Architect Creates LEGO Detroit


After all the bad press Detroit has received in the last few years, it’s nice to see that the city continues to inspire architects. For Jim Garrett of Redford, Michigan, it has motivated him to pull out his childhood LEGO sets and spend months faithfully recreating scale models of his favorite Detroit buildings.

“Twelve of those buildings are replicas of real Detroit structures, including the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Detroit Public Library in Midtown and the Fisher Building in New Center. Most of his downtown Detroit buildings are on view at The Henry Ford this month. Even the old red sandstone Union Depot, which stood at the corner of Fort and Third until it was demolished in 1974, is on display.”

The 51-year-old Garrett has been known to clear out LEGO sections in toy stores whenever they go on clearance, but these days it’s easier to find what he needs on the internet. For these kinds of detailed projects, he suggests the site, “sells specialized pieces like arched windows in bulk.”

When constructing Detroit’s tallest Art Deco skyscraper, The Penobscot building, Garrett was relieved to find “LEGO made some grooved bricks that perfectly matched the detail on the actual building.”

“I bought almost the entire world’s supply at the time,” he said.

“It took eight months to erect the Penobscot’s 47 stories. The model is 9.5 feet to the roof and 11 feet to the tip of the red ball at the pinnacle.”

Donna Terek penned the original article for the Detroit News, and it includes a video of the exhibit which is worth a watch.

As Garrett wholeheartedly admits, “It’s my hope that people who aren’t familiar with Detroit will realize there’s more to Detroit than crime stories and bankruptcy. I’d like to think it will help them get an appreciation of Detroit’s architecture.”


We read the ArchDaily blog all year round, but last week’s fun, holiday post is worth mentioning here. (If only because they saved us the trouble of coming up with 13 excellent gift ideas for architects! Thanks, guys!)

From design apps to wall clocks to art prints, these ideas are all unique, all vibrant, and all good. If you’re wondering what to get for your favorite architect this year, check out ArchDaily’s Architect’s Holiday Gift Guide 2013.

And when the wrapping paper has been discarded and the tree hauled out to the curb for the Boy Scouts to collect, when 2014 dawns, make sure you visit ArchDaily again. They’re a fantastic source of relevant, inspiring industry news.

Much has been made in recent years about the low percentage of women in the engineering industry, but comparatively little progress has been made. The question remains: How do we encourage a young girl’s interest in designing, problem-solving, experimenting, developing, and building? Because if we can do that with the current generation of imaginative, technologically-inclined youngsters, there could well be a marked increase in the number of women who choose careers from among the broad range of engineering disciplines.

This new advertisement from GoldieBlox, which has “developed a set of interactive books and games to ‘disrupt the pink aisle and inspire the future generation of female engineers’”, is a fantastic start!



Set to the tune of the Beastie Boys’ famously catchy Girls, we see the execution of a fabulous Rube Goldberg machine as a trio of excited would-be engineers uses their perpetually pink toys to play a new version of house.

There may be many answers to the question of gender disparity in the engineering industry, but this is definitely one of the more fun, optimistic ones. Well done, GoldieBlox! And just in time for Christmas.

Kubuswoningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Kubuswoningen in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

The idea was simple: Give people the opportunity to rent private residences around the world at a nightly rate. Wouldn’t travelers jump at the chance to stay someplace cozy, someplace with a kitchen, someplace, perhaps, cheaper than a hotel would be in the same city?

Start-up success story Airbnb, founded in 2008, capitalized on this market and proved every one of those assumptions absolutely correct. They also uncovered a previously unanticipated perk of their private-owner-to-private-traveler model: It can be a design-lover’s dream!

Architectural Digest posted on this recently, pointing out that the Airbnb “fairy tale has an especially happy ending for design aficionados. At the same time that the company’s founders… have delivered a radical jolt to the travel industry, they have also unlocked a previously inaccessible world of inspiration to architecture buffs around the globe.”

The spectrum of home-types available for rent on the Airbnb site stretches farther than you’d expect, from yurts to Frank Lloyd Wright-designed homes to igloos to penthouse apartments. This means anyone with an open weekend and the desire to immerse himself in a spectacularly designed home can do it for a price.

Check out a slideshow of Airbnb’s most drool-worthy spaces for rent around the world. Happy Trails!

Looking for a convenient way to fulfilll your AIA Continuing Education credit requirements? a/e ProNet can help.

In the past few years, a/e ProNet has published two risk management guides for the design industry: Risk Management & Contract Guide for Design Professionals and Risk Management for Design Professionals in a World of Change. Both include courses at the back of the book, which have just been renewed with the AIA for credit for an additional 3 years.

Our books and access to the courses are available for purchase on our website, but you can receive a discount for both by requesting copies from your a/e ProNet broker. (And if your broker isn’t an a/e ProNet member, call your local a/e ProNet broker today!)

Read on for details about both contract review guides… Continue reading “Need CE Credits? a/e ProNet’s Contract Review Guides Can Help”

One invention that architects and engineers will probably take to new levels of crazy creativity faster than you can ask, “Are 3D printers already passé?”

Homes designed by a/e ProNet client Andrew Skurman have been featured in a wide variety of publications, including Architectural Digest, The New York Times Magazine, Western Interiors, California Homes, San Francisco Magazine, This Old House, Luxe. Interiors + Design, House Beautiful, and Gentry Design. Work by the firm is also included in the books Napa Valley Style (2003) by Kathryn Masson and San Francisco Style (2004) by Diane Dorrans Saeks. And now, Andrew Skurman has a book of his own!

In August, Princeton Architectural Press published Contemporary Classical — The Architecture of Andrew Skurman.

Excerpted from Princeton’s website:

“Skurman draws on an extensive architectural library of European and American design with the precision of an eminent art historian, skillfully adapting timeless design elements to suit today’s lifestyles. Collaborating with well-respected contractors, interior and landscape designers, lighting and audiovisual experts, and other consultants, Skurman blends modern comfort and conveniences into traditional settings. Featuring gorgeous photography and exquisite watercolor studies, Contemporary Classical showcases an exceptional range of residential work, including projects in San Francisco (Nob Hill, Pacific Heights), the Newport Beach coast, and Northern California.”

ProNet first got wind of Skurman’s new publication from lifestyle blogger The Style Saloniste who said, in her “fall preview”:

“San Francisco architect Andrew Skurman’s new book is essential for the collections of architectural students, interior designers, potential clients, and everyone who wants to learn about classical architecture—the real thing.”

And the San Francisco Chronicle’s review of Contemporary Classical was a rave!

“One of the guilty pleasures in reading coffee-table books about stunning residences is trying to determine which homes are pictured. Locals will have fun guessing from among the 20 anonymously featured in a new book by one of San Francisco’s most respected architects. [The book] features 255 pages of colorful photos of residences inspired by his love of French chateaux and classical Greek and Roman forms….”

The book retails for $60.00, but can be purchased now on Amazon for $37.80, and would make an excellent gift for your favorite architect. Happy shopping!

Item contributed by Leslie Pancoast of a/e ProNet Member firm IOA Insurance Services in Pleasanton, California.