Former certified LEGO professional Dan Parker. Photo by Brady Harvey/EMP Museum

Former certified LEGO professional Dan Parker. Photo by Brady Harvey/EMP Museum


The LEGO replica of the Space Needle sits inside the EMP Museum, just a short distance from the actual Space Needle. The model is 48 inches tall, simulating the Space Needle’s 605 feet. Its base is 18.5 by 18.5 inches. And, yes, it’s built entirely out of LEGOs.

“Block By Block: Inventing Amazing Architecture,” the new LEGO exhibit at the EMP Museum (325 Fifth Ave. N.), opens Saturday, Jan. 25, and runs through April 20.

Although the exhibit started out at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., the models you’ll see were all created by a local man, Dan Parker of The TbP Group. Parker, who was born in Puyallup and now lives in Tacoma, was awarded the title “certified professional” by the LEGO company itself.

Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen founded the company in 1932 to make wooden toys. It took its name from the Danish “leg godt,” which means “play well.” The company began working with plastics after World War II.

For generations now, LEGO has inspired kids to build, and for a few certain hearty souls to build big and sophisticated.

Parker remembers having a modest collection of LEGOs as a kid. “I do recall a U.N. Jeep,” he said, “a 13-inch ferry with train rails and a motor set. The rest were basic Universal sets. As an adult, I got hooked again by noticing the train sets, as well as Technic.”

The Technic sets — which include plastic rods, motors and other pieces suitable for creating complex machines — were introduced by the LEGO company in 1977.

Parker’s replicas of famous buildings are on display at the “Block By Block” exhibit, but he’s also worked on commission, building LEGO machines, flat-surface LEGO mosaics and just about every possible permutation of the little, plastic bricks. He even built a full-sized LEGO casket several years ago.

Other LEGO model buildings in the exhibit include New York’s Chrysler Building and Flatiron Building, the distinctive torpedo/cigar shape of 30 St. Mary Axe in London, Taipei 101 in Taipei and the Burj Khalifa, currently the world’s tallest man-made structure in the world, at 2,722 feet.

Parker once proposed a LEGO replica of Mount Everest but couldn’t get funding to come through.

He is quick to point out that his LEGO replicas use only regulation LEGO pieces and that the pieces are not cut or glued in anyway. He does work with a team of assemblers, but he does all of the planning himself, he said. The exhibit includes some of his plans, which are done on regular graph paper, the sort a high school math student might employ.

The exhibit also includes informational videos, and at the back, a good, old-fashioned LEGO playroom. As the adults wander around taking in Parker’s LEGO constructions, a young boy and a young girl stand in the playroom, snapping together LEGO pieces. A fort forms, a foundation of something else, then a few shapes that seem to have no rhyme or reason, except perhaps to their builders. One, a vertically mounted LEGO wall board, spells out “HEY” in huge, sideways capital letters.

There’s no guarantee the next Dan Parker is one of the young builders. But even he had to start somewhere.

The exhibit opens with a Brick Party on Friday, Jan. 24, from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. For more information, visit

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