I'm sure a lot of you like the art of M.C. Escher and playing with LEGO, but Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shiu really managed to combine the two into an amazing example of geek art*. Take a look at their fantastic creations:
Escher's Balcony in LEGO by Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shiu, inspired by M.C. Escher's Balcony (1945)
Balcony is Andrew and Daniel's first re-creation of M.C. Escher's artwork:
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.
Escher's Belvedere in LEGO by Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shiu, inspired by M.C. Escher's Belvedere (1958)
Next up is Belvedere, which require the use of tricky half-brick spacing, diagonal beams and photography from just the right viewpoint. Andrew's webpage has the construction details and more awesome photos.
Ascending and Descending is Andrew and Daniel's third Escher art rendered in LEGO:
The secret is that the staircase spirals up and in: if you look at it from exactly the right position, the edge of the top step looks as though it's just lined up with the edge of the bottom step. The picture shows what's going on - I took it from a slightly different position and the edges no longer meet. Actually, because the lower edge is further from the camera than the top one, it looks smaller; we had to build it one stud wider to compensate.
Escher's Relativity in LEGO by Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shiu, inspired by M.C. Escher's Relativity (1953)
The pair's fourth creation is M.C. Escher's Relativity. There's no optical trick involved here, but the multiple directionality of the piece requires a nifty LEGO trick:
Unlike many of Escher's other "impossible" pictures (like "Ascending and Descending"), there is actually no optical illusion involved here. Gravity seems to be working in three different directions simultaneously, but the picture shows a perfectly self-consistent physical scene. So modelling it should certainly be feasible. But while Escher's picture has three different "up"s, LEGO isn't quite so flexible...
For LEGO afficionados, the most significant thing about our version is the widespread use of SNOT ("Studs not on top") techniques - in plain English, having the LEGO studs pointing in lots of different directions. There are various tricks for making this work in general, and we probably used all of them here.
Escher's Waterfall in LEGO by Andrew Lipson and Daniel Shiu, inspired by M.C. Escher's Waterfall (1961)
Andrew and Daniel cheated big time for their fifth creation, based on M.C. Escher's Waterfall. This time, they did use photographic manipulation - but the result is still very cool:
OK, let's come clean. We actually resorted to photographic manipulation for this one. The model as built has the right-hand tower in the background. The water channels running from bottom left to top right are genuine and connect the two towers as shown. But the channels running bottom right to top left are actually only connected to the left-hand (near) tower. We took two photographs of the model; one with and one without these channels, but from the identical viewpoint.
The final image was constructed by very carefully overlaying portions of the left image with the corresponding portions from the right. Yes, it's dirty. We couldn't see how else to do it. Sorry.
*Yes, you've probably seen these floating around the web for years. In fact, Andrew and Daniel built them way back in 2002 (we even featured it before on Neatorama back in 2006). But Andrew and Daniel's creations are so awesome I think it should be re-featured for all the Web newbies ;)