The Curator's Eye

Toying with Function

Photograph by Duncan Price

Artist Dan Parker creates artwork one colorful LEGO brick at a time. But as with many artists, it took him awhile to find his medium. As a kid he made things with whatever was available: lumber, paper, wooden spools and, eventually, LEGO. At age ten he put those away in favor of model trains. Later, as a research engineer, he built all kinds of “cool stuff,” though nothing with LEGO. He didn’t touch bricks again until fate intervened when he was thirty. He was mowing the lawn and found a yellow two-by-two among blades of grass. “Kind of like finding an old friend,” he recalls.

That reconnection sparked a vision, which led to his current business building special LEGO commissions. Many of Parker’s clients are big companies, but his fan base also includes LEGO enthusiasts, like ten-year-olds Emmanuel Muñoz and Ramón Robalino. Recently, the pair examined one of Parker’s projects, Block of Fifteens, a trio of model multiplexes built in 2009. “I love architecture because it enhances how we live,” explained the artist to the kids. “Every era has its dominant style. Times change and we think differently in different times. How do apartment buildings reflect those changes?” His study, featuring 1960s, 1980s and New Millennium concepts, explores this question.

Robalino deemed the 1960s design adequate for eating and sleeping and liked the angular geometry of the 1980s structure, but ultimately the 2000-era building with its rainbow hues and modular pods, reminiscent of Japanese Metabolism, won out. “This style is for people who want to show their personalities,” he said. Examining the color-coded group of refuse bins at the back of the building, Muñoz admitted that he initially mistook them for a hot dog stand. “Red could be for ketchup, yellow for mustard, white mayo – and blue could just be coffee.” Parker seemed willing to incorporate the young designer’s vision: “Architects must always be thinking about amenities,” he agreed. •

City Blocks, Freighthouse Square, 440 E. 25th St., Suite 46

Watch Parker and other artists at work 10am–4pm, Monday through Friday, and 10am–3pm on Saturday. More information is available at 253.632.9401 or dnvpark@juno.com.


Age: 48

Hometown: Puyallup, Washington

Number of certified LEGO professionals worldwide: 9 (Parker is the only one who hires other artists)

Best thing he has ever built with LEGO: 40,000-piece, 9-foot Statue of Liberty, displayed every year at Seattle Center’s naturalization ceremony on the Fourth of July

Dream LEGO project: Speed Racer’s Mach 5

Obsession: Zombie culture (“I’m fascinated by the horror and the comedy. We built a mall populated with zombies.”)

Estimated number of LEGO elements Parker owns: 2.5 million

LEGO philosophy: “A LEGO brick is like a C-note in music – it’s not genre-specific.”

See more in the March 2010 issue   →