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LEGO Geisel Library
Architecture? or Alien Spaceship?
About this creation
The University of California in San Diego Central Library was designed by William Pereira and opened in 1970, and could be considered a prime example of the nexus between futurist and brutalist architecture. It was later renamed Geisel Library in honour of the famed author Dr. Theodor Seuss Geisel who made substantial literary contributions to the library.

The original design, known locally as "The Spaceship", featured 5 elevated floors supported by a reinforced concrete superstructure using 16 concrete brackets to hold up floors which otherwise would have been strenuous cantilevers, all mounted atop a two-storey base. It was later extended in the 1990s to include 2 subterranean levels on 3 sides under the extensive landscaping surrounding the base.



This build started off with a Google search for "unusual architecture" and it didn't take long to find this building, and took even less time to decide I had to build it with LEGO.

This minifig-scale 117000-part digital LEGO model includes the main building complete with all support beams & pillars, ceilings, floors, furniture & books, functional stairwells, elevators, toilets, and roof structure - right down to some of the "plumbing" on the roof.

I had intended to possibly stop there but temptation got the better of me and I extended it to include the base and some of the surrounding subterranean structures and landscaping, although due to the vast size of the model and PC limitations the landscaping has only been built around the south side and all the base structures are mostly hollow - the digital equivalent of propping part of your model up on boxes or plywood shelves to save bricks :)

The links above the images link to the highest resolution image on BrickShelf and Flickr.




Exterior Views

Due to the model being too large to fully render some of these views are composite renders where the upper and lower halves of the building are rendered separately and then composited together, resulting in some lighting, shadow, and reflection inconsistencies. I've also arranged for the windows to appear dark and reflective on most of these exterior shots since this is how the real Geisel looks on a bright sunny day and also allows me to disguise the fact that I had to disable much of the internals to get these to render. Other optimisations had to be made too, but I'll spare you the ugly details...


1.

Front view, and main entrance.


2.

Southeast corner.


3.

Southeast corner, aerial view.


4.

Southwest corner, aerial view.


5.

Closeup of previous image.


6.

Southeast corner.


7.

Southwest corner of the level 3 outdoor forum area.


8.

Looking up at the southeast corner.


9.

Looking west across the bridge leading to the level 2 entrance.


10.

Closeup of previous image.


11.

The view the brave window cleaner gets standing on the level 6 ledge.


12.

Looking down the level 3 southwest stairs next to the bicycle racks, and out over the bridge to the south subterranean structures and landscaping.


13.

Southeast corner and level 3 stairs. The stairs use Technic Flex-System Hose as bannisters, although I suspect a couple of the curves might need a straigtened paper clip inserted into the hose to hold the curve in place.


14.

Closeup of southwest level 3 stairs and phonebox next to level 2 entrance.


15.

Level 2 main entrance. I took some liberties with the doors to make it look more like the real Geisel. In reality I don't think those doors are currently available in trans-red or trans-green so you would have to settle for a mix of trans-blue and trans-black, or get a bit handy with a craft-knife, some glue, and some coloured perspex.


16.

The snake path stretches for some distance to the east, but I've only been able to build a small section of it at the head.


17.

Dr. Seuss statue across from the level 3 outdoor forum.


18.

The northeast corner of the base includes a service entrance with a hinged canopy, loading area, various doors, steps, and a ramp.


19.

I can't find any detailed photos of this area so I've resorted to some imagination and included 3 roller-shutter doors and a raised loading area.


20.

The delivery trucks are custom built with a rear loading platform that suits the raised loading area of the library. They can also just squeeze under the canopy.


21.

The roof contains a continuation of the central core walled structure that passes up through each floor, with a stairwell leading up to it on the northwest corner. There's lots of messy plumbing related stuff up there - not sure what - probably air conditioning or ventilation systems - so I've just built the main items and not all the other smaller junk up there. There's also some sort of speaker system which I believe is used for hourly chimes and maybe announcements or fire alarms. Hidden in the near covered section will be the mechanical systems for the elevators, and in the far covered section apparently a Carillon used for generating music and chimes!





Interior Views

These are somewhat based on the real interiors but are by no means an attempt at an exact match. The limited photos I have inside the library span a 40-year period and the internals have changed somewhat in that time. The books are also a little large for this scale so I couldn't exactly replicate the number of bookcases anyway, and I also chose to replace some of the bookcases with more study tables and computer desks in order to save bricks and assist with the distribution of light within the model. Plus I've had to fit more support pillars than the real library probably has.


22.

Level 7 west elevators. Yes I know it shows 4, but all upper floors show 4 because LEGO don't make black 1x1 tiles with a 5, 6, 7 or 8 on them!


23.

Level 6 east bookcases and study tables. In the background is the water cooler and toilet doors.


24.

Level 6 south computer desks, bookcases, magazine rack, vending machine and stairwell access door. Those dudes are probably browsing porn playing Call Of Duty instead of studying...


25.

Level 5 west bookcases and study desks, with a view outside the window of the exterior support brackets.


26.

Level 7 southeast bookcases and study desks, with a view outside the window of the level 6 roof.


27.

Level 4 southwest showing regular-size bookcases, oversize-bookcases, magazine racks, photocopier, index card drawers, computer desks, book trolley, vending machine, and some of the central core.


28.

Level 6 southeast showing computer desks, bookcases, magazine rack, study tables, vending machine, and some of the central core.


29.

Level 7 with yet more bookcases and study tables. On the far left are study carrels and on the far right the partition wall creating 5 study rooms.


30.

Level 5 central core with 4 stairwells and access doors, spare room, and 2 toilets each with 3 cubicles, 3 sinks, a hand-dryer, and a waste bin.


31.

Level 5 south, this time showing the support pillars and interleaved beams.





Upper Building Levels

GIF animation (if host Brickshelf is working) showing each level, followed by each of the individual images.

GIF animation on Brickshelf
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Floorplans

GIF animation (if host Brickshelf is working) showing each floorplan, followed by each of the individual images.

GIF animation on Brickshelf
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48.




Screenshots

Due to memory limitations restricting what I can show in the previous raytraced renders the following images are all simpler screenshots which lack reflections and shadows but do allow me to show the whole model including seeing the furniture through the windows.


49.




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53.




54.




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56.




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58.

Side cross-section showing two of the stairwells from level 3 up to the roof.


59.

Overhead cross-section showing a Minifig about to access a level 8 door to the stairwell.


60.




61.




62.



Not quite the same angle or perspective, but close enough:





Video


YouTube 360p/720p video of the model.
Includes music slideshow of some of these images, and a rotation.
Skip to 2:56 just to see the rotating model.






Blurb


Wow! This was tough to build, and fun, although complicated, and rather massive compared to anything I've built before.

There are a lot of building features and detailing that need to align properly and trying to do that within the limitations of LEGO window availability and the limited choice of slope angle on the 16 support brackets whilst maintaining minifig-scale suitability was at times like trying to solve a Rubik's Cube - every time I fixed one part something broke somewhere else.

Add to that the many hinged wall and window sections around the base whose angles are difficult to judge from aerial photography. A set of Geisel plans would have been most useful. They're also much harder to do in digital LEGO compared to physical bricks.

In the end I did have to sacrifice a few feature alignments to make it all work but I did manage to build the upper building with the exact same number of windows as the real library, and got fairly close with the base windows too. As for the furniture, well it is LEGO so the scale was never going to be accurate, but that's probably a good thing since realistic scale books (and bookcases) would have required about 5 million parts!

I would have liked to have provided much more foliage around the base and finished off the base landscaping down the sides and front, but the model is already far too large for my system to deal with now and it took a lot of optimisation work to get this to render so the fully completed build will need to wait till I win the lottery and get a top of the range PC. I'll probably also then add the floors and furniture in the subterranean base structures. Of course, if it's a huge lottery win then I'll be building it in real bricks.

I also had trouble with all the white and grey. There are parts of the library that look white, parts that look off-white, parts that look various shades of grey, and parts that look grey but were probably white when it was new. In the end I settled for a mix to avoid too much of one shade drowning the model and to provide a suitable contrast between different features.

The bricks on the support beams were sequenced more to suit the renders than the structural integrity - which is impossible to fully gauge on a digital model anyway - but I suspect some of the support beams around the corners above level 5 might need their bricks resequenced if building for real due to the way level 6 overhangs. The real library benefits from the strength of the reinforced concrete support brackets, but the LEGO version benefits from being able to also use the ceilings, floors, and windows, as load-bearing structures to help strengthen the beams.

The model was built using LDraw's MLCad & LDView and rendered using the POV-Ray raytracer with the assistance of various custom-written PHP scripts. The model's source files consume around 3MB or 60000 lines and are split into separate LDR files, around 300 of them, because one large MPD file on a project this size is just completely unusable due to glacial CAD speeds.


Part Count


Dimensions




Links

This LEGO model is on:
MOCpagesBrickShelfFlickrYouTube

The real library:
Geisel Library Official Site
Wikipedia: Geisel Library
Flickr Image Search: Geisel Library
Google Image Search: Geisel Library
Google Maps Satellite View
YouTube Video (professional helicopter views, good closeups of upper building)
YouTube Video (professional helicopter views, good views of surrounding base, and roof)
Vimeo Video (professional helicopter views)





Bonus

These bonus pictures were added later...


63.

See, it really is a spaceship!



Comparison shot - the original.

64.

Comparison shot - the render. The dog's on his lunch-break.


65.

Comparison shot - the screenshot.




Comments

 I made it 
  June 3, 2015
Quoting UC San Diego Library Greetings, the UC San Diego Library is trying to get in touch with the Scottish software engineer who created the digital lego model of the Geisel Library so we can do in in depth story about it. Can you please reach out to us? Many thanks!
Hello UCSD! You haven't left a name or contact, and by asking here in public anyone who read this could have contacted UCSD pretending to be me, so I've left an email address with Declan Fleming (on his Flickr account) who I've had contact with previously regarding this model. If you don't manage to get that address from him then let me know and I'll arrange something else.
 I like it 
  June 2, 2015
Greetings, the UC San Diego Library is trying to get in touch with the Scottish software engineer who created the digital lego model of the Geisel Library so we can do in in depth story about it. Can you please reach out to us? Many thanks!
 I made it 
  December 12, 2014
Running out of space in the MOC description so I'll post this here. I've added some new pictures. The first is just a fun picture of the upper building as a spaceship, since the real library is nicknamed "the spaceship" and was once (falsely) rumoured to have appeared as a spaceship in a not so good sci-fi b-movie. The others are comparison shots of the real library versus a render and a screenshot. It's incredibly difficult to get exactly the same camera view as the photo. Partly because the model is LEGO and not a precise match anyway. But also because I have control of both position/angle and field-of-view but every time I change the latter I lose the former and have to start again, which is drastically slow given the size of the model!
 I made it 
  December 8, 2014
Quoting Zorabia Hail I have no words but WOW!!!
Thanks, that's as good a word as any :)
 I like it 
  December 8, 2014
I have no words but WOW!!!
 I made it 
  December 5, 2014
Quoting Elk Guard Amazing work, you have done the architecture fantastic lego justice! I am sure you can appreciate the engineering that is required to make the architects vision into reality after this!
Thanks Elk! Yeah, it would have been fun to be an architect. They built a prototype model (pictured here http://tinyurl.com/geiselproto). I often wonder if I had become a real architect if I would have used LEGO for my prototypes... ;-)
 I like it 
  December 5, 2014
Amazing work, you have done the architecture fantastic lego justice! I am sure you can appreciate the engineering that is required to make the architects vision into reality after this!
 I made it 
  December 4, 2014
Quoting Henrik Jensen It truly is a spectacular model! I hope you win the big lottery prize, so we get to see it in real LEGO bricks.
Thanks Henrik! It will need to be the jackpot, because not only will the bricks cost a small fortune, but I'm going to need a new house with a spare room large enough to build this monster :)
 I made it 
  December 4, 2014
Quoting Nick Barrett Another work of digital art. I can see why you felt the need to render this striking and unique building. The result is spectacular! I've really enjoyed wiewing this, and I'll be back for more.
Thanks Nick! Yeah, it is a striking building. I seem to have an architectural liking for orthogonality, symmetry, brutalism, and futurism.
 I made it 
  December 4, 2014
Quoting Misa Nikolic OMFG you get a huge like! Minifig scale, full interiors, cutaways exactly the type of project I appreciate most!
Thanks, glad you liked it!
Digital Dreams
 I like it 
Matt Bace
  December 3, 2014
This is just jaw-dropping, both in its accuracy and in its sheer magnitude. At first glance, some of your renders are hard to distinguish from the real building. I can't imagine working with a model of over 100,000 parts -- I'd love to hear about some of the techniques you used to manage it.
 I like it 
  December 3, 2014
It truly is a spectacular model! I hope you win the big lottery prize, so we get to see it in real LEGO bricks.
 I like it 
  December 3, 2014
Another work of digital art. I can see why you felt the need to render this striking and unique building. The result is spectacular! I've really enjoyed wiewing this, and I'll be back for more.
 I like it 
  December 3, 2014
OMFG you get a huge like! Minifig scale, full interiors, cutaways exactly the type of project I appreciate most!
 I made it 
  December 3, 2014
Quoting Kevin Moyer Wonderful! Although I don't normally like digital builds, I'll make an exception for this one. The details are phenomenal! Your build looks almost exactly like the real thing! I very much admire how much time and thought you put into this. Absolutely splendid job, all around!
Thanks Kevin! It's not always so easy to please the anti-digital-brigade on here ;-)
 I made it 
  December 3, 2014
Quoting Matt Bace This is just jaw-dropping, both in its accuracy and in its sheer magnitude. At first glance, some of your renders are hard to distinguish from the real building. I can't imagine working with a model of over 100,000 parts -- I'd love to hear about some of the techniques you used to manage it.
Thanks Matt! It's potentially not so bad if you have a top of the range 64-bit system with lots of RAM, although the final hi-res renders would still take considerable time. But on my 32-bit Windows machine there are hard limits that cause problems, sometimes even on just 20,000 parts. If you follow the link to my own personal site from my 62,000 part Simon Fraser University model there is a section for technical details that explain what was done for that model, and much of it applies to this one too. Fortunately I've learned a few things since then and improved the scripts. When I first considered using LDraw I thought I would be able to build something with a million bricks. How naive was that!
 I made it 
  December 3, 2014
Quoting Ian Spacek Top-notch recreation! An overwhelming amount of excellent details and you nailed the architecture too. Now I want to see this in real bricks! :)
Thanks Ian. I too would love to see it in real bricks. But a few problems. It would cost a fortune. It's also rather large and I don't have a room it could be built it. Plus, can you imagine the bricklink order for some of this? 1608 minifig telescopes (table legs and stairwell bannister supports), or 1410 2x4x4 container bookcases, or the 1570 windows? It could takes years to source all the parts...!
 I made it 
  December 3, 2014
Thanks Sam!
Quoting Sam the first Nice custom trucks in the loading bay, too!
Yeah, I was thinking of adding that as a separate moc so I could post it in some vehicle groups...
Quoting Sam the first I;d love to see you try a full race track. Maybe a Silverstone replica?
Mmmm lol, I think it would need to be microscale. I did consider a very British thing once, which was to build an oval stockcar track around a football pitch, but I decided in the end that unless I could animate the cars there probably wouldn't be much point. And by animate I mean properly racing with bumping, overtaking, and crashing, all of which would be incredibly difficult without some professional motion simulation software. Not to mention the number of renders would take a year to render on my PC.
 I made it 
  December 3, 2014
Quoting Yann (XY EZ) I love your creations because they are so different.
Thanks Yann. Yes, I try to vary what I build and come up with more unusual stuff. Can't be doing with building the same type of moc over and over again, that would drive me nuts!
 I made it 
  December 3, 2014
Thanks everyone for all the great comments! As much fun as this was I'm sure glad for a break now as this consumed every spare minute I was able to work on it. Maybe now I'll get a chance to catch up on some of the other mocs people have been posting in the last few months.
 I like it 
  December 3, 2014
Wonderful! Although I don't normally like digital builds, I'll make an exception for this one. The details are phenomenal! Your build looks almost exactly like the real thing! I very much admire how much time and thought you put into this. Absolutely splendid job, all around!
 I like it 
  December 3, 2014
Top-notch recreation! An overwhelming amount of excellent details and you nailed the architecture too. Now I want to see this in real bricks! :)
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Stunning! rating:1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000/1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 ;)
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Absolutely jaw-dropping design! Fantastic work on such a large scale project.
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Wow, seriously impressive! Great job on a very cool building. I love the comprehensive write up too.
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Wow. This is brilliant! Excellent brainwork!
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
beautifully done.
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Exquisite! :)
  December 2, 2014
I like it but it would be cooler if you don't make it on LDD.
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
This is stunning! Incredible feat to say the least! The architecture here is beautiful, and the scale is impressive. You didn't slack on the details either, absolutely amazing!
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
breath taking!
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Wow! This is brilliant! The level of detail is staggering! I love the GIF animation of the floor plans. That's really awesome. Beautiful work!
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
It was all so serious until image 24...=P. Wow! Where do you start with such a creation? The exterior is beautifully crafted, and the greenery and gardens are amazing. Nice custom trucks in the loading bay, too! The interior is second to none on detail. I love the GIF you made, fantastic. What a MOC! Love your work, I;d love to see you try a full race track. Maybe a Silverstone replica?
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
I love your creations because they are so different. This hommage to a masterpiece of architecture is also a masterpiece of lego building. Very, very, very, very well done!
 I like it 
  December 2, 2014
Wow! This is amazing!
 I made it 
  December 2, 2014
My Biggest MOC! Sorry if you saw the version I uploaded a few minutes ago - had some HTML problems and had to delete it - but it's all ok now and it's staying this time.
 
By Digital Dreams
Add to my favorite builders

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Added December 2, 2014
 


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