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How Lego Architecture sets keep the kid alive in one Cali architect

Welcome back to Show & Tell (Micro Week edition)! For this installment, we spoke with architect Duan Tran about his love for—and collection of—Lego Architecture. Here’s what Tran had to say.

When I was a kid growing up in Ohio, one of my primary creative outlets was building with Legos. I would mimic a cool house that I had just seen in a movie like James Bond, for instance, or a cool spaceship. It was a part of me growing up and contributed a lot to my evolving creativity. It was also about tectonics—how things came together. I was always interested in what was inside the TV, not what was on it, so if the TV broke, my dad would let me take it apart so I could understand how it worked.

Lego came out with a series called Lego Architecture [in 2008], and it pays homage to buildings by classical masters not only here in the U.S., but also in Europe. Now, as an architect, I’m able to use them to reconnect to my childhood a little bit. I bought one or two sets and got really into it. My wife doesn’t quite understand why, as a 42-year-old, I’m still buying Legos, but it’s fun. It’s gotten to the point where I have a display on my desk, and people have started gifting me sets during the holidays as a little joke.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater.

Inherent to the Lego fascination is that you’re actually building, creating, and understanding how the parts come together. It’s not necessarily about the end product. When I look at the work that I’m personally involved in today and how I design, a lot of it is tectonically based. It’s about parts and forms and elements that come together. It’s not just one big gestural, sculptural move, but about how these different architectural elements get put together almost like a puzzle.

My two favorite Lego Architecture sets are of Fallingwater by Frank Lloyd Wright and Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier. The genius…

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