Escher's "Balcony" in LEGO®

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2024-05-14 11:30:15

Because The LEGO Company get paranoid about this sort of thing let me make it clear that I have no affiliation with them, that my views are my own and do not necessarily represent theirs, and so on. So if you think any of this is official you are as deluded as they are.

I'm very fond of Escher's work, and I wondered for some time whether it would be possible to produce a plausible rendering of any of his pictures in LEGO bricks. Well...

My friend Daniel Shiu and I worked on this intermittently (one or two nights a week) for nearly three months. The model occupies a tabletop, about 4 feet by 5 feet, excluding the blue sea plates which hang over the front. The townscape only looks good from one direction - it's an elaborate facade, held up by scaffolding behind, as you can see in the pictures below.

A significant part of the problem was figuring out exactly what distortion Escher had used to blow up the centre of the picture; firstly because we wanted to "undistort" the picture in order to be able to copy the townscape, and secondly so that we could transform our final photograph into something that looked like Escher's print. I tried several different ideas before I found one that produced plausible results. An unfortunate side-effect of the transformation is that the resolution suffers in the middle of the picture, where it's expanded by a factor of four. I'm using a 1.3 megapixel camera, and our initial results didn't look too great. Our eventual solution was to take a number of separate shots, zooming in on distinct parts of the model, and glue them together as a mosaic panorama. The image above was constructed in this way from 16 images. The final Escher transformation was implemented in a custom C program that I hacked together.

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