Since 2006, The Franklin Institute has been the home for Legodelphia: a mini Philly, by local artist, Austin Mosby. Mosby graciously lent his sculpture to the Institute through our Artifact Loan Program, so that visitors may see a new perspective of our beloved city. I was able to chat with Austin about his process behind creating Legodelphia.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am a Temple University alumnus, Class of 2010. I graduated with my bachelor's in Criminal Justice. A Bucks County native, I am currently away studying for my masters in Urban and Regional Planning at University of Central Florida.
What inspired you to build Legodelphia: a mini Philly?
I consider Philadelphia as having a very dramatic skyline. I was always captivated by this skyline as a kid. My sculpture was inspired entirely by the view of the city as it appeared from the passenger seat during car rides southbound on Interstate 95. This is why Legodelphia is orientated as it is in its display.
What made you choose Legos as a medium?
LEGO® was the natural choice because I had them in my room. Creating with LEGO® is so easy and lots of fun.
How long did the initial build take you?
Believe it or not, I put together the first version of Legodelphia in only a few days. The sculpture was much smaller then. It has never stopped evolving, even in the months leading up to its acceptance at FI. I laid the first brick of Legodelphia in 2006—it is still seeing new additions in 2022!
What was the hardest part to build? The easiest?
Without a doubt, the hardest building to build was the Benjamin Franklin Bridge. Everything about it, from getting the right height, to finding pieces in the right shade of blue, to arranging the towers and suspension cables so it was even on both sides was all quite challenging. Cira Centre is a close second: the difficulty with Cira Centre was trying to emulate the unique angles as well as getting the right color choice. One honorable mention is the PECO building. The easiest building to build was the Murano.
Do you have a favorite building within Legodelphia?
Though it isn't exactly a "building," of everything in the sculpture, my absolute favorite part is the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I love the greenery of all the trees and the way they line up on both sides of the street all the way from the Art Museum to City Hall, with the fountain at Logan Square marking the halfway point.
How many bricks were used to build the sculpture?
It's incredible how many pieces there are. Using special piece-counting software as an aide, estimates are in the ballpark of 10,000 bricks.
Do you ever have to do “upgrades” or “maintenance work” to the piece?
It is important to me that Legodelphia resembles Philadelphia as it appears at present. That means I need to add whatever exciting new skyscrapers spring up in our city. When I am not adding new skyscrapers, I am just adding more detail to existing buildings: e.g. sometimes I will rebuild one in a way that I think makes it better.
Have you built any other projects? Are they displayed anywhere?
I have pieced together many LEGO® creations, but they all stayed at home (or in my dorm at Temple), and none came anywhere close to the grandeur of Legodelphia.
How did your sculpture end up at The Franklin Institute?
My mom used to work in Center City at 1650 Arch Street. Student art was once featured in the lobby, and that is where Legodelphia was first displayed for public view. I wanted to see if it could get into a museum. I contacted the Curator at the Franklin Institute, who came by to see my work of art. The rest is history!
What do you hope visitors take away when viewing your sculpture?
I want younger kids to be inspired and see that they can accomplish big things if they put their minds to it. Many, if not most, of the youths who see Legodelphia, likely have LEGO® at home. I want my sculpture to show what this simple toy can become when you use your imagination. It's a takeaway that can be applied to so many areas of life: amazing things happen when you use your imagination.
Legodelphia was my high school graduation project, a very special one. As I pondered what to do for the project, I was determined that whatever it would be, I wanted it to impact the world. Since its display at the Franklin Institute, millions of people have seen my sculpture. It's a good feeling.
Anything else you may want included about Legodelphia?
When it first went on display, Legodelphia did not have the rivers or bridge. The Delaware River was the first river to be installed; the Schuylkill I added later.
I built not one, not two, but three versions of the Comcast Center before I decided on the one I liked most.
While some parts of the sculpture I have altered and detailed over the years, I chose not to change Independence Hall, thus preserving its "history" just like the real thing. The Independence Hall you see in the sculpture now is the original, placed in 2006.