Lego exhibit opens at Museum of Science and Industry

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Adam Tucker assembles a model of the Golden Gate Bridge at the Museum of Science and Industry Chicago. | J.B. Spector / Museum of Science and Industry

Whenever Adam Tucker and his 4-year-old son pass the Lego aisle on a visit to their local toy store, Jaxson Tucker firmly reminds his dad that they don’t need any more of the little plastic bricks — that there are quite enough at home already.

The kid has a point.

Legos clutter the Arlington Heights home’s basement, attic, kitchen, hallway, laundry room and garage. And more keep coming. Three deliveries each week from the Lego factory.

But for about the next year, some 316,000 of Adam Tucker’s estimated 9 million bricks will be on display — in 13 jaw-dropping creations — in the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Brick by Brick” exhibit.

There’s a 60-foot-long replica of the Golden Gate Bridge, a re-creation of the Roman Colosseum, the Hoover Dam and even the Great Pyramid of Giza — with a cutaway inside showing air shafts and a sarcophagus.

“I wanted to kind of give you the anatomy of what’s going on inside, and then also the process of how they [possibly] built them,” said Tucker, 44, on Thursday, the exhibit’s opening.

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GalleryTucker is one of only 14 “Certified Lego Professionals” in the world — he wore a white shirt Thursday with those words emblazoned on the front. He’s not nerdy, though. His slicked-back hair with close-cropped sides and a single hoop earring bring to mind a hipster barista.

Tucker does not “play” with Legos, quickly correcting a reporter who uses the word.

“Looking back, . . . I was insane to do all of these,” said Tucker, who was a professional architect for 10 years before devoting himself to Legos. “It was an amazing amount of work.”

The Golden Gate Bridge model took 215 hours to design, another 260 hours to build and was made from 64,500 bricks — all of it done in Tucker’s home. The piece arrived at the museum in four separate trucks.

“I’ll spend a month researching photos, documentaries, DVDs, anything I can get my hands on,” he said about his projects. “I literally teach myself how these things were put together.”

But Tucker’s favorite in the exhibit is the re-creation of the Hoover Dam — made in the colors of the black-and-white documentary he studied to help guide him through the project. He said he’s paying “homage” to the Depression-era builders of the dam.

The exhibit drew dozens of giddy children Thursday, many of whom instantly made for the bins of loose Legos.

“I prefer to make Legos myself,” said Joseph Di Franco, 5, of Prospect Heights, before turning back to his own creation.

That fits with Tucker’s goal for the exhibit.

“I don’t want people to come here and see pretty things,” Tucker said. “This is the Museum of Science and Industry. You come here to learn.”

Tucker’s own son likes Legos. He doesn’t quite understand daddy’s job; he thinks the models are all for him. And from time to time, Jaxson likes to add his own creative touches to his father’s work.

“So when he goes to bed, I have to do a little correcting and a little fixing,” Tucker said.

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