SIOUX CITY — What does the Sioux City Art Center have in common with Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world?
It just so happens that both structures were designed by the Chicago architecture firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.
Beginning Saturday, visitors to the Art Center will be able to view a 13-foot-tall replica of Burj Khalifa, which Australia’s Ryan McNaught, a LEGO certified professional, and his team of builders constructed entirely from the iconic colored, plastic bricks. Burj Khalifa is one of 20 skyscrapers from North America, Asia and Australia featured in “Towers of Tomorrow with LEGO Bricks,” which runs through Aug. 7.
McNaught and his team have used nearly 577,000 LEGO bricks and devoted over 2,000 hours to build the structures included in the traveling exhibition.
“These are all to scale, so part of the experience of going to the show is seeing not just how big they are, but how they compare to different buildings,” Art Center Curator Christopher Atkins said Wednesday, as sections of the LEGO Burj Khalifa were being installed in the Art Center’s atrium.
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It’s quite possible that a LEGO replica of the Art Center could emerge, during the exhibit’s time in Sioux City. Visitors young and old will be able to build their own creations inside the exhibit. Some of the skyscrapers are perched on tables containing troughs filled with thousands of loose LEGO bricks. Visitors can pull up a stool and begin snapping bricks together in the hands-on construction areas.
The replica of Burj Khalifa was just too tall for the Art Center’s third-floor main gallery, where exhibit-goers will find Taipei 101, the world’s tallest building before Burj Khalifa was completed; Toronto’s CN Tower; and Atkin’s favorite skyscraper, Willis Tower. The 108-story Willis Tower, formerly Sears Tower, soars 1,450-feet in downtown Chicago.
“I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, so I always liked going into Chicago to go to, what I always call, the Sears Tower. I always liked to see that as I was driving into Chicago,” Atkins said. “I just think that’s a beautiful structure.”
Sixty-two hours and 20,500 bricks were put into the replica of Philadelphia’s Comcast Center. Although it took fewer bricks, 19,250, to build the LEGO version of the Chrysler Building, an Art Deco skyscraper on the east side of Manhattan, the construction process stretched roughly twice as long, 111 hours.
Although it’s on the smaller side, the Chrysler Building tops all others in Art Center Director Todd Behrens’ opinion.
“One of my favorite buildings is the Chrysler Building in New York. Comparatively, it’s a little on the smaller side, but it’s still beautiful,” Behrens said. “I’m kind of a sucker for Art Deco style. When it’s at night and it’s lit up, it makes me happy.”
The last LEGO-themed exhibition to appear at the Art Center was “The Art of the Brick” in 2016. That exhibition, which featured Nathan Sawaya’s 3D LEGO sculptures, drew around 25,000 people to the Art Center over a 10-week period.
“If you looked at the weekly attendance average, I think it might be the most popular exhibition ever, certainly in this building,” Behrens said. “The timing with (Towers of Tomorrow) just worked really neatly, because we’re celebrating our building with the 25th anniversary. So, to do an exhibition with a material that we know is very popular that is focused on architecture seemed like a pretty sweet thing.”