Standing 9 feet 2 inches tall from base to antenna, Parker's Lego-block twist on New York's majestic symbol of modern architecture is hardly as tall as the real thing. But it'll be a bit taller than the other skyscrapers in the Norton Museum, the site where Parker, using talent and many multicolored plastic bricks, is displaying scale creations of the world's most-impressive architectural wonders.
"Maybe [the Trade Center] was built taller out of patriotism. Maybe it was an homage to what was just built," the Seattle-based Lego artist jokes, referring to one of 10 Lego skyscrapers debuting next Thursday at the Norton's "Block by Block: Inventing Amazing Architecture" exhibit. "I know 1 World Trade Center is not the tallest in the world, but I made it the tallest here."
Earlier this year, the Norton commissioned Parker, one of 13 Lego-sanctioned professionals in the world, to custom-build the landmarks for a summer-long show designed to attract families. Parker didn't look far for the first skyscraper: Seattle's 605-foot-tall Space Needle, with its slender support legs and flying-saucer observation deck, which an infographic at the Norton says began as a napkin sketch at a Seattle coffeehouse. (Parker's Lego Space Needle, the smallest of his 10 buildings, stands about 4 feet tall.)
Other skyscrapers, each handpicked because they were concrete-and-steel symbols of a bustling economy or high-tech innovation, include Chicago's Willis Tower and three more New York landmarks: the Hearst Tower, the Chrysler Building and the 111-year-old Flatiron Building. (This last one, another infographic explains, gave rise to much public buzz that the building's unusual wind currents and downdrafts were strong enough to blow up women's dresses.)
"I didn't want cookie-cutter buildings that would get lost in the shuffle of the other skyscrapers. Mostly, I just wanted to confound people. Like, 'I didn't know you could do that with Legos,' " says Parker, a 51-year-old former Army coxswain who rediscovered his childhood fascination with the interlocking playthings during his second year of engineering school.
Parker sought other structures overseas, sculpting Lego marvels out of Dubai's Burj Khalifa (the tallest manmade structure in the world), Taiwan's Taipei 101 and Malaysia's Kuala Lumpur Tower. But Parker considers the 41-story skyscraper 30 St. Mary Axe in London, popularly dubbed the "the Gherkin" (for its cucumber shape), to be the most-impressive build of his Lego bunch.
"We had to stack the transparent Legos in this mosaic format," Parker recalls. "Then, you have to force this round, missile shape using square blocks, producing striping and a deliberate pattern. The big challenge, of course, was to make sure this didn't just collapse under its own weight. Like with all the buildings, it's a careful balance to pull this off."
Block by Block: Inventing Amazing Architecture
When: Thursday, June 20, through Oct. 20
Where: Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach
Contact: 561-832-5196 or Norton.org