I was in Sydney over the Christmas period which allowed me to check out the Towers of Tomorrow exhibition at the Museum of Sydney. It was one of the more interesting LEGO exhibitions I’ve had the privilege to attend!
Towers of What? Towers of Tomorrow is an exhibition showcasing some of the tallest and most impressive skyscrapers and buildings in the Asia Pacific region. Constructed by Ryan McNaught, the exhibition pays homage to giant structures that push the envelope of architecture, engineering and human ingenuity.
Featuring renowned skyscrapers constructed completely out of LEGO, old and new names such as the Taipei 101, Tokyo Skytree, Eureka Tower and the Petronas Twin Tower should be familiar to anyone that has visited some of the major cities in Asia and Australia.
Towers of Tomorrow runs from 13 December to 19 April, which means you have plenty of time to visit it if you ever find yourself in Sydney.
Admission prices are:
- General Ticket (age 3 upwards) – $15
- Member’s Ticket – $5
- Family Ticket (4 people) – $45
You can either buy tickets online or at the museum itself. I didn’t realise this when I went (admittedly, I didn’t do my homework) but there are timed sessions starting from 9:30am to the final session at 3:30pm. The way it works is that you are allocated one hour to check out the exhibit and/or play with the bricks there and then you get booted out.
I rocked up not knowing and had to wait around for about half an hour, which is not ideal. Don’t make the same mistake I did!
Oh and another tip, don’t drive to the Sydney Museum. Parking is obscenely expensive in the Sydney CBD, so if you want to park nearby you’ll probably have to spend a small fortune. Take the train!
That’s pretty much all you need to know. On to some pictures I took at Towers of Tomorrow! I actually left my camera in the car, so I was forced to use my iPad Mini for the photos. Excuse the slightly terrible photography!
Before you enter the exhibition, you can check out a small little table of LEGO paraphernalia and merchandise located at the foyer (near the ticket counter). There was nothing that you can’t get elsewhere, although you get 20% if you buy 2 or more LEGO books.
Location: Sydney, Australia
Height: 309 metres
Designed by: Donald Crone
Height: 2660 millimetres
Hours to build: 64
“Getting to build in a slightly larger scale meant we could have more fun with the details. This gave us a rare opportunity to get some brave minifigs involved, doing the skywalk and having a good time on top of the Sydney Tower.”
As soon as you walk into the exhibition, the first thing that’ll catch your eye is a colourful hodgepodge of bricks that seems like a messy LEGO city, followed by the Tower of Sydney – towering above the other creative LEGO models. The models below are constructed by attendees and some of them are actually quite good!
The Sydney Tower is the oldest skyscraper at the exhibition, having been completed in more than 30 years ago. It still pierces the Sydney CBD skyline and the LEGO version did a great job capturing its needly look.
I tried zooming in as best I could with my iPad’s camera lens – if you had read Ryan’s reflections on the Sydney Tower, you will know to keep an eye out for a bunch of minifigures hanging out at the top – some of them doing the Skywalk.
Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Height: 452 metres
Designed by: Caesar Pelli
Height: 2260 millimetres
Hours to build: 360
“Keen-eyed LEGO fans might see that we built this model upside down. To get the glass bricks looking clean and sharp we needed the studs facing downwards. It’s not your “everyday” LEGO building and it’s probably the craziest technique used in the whole project.”
The next tower I was instantly drawn to is a familiar one, Malaysia’s own Petronas Twin Towers. Located in my country of origin, the Twin Towers holds a special place in my heart and naturally was one of my favourites in the exhibition. At one time, the tallest structure in the world, the Twin Towers are still a mighty sight to behold.
In LEGO form, Ryan and his team have done a remarkable job capturing the Twin Towers’ look and colour. The Twin Towers is one of those buildings that looks best at night, so it was a bit of a shame that it wasn’t displayed in a dark room with floodlights shining onto it!
Next to each Tower is an information card containing interesting facts of each tower, as well as some insight from Ryan Mcnaught about any special techniques, observations or thoughts about bringing the Towers of Tomorrow to life.
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Height: 634 metres
Designed by: Nikken Sekkei
Height: 3171 millimetres
Hours to build: 191
“The tallest building in the exhibition is also one of the craziest. For the lattice we developed a cool system of “jumper plates” and “hinged elements” to make the crisscross work properly, as well as allowing the shape to change from a triangle at the bottom to a circle at the top.“
Next up is a tower that I will visit soon, the Tokyo Skytree.
I really enjoyed the lattice exterior of the Tokyo Skytree and was very fascinated by the techniques that Ryan employed to make it work. The Skytree is very tall and thin, looking much like an antennae – which makes sense as it also functions as a broadcasting tower. It was quite difficult to make out the details, as the top was quite hard to see from ground level.
Here’s another look at the lattice system that Ryan and his team came up with.
Location: Taipei, Taiwan
Height: 509 metres
Designed by: C.Y. Lee & Partners
Height: 2,545 millimetres
Hours to build: 80
“The real trick about Taipei 101 is its shapes, with eight noodle boxes stacked one on top of the other. While it looks square, everything’s slightly cantered. For us it’s all about patterns – they’re the most important thing.“
The Taipei 101 model was very impressive. The first thing that hits you when you set your eyes on it is the brilliant transparent-blue glass elements that envelop the tower like scale armour. Like most LEGO fans, I am a sucker for transparent pieces, so ogling this tower and the hundreds of transparent elements used to give it an electric blue colour was a joyful experience.
I also found the symmetry of the model oddly satisfying. With recent trends in architecture championing asymmetrical designs, Taipei 101’s uniform, organised and repeating look was very welcome in my books.
Location: Shanghai, People’s Republic of China
Completed: Planned for 2015
Height: 632 metres
Designed by: Gensler
Height: 3,160 millimetres
Hours to build: 185
“It’s basically a model with 80 seperate LEGO layers, each shaped like a guitar pick. Inside it’s like a random stack of tin cans surrounded by trees and beams. Because the outer skin is transparent we had to create a lot of internal details as well. This building really did our heads in …“
The Shanghai Tower was the most futuristic tower in the exhibit. An apt choice for Towers of Tomorrow, as it is planned to be completed later this year, the Shanghai Tower has a very space-age and contemporary feel to it. Encased in glass, the structure twirls as it extends upwards.
I really liked that the designers managed to incorporate the blend of organic and modern influences with the Shanghai Tower.
One of my favourite parts of the Shanghai Tower, was its sci-fi inspired Bio-Dome influences where each floor contains interior details such as trees.
Height: 200 metres
Designed by: Moshe Safdie Architects
Height: 1,000 millimetres
Hours to build: 155
“Marina Bay Sands has never been done in LEGO bricks at this scale and I can see why. Each supporting tower curves upwards like a banana. Some get thinner, others get thicker, some grow narrower, others grow wider. And then of course they all join in together. It proves what they say, “LEGO doesn’t like curves”“
The Marina Bay Sands LEGO set is one of the most expensive Architecture sets on the secondary market right now – the average price is close to $700 right now, and it’s one of the most valuable sets that I own – only 10,000 of those sets were manufactured. The rarity was also due to it being only sold in Asian countries and it was one of those sets that I lucked out on.
To see it constructed at this scale was quite awesome due to its unique shape. I really loved how it shimmers when you shift your perspective, an effect that was surprisingly recreated in LEGO form.
Here’s a look at the deck are on top, with its world famous infinity pool. You actually have to stand on a chair to get a good look at the deck – it’s worth it. Just do it quickly before you attract too many stares!
Location: Hong Kong
Height: 484 metres
Designed by: Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates
Height: 2420 millimetres
Hours to build: 122
“We thought this one would be simple but were sorely mistaken. Its vast hinged walls slope inwards and outwards and there’s a notched channel down each side. What I’m most proud of is the intense colour we got from placing “trans blue” glass over a background of “earth blue” bricks.“
The colour of Hong Kong’s International Commerce Centre is arguably my favourite thing about this sleek and imposing structure. It has a much deeper shade of blue compared to the Taipei 101 and it stands tall, very much like a monolith when compared against its other Towers of Tomorrow neighbours.
A gorgeous look at the trans-blue bricks and the extremely smooth exteriors of the International Commerce Centre.
The base of the building was also pretty cool, especially the curve effect.
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Height: 249 metres
Designed by: DBI Design
Height: 1245 millimetres
Hours to build: 103
“It sounds strange but the Infinity Tower is covered in SNOT (a well-used LEGO term meaning “studs not on top”). You’d never guess, but the tower is actually built sideways so we could get those long, narrow, vertical lines and a smooth cylindrical shape overall.“
I haven’t been to Brisbane, but I was pretty impressed by the Infinity Tower, especially the lines that swirl around the building. While it wasn’t as gargantuan as the other Skyscrapers, I really liked the smooth SNOT surfaces that enveloped the Infinity Tower. Also, Dark Blue is probably one of my favourite LEGO colours, so that was a nice little bonus.
Location: Melbourne, Australia
Height: 297 metres
Designed by: Nonda Katsalidis, Fender Katsalidis Architects
Height: 1485 millimetres
Hours to build: 108
“The great thing about Eureka Tower, apart from it being in Melbourne where I live, is that we got to use gold bricks, which are truly rare and precious in LEGO world. We had to hunt high and low for these. Luckily we had enough of the LEGO 50th anniversary sets in the workshop that included gold bricks. If only they were real gold!“
Another familiar sight, Melbourne’s very own Eureka Tower. I’m very familiar with the Eureka Tower, it being a permanent fixture on the Melbourne skyline. I’ve also been up there a few times. As a LEGO creation, the Eureka Tower wasn’t that groundbreaking, since it has a fairly angular shape, with the most interesting part being the golden pinnacle.
Location: Perth, Australia
Height: 249 metres
Designed by: Forbes & Fitzhardinge
Height: 1245 millimetres
Hours to build: 72
“Central Park Tower was full of surprises. It looks simple, but it’s got the craziest design that you can imagine, with the facades of the building angled in every direction like a diamond. Believe it or not, the mathematics and geometry of this building were mind-boggling.“
The Central Park Tower stands out from the rest of the Towers of Tomorrow as probably the dullest building in the exhibition. That was probably because it was the oldest, being completed in 1992. Central Park Tower’s age certainly shows, when contrasted against the other modern skyscrapers in the exhibition.
The fact that it’s entirely gray makes it look like a very old-fashioned skyscraper. I guess it serves to remind attendees that as tower-builders, humans sure have come a long way.
Location: Sydney, Australia
Height: 275 metres
Designed by: Wilkinson Eyre Architects
Height: 1,375 millimetres
Hours to build: 150
“Here’s another crazily unique shape. It’s tall and bulges at the middle and is divided into wings that look like pointed petals from above. Once again, our ability to sculpt gentle curves and create colours was pushed to the limit and once again we’re working with a tower that’s still on the drawing board.“
The Crown Sydney Hotel in Barangaroo, Sydney is funny, because work has barely begun on what is planned to be Sydney’s most ambitious commercial development. Props to Ryan and his team for working on this tower off plans and artist impression drawings to come up with this masterpiece. The LEGO version of the Crown Sydney Hotel certainly looks incredible, very much like a translucent ivory horn that pierces the sky.
Upon closer inspection, the curves on the building as it twists upwards are really cool to behold. It has a very ethereal look to it and I particularly enjoyed the trees and other greenery at the base.
Location: Sydney, Australia
Height: 219, 180, 170 metres
Designed by: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Height: 1,095, 900, 850 millimetres
Bricks: 8,700, 7,600, 6,900
Hours to build: 80, 75, 70
“Designs for the three residential towers are still on the drawing board, so that meant we could have some fun with a busy LEGO® construction site humming with minifig activity.’”
I didn’t know what to make of these buildings – they looked pretty average, quite squat and were not that interesting, to be honest. The only thing I liked was that there were slight colour variations. The curved pill-like shape of the buildings are kind of cool, but stacked up against the other towers in the exhibition, they were only so-so. The name was also very uninspired – International Towers Sydney? Meh.
Location: Gold Coast, Queensland
Height: 323 metres
Designed by: Sunland Design Group & Innovarchi
Height: 1615 millimetres
Hours to build: 82
“It’s probably one of the better looking models – for me, the colour scheme really pops. A combination of dark blue, mid blue and white makes the Q1 sparkle like a jewel. It’s always hard to pick favourites, but this one comes pretty close.”
Last but not least is Gold Coast’s Q1, which is one of the better towers in the exhibition. It has a very clean aesthetic to it, and like Ryan, I love the combination of colours. It’s shape was inspired by the Sydney 2000 Olympic Torch, with a very majestic pointy end. The shaft of the building is pretty decent, I really like how the white lines pop against the blue background.
Here are some pictures of the exhibit walls, which had lots of interesting quotes and factoids about the Towers of Tomorrow. One of my favourite parts of the exhibit was a television screen which played quite a long video which had Ryan Mcnaught talking about the buildings in more detail, as well as showing behind the scenes footage of the construction process of the LEGO towers.
As an older LEGO fan, I was absolutely transfixed by the video, and it’s always great hearing Ryan Mcnaught speak about his creations – his passion and energy that he radiates always gets you interested in whatever project he works on.
So that’s it for the Towers of Tomorrow exhibition. As with any other LEGO events, the photographs do not do the models justice. There are just so many subtle intricacies in the buildings, as well as the scale of them as you view them up close that makes this a must-visit exhibition for any LEGO fan that’s in Sydney.
There are also play areas, where you can try and construct your very own Tower of Tomorrow out of the huge amount of bricks available. One hour is more than enough to check out all the buildings, watch the video as well as do some freestyle LEGO building. It’s suitable for both kids and adults, although I think that adults will be more appreciative of the exhibition and the advanced building techniques that were required to bring them to life in LEGO form.
I highly recommend taking some time to check it out if you’re in Sydney or planning a trip there in the next few months. The great thing is that the exhibition will be around till the 19th of April, so there’s still plenty of time to visit.
Have you been to the Towers of Tomorrow Exhibition? Let me know what you thought of it in the comments!