPS Bulletin

NYU In the Spring of 2001 fellow LEGO sculptor Henry Lim and I were asked to create the cover art for a bulletin printed by the New York University School of Continuing And Professional Studies. This is a bulletin that has been put out every term for quite some time, and each for issue the school commissions an artist (or artists) to design art that is to be photographed and printed on the front and back covers of the 10.5"x13" glossy color booklet.

Different media are used for each issue's art, and NYU asked if something could be done out of LEGO bricks.

Henry and I said, "sure."

This is a project which, from initial contact to reception of the final printed copy, took about one year. For once, a project that wasn't rushed.

Generally, the Washington Square Arch acts as a focal point of all the bulletin covers (as the Arch and its Park mark the entrance to NYU in New York City). With that in mind, a concept of the artwork was tossed about for a month or so, and in early Summer I began to construct the Arch out of white LEGO bricks.

The idea was to build a white arch and behind it fill the space with colorful models of notable New York skyscrapers. The only request (i.e. guidelines) we were given was that the cover should be very colorful, and very "3-D."

The final size of the arch was dictated by a very simple LEGO constraint: the largest perfectly circular arch I could create used half arches (4x5x1 half arches). I knew that I wanted to have a smooth arch (not use slopes to create the illusion of roundness), so proportionally the overall size was quickly determined.

I had never actually seen the Washington Square Arch before, but I had access to plenty of pictures (one example is at right), so the trick was to mimic the arch with as much detail while working on a model that would not exceed 12 inches in final height.

This was certainly a scale I was not accustoned to... it's closer to mini-fig scale rather than the large dimensions most of my sculptures require.

And finding 16 white half arches was not the easiest thing to do (thanks to Gary Istok for the contribution of half of them).

After I had finished the arch, the buildings behind were to be constructed. Henry and I decided to include colorful models of: The Chrysler Building, The Citicorp Building, and The Empire State Building. Henry built the last two of those while I tackled the Chrysler building along with a few 'generic buildings' which were to add further depth and color to the final image.

Then, behind those buildings, I constructed a large 4 foot square black, gray, and white 'mosaic' that was simply a geometric silhouetted skyline (Here is a sketch of the model concept). Little of this backing piece would be visible in the final image, but it provided a complete LEGO backdrop as well as a very practical hard surface for all of the other buildings to lie upon.

And lie upon the buildings must, because it was desired to have the arch photographed from a VERY LOW ANGLE (the camera was to shoot upwards from well below the lower left corner -- so low that the *bottoms* of the plates of the arch would easily be seen).

So, the whole model was constructed so that it would actually lie flat on a table top... not stand upright as would be the first intuition.

After Henry finished his buildings (he transported them to my studio in July 2001 before we treked to BrickFest of that year), and the rest of the model was completed, I also worked on some 'mosaic border' elements that were to be featured in an eight page color insert within the bulletin.

All of this was completed sometime in October of 2001, and in the first week of November I shipped all of the models to New York and hopped on a plane to oversee the photography of the model.

Here are a couple of hints when shipping LEGO sculptures:

  1. Even if you are going to pack the models yourself, don't think that you will ever pack them well enough that they will remain intact.
  2. Never pack said models in a box full of loose styrofoan 'S's.
How do I know about such hints?

Take a guess.

The models were to be photographed on a Monday after the lighting was set up over the weekend.

The Friday before I arrived at the photography studio and opened my self-packed boxes of unglued models "cushioned" by styrofoam peanuts.

What I saw inside was LEGO rubble.

A couple of the buildings actually survived. Most, however, had significant damage, and some we completely obliterated.

So now imagine seeing months of had work, planning, and building, loose in a cardboard box.

No... wait...

Imagine seeing your hard work loose in a cardboard box mixed in with thousands of stryofoam peanuts.


It took me an hour and a half just to empty the box and separate the styrofoam from the loose LEGO bricks.

It took another several hours to rebuild the buildings. Rebuild them without any instructions, mind you. And for that matter, I had to rebuild two buildings that I had never constructed in the first place (Henry had designed and built the two, remember).

What saved me was the fact that each building had its own color scheme. The Empire State was red and yellow, Citicorp was orange, blue, red, etc.

I did finally get everything back together, and late Friday night the whole model was set up for the shoot.

And the shoot went off without a hitch.

This was all before Christmas 2001.

After that the bulletin actually had to be created (all the text, interiors, and such). And then in late February of 2002 it all went to the printshop (none of this was being done by me, of course, I was just sitting about waiting to see how it would all look on a glossy cover).

Then, one week before my 31st birthday in March of 2002, I received a UPS package with the final result.

I created this webpage two hours later.

Here are some pictures

Thank-yous should go out to Henry Lim, of course, for his collaboration on this project. Thanks as well to Elana and Robin at FP Design NY Inc., and Nancy Palubniak for her photography. And thanks to the NYU SCPS for the oppotunity.

For those of you who would like to see the bulletin in better resolution than my crappy photographs, the inside cover gives this number to 'request a catalog': 212.998.7080 (outside NY: 877.998.7080).

Also, there is talk floating about (though I do not yet have specifics) that this cover art may be used on a Manhattan billboard... so any of you New Yorkers out there, keep looking upward.

Back to Eric Harshbarger's main LEGO page.