Man builds Lego versions of Monroe Street businesses he misses

COVID-19 has kept Aaron Williams from the neighborhood places he loves. So he built them at home out of Lego.

“Can’t go, so we build,” read Aaron Williams’ Instagram captions describing his Lego models of Monroe Street buildings.

Because COVID-19 has kept Williams from some of his favorite neighborhood businesses, he’s passed the time at home with his kids by creating miniature versions of the Monroe Street places he and his family miss.

Williams, a landscape architect of 18 years, is the assistant campus planner at the University of Wisconsin–Madison working for Facilities Planning & Management in the Campus Planning and Landscape Architecture division. He also has his own landscaping business, Aaron Williams Landscape Architecture, or AWLA, through which he’s completed landscaping projects for businesses including Lucille and Robinia Courtyard.

We couldn’t help but get in touch with Williams to get the full story on his Lego project.

What inspired you to do this little Lego building?
I always played with Lego growing up and was fortunate enough to maintain the collection in each of their designed boxes throughout the years and stored in my parents’ basement for nearly 20 years. The act of becoming a parent seven years ago to twins is what’s gotten me back into Lego. They have taken to the plastic pieces and I’ve found it allows quality time with them as well as reminding me of some of the enjoyable times of my childhood. The Lego Architecture Studio, released in 2015, is what makes what I’m doing possible. I live in the #LoMo (Lower Monroe) and walk by and frequent these buildings daily. They bring myself and my family joy. We miss going to them. I simply wanted to see if I could do it. I’ve always sketched to understand and remember, but to construct makes you understand and appreciate in a whole new dimension. I suppose it’s a natural extension of that interest.

Why have you focused on Monroe Street?
Monroe Street is one of the defining elements of my neighborhood. To have a street with the quality, quantity and diversity of retail establishments in a community of our size is remarkable. It says something about the neighborhood and our priorities.

How long do they take to make?
They average a couple of hours with additional time to photograph and present, but admittedly I haven’t tackled any super complex buildings yet.

Any reason you chose a monochromatic look?
The idea of distilling these structures down to a monochromatic mass is interesting to me. Details inevitably disappear and you get to a collection of shapes that somehow depict what is in reality very complex and intricate. Lego sets today are not what they were 20 years ago. I feel they offer less creativity due to the number of specialized pieces. The Lego Architecture Studio takes a step back and makes the process of creation more enjoyable. It’s really about building and not necessarily about the end product. The other more practical benefit of using two colors is that there are white and transparent pieces, which allows for the ability to have fewer pieces in the Lego ecosystem. Color would be too distracting and another layer of complexity that would destroy the simplicity presented. You get to respect and appreciate the subtleties of shade, shadow and texture more.

How have the business owners reacted?
I don’t know any of them personally, but Itaru Nagano and Patrick Sierra of Fairchild picked it up right away. Zander’s Interiors was appreciative, Colectivo gave a follow and The Laurel Tavern doesn’t have an IG account so I can’t report back on that one.

Are you going to keep making more?
Why not. #wherenext?