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LEGO ARTIST: cool STEM jobs: How Stuart Harris builds towering masterpieces out of tiny LEGO bricks.

The Tree of Creativity stands more than 15 meters (49 feet) tall. Its branches hold a train station, an airport, and scenes from outer space. This tree doesn't grow in the ground. It's a sculpture made entirely from LEGO[R] bricks!

Stuart Harris designed the enormous tree. He works at LEGO House, a LEGO play space and museum that opened in Billund, Denmark this past fall. Visitors to LEGO House can marvel at dozens of LEGO sculptures, from giant dinosaurs to colorful waterfalls. It's up to Harris to make these creations a reality.


Growing up, Harris loved LEGO bricks. "They were definitely my favorite toy," he says. "I had no idea you could play with them in a real job."

In college, Harris studied how to design products that people buy in stores. But when he learned a LEGOLAND amusement park was opening near his home in the United Kingdom, he knew he wanted to work there. He spent six years there building large LEGO sculptures and designing rides.

Harris started working on the sculptures for LEGO House in 2013, long before the museum opened. Even as an adult, Harris enjoys building with LEGO bricks. He can become so absorbed in his work that he misses meetings. "I completely lose track of time," he says.

Brick by Brick

Harris works with a team of designers and builders to create each sculpture. They start by writing out a plan for what they want to build. This is called a brief. It includes the criteria, or standards, for the design, such as how large the sculpture should be. The brief also contains drawings of what the finished piece might look like. Designers and builders make changes until they all agree on the plan.

Next, Harris uses computer software to create a model of the sculpture. The team uses this digital design to test out colors and shapes before trying them in real life.

Finally, it's time to build! It takes just one or two people to build small LEGO sculptures. But dozens of people needed to work together to construct the Tree of Creativity. It took three years and 6.3 million LEGO bricks to finish!

Harris loves seeing the sculptures on display. "I can mix in with a crowd and see how people respond," he says.

Caption: This Tyrannosaurus rex sculpture stands 3 meters (10 feet) tall. It's made of more than 50,000 DUPLO[R] bricks.

Caption: Designer Stuart Harris adds LEGO bricks to the tree's trunk.

Caption: This giant tree, called the Tree of Creativity, is built from more than 6 million LEGO bricks!


LEGO Artist


READING LEVELS: Lexile 860 / Guided Reading Level R

NEED A LOWER READING LEVEL? To access this article at a lower reading level, go to


Compare designs of LEGO dream house models to develop a new LEGO house design.



Core Idea: ETS1.B: Developing possible solutions

Practice: Developing models

Crosscutting Concept: Systems and system models


Writing: 3. Write narratives to develop imagined experiences using descriptive details.


Science: 3.2A, 4.2A, 5.2A, 6.2A

ELA: 3.18, 4.16, 5.16, 6.15

Lesson Plan

(1) Use a LEGO[R] engagement activity to introduce the article.

Provide each student with 20 LEGO bricks of different shapes and sizes. Let students know they'll be designing anything they'd like using only the bricks at their station. Students should spend five minutes thinking about and sketching their designs. Then give students five minutes to build. Once the time is up, all students should stop building.


* How did you plan your design? What was your thinking process?

* What process did you go through to build your design?

* Were you able to finish building?

* Would you enjoy a job building LEGO sculptures?

(2) Read the article and review the engineering design process.

Explain to students that they will learn about a LEGO sculpture designer. Have students read "LEGO Artist" in pairs and complete the "Ask a LEGO Artist" skills sheet available at Allow volunteers to share interview questions they have for Stuart Harris and his possible answers.

Discuss the engineering process that the LEGO designers used. Ask: What steps did Harris and his team perform before they built each LEGO sculpture? (First, they wrote a brief that included the criteria for creating the sculpture and drawings. Second, they each made changes to the design plan. Third, they created a computer model to test their design. And finally, they built it.)

(3) Use a skills sheet to develop models for a LEGO dream house.

Divide students into groups of three or four. Pass out the skills sheet "Think Outside the Brick" (T5) to complete the design challenge. Explain to students that they will each develop a brief for a model LEGO dream house. Then they will combine ideas from their briefs to draw a model that includes at least one idea from each team member and meets the design criteria.

Remind students that the design process is creative and requires working together as a team.

TEACHING TOOLS available at

Skills sheets:

Think Outside the Brick (T5): Work with a team to plan and build a LEGO dream house.

Ask a LEGO Artist (online only): Write interview questions for Stuart Harris and imagine his answers.


Building the Tree of Creativity (online only): Watch LEGO House's giant tree sculpture being assembled.


Shape Shifter (online only): Use nine rectangular blocks to complete a series of puzzles.


Think Outside the Brick

In "LEGO Artist" (pp. 8-9), you read about how Stuart Harris led a team of designers who worked together to build LEGO sculptures for LEGO House. It's your turn to design, share, and work with a small team to create a LEGO dream house.

Observe: Designers used a written plan, a model drawing, and teamwork to build the LEGO sculptures at LEGO House.

Define the Problem: Can you design a LEGO dream house that meets the following criteria?

* It has at least one bathroom.

* It has at least one piece of furniture.

* It is big enough to allow a LEGO person to enter and exit.

Materials: 200 LEGO bricks in a variety of shapes and sizes * one LEGO person * crayons or colored pencils * pencil and paper


1. Form small groups of three or four. First, write your own brief, or plan, for your LEGO dream house. How big will it be? What rooms will you include? Review the criteria above and make sure your house will meet them. --

2. Share your ideas for your dream house with your small group. Discuss whether each design meets the criteria.

3. On a separate sheet of paper, draw a model of a LEGO dream house as a team. Combine ideas from each member of your group. Every group member must contribute at least one idea.

4. Work together as a team to build your model out of LEGO bricks.


1. Describe how your group decided which aspects of each design would be included in the final LEGO dream house. Which idea from your first design did you use in the final model?

2. What would you do to improve your LEGO house? Is there anything you would change?

3. The article describes how Harris and his team make changes to their brief until everyone agrees on a plan. Based on your experience building a LEGO dream house, why do you think agreeing on a brief is an important step for engineers?


* Think Outside the Brick (Reproducible, T5)

1. Answers will vary. 2. Answers will vary. 3. Answers may include that agreeing on a brief helps to make sure everyone's ideas are heard and everyone understands what the design will look like before building begins.
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Title Annotation:engineering
Author:Ferrara, Jeanette
Article Type:Interview
Date:Mar 1, 2018
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