For the Love of Legos: Ravi Giberson’s Model of the Barnes Foundation

For the Love of Legos: Ravi Giberson’s Model of the Barnes Foundation

Ravi with Lego model and description

We didn’t think it was possible to love our Tod Williams- and Billie Tsien-designed Parkway building more, but 13-year-old Ravi Giberson has made us do just that. When the Franklin Institute challenged kids to recreate their favorite building, bridge, or piece of architecture in Lego bricks for their Design and Build: Architecture Challenge in June, Ravi jumped at the opportunity. He found local inspiration in the Barnes Foundation and recreated our Parkway building in micro scale.

After learning of Ravi’s model, the Barnes arranged a visit for the young Lego architect to the offices of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects. In August, Ravi joined the architecture firm’s monthly office chat and shared his model with the team.

We caught up with Ravi to learn how he created the model, what inspires him, and his plans for the future. 

Ravi with model in Tod Williams Billie Tsien officeRavi with his model in Tod Williams Billie Tsien office

Barnes Foundation: Why did you select the Barnes building for the architecture contest?

Ravi: I selected the Barnes because I only had two days’ notice to enter the Lego architecture contest at the Franklin Institute, so I had to figure out something quickly and it had to be something easy to replicate in Lego. After a few hours of brainstorming, I settled on the Barnes because it always seemed interesting in how big the contrast is [between] the old Greek- and Roman-[inspired] architecture and this striking modern museum in the middle of it all. I used all the building techniques that could be used in such a short time and [on such a] small scale, and it came out much better than expected. 

Barnes Foundation: Do you have a favorite part of the Barnes building?

Ravi: My favorite part of the Barnes is probably the reflecting pool [fountain] and surrounding grounds. It was very fun to build the entrance, and it was very scenic when I went there for the first time.  

Barnes Foundation: Did you make drawings or take photos to plan your design? 

Ravi: I did not take photos or do drawings, but I did use some floor plans and maps for the surrounding grounds, which were the hardest to do. I also just used some memory of the building because I walk past and admire it on the way to school. 

Ravi chatting with Tod Williams Billie Tsien architectsRavi chatting with Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects team

 Barnes Foundation: What research did you do in advance of the contest?

Ravi: Because I had only about two days’ advance [notice] and did not know prior that they even were going to have a Lego contest, I sadly was not able to do research.

Barnes Foundation: What are your favorite subjects for Lego sculpture? Do you often build models of architecture, or was this your first time?  

Ravi: My favorite subjects to build are probably cars and related structures, like detailed garages. Recreating different forms of architecture is also a favorite challenge of mine. I have a huge affinity for art deco designs. I believe that particular style was way before its time and in fact looks very modern and at pace with current styles. Another favorite subject is anything nautical, from ocean liners to lighthouses.

Barnes Foundation: Do you usually build with Legos or do you ever use other materials?

Ravi: I only build with Legos because it is as close as you can get to real building. Usually I can execute a design with the pieces I have, but occasionally they have to be specially ordered. The pieces travel well and you can build on the go or anywhere, for that matter. Whenever the inspiration hits!  

Ravi among the desks of Tod Williams Billie Tsien ArchitectsRavi among the desks at Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects

Barnes Foundation: What do you want to be when you grow up?

Ravi: I hope to be an architect or an engineer. I am interested in ships, so a marine architect or engineer would be equally good.


Ravi, we hope you’ll always be inspired to build; we want to watch your Lego masterpieces come to life one day!


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Image one: courtesy of Ravi Giberson. 

Other photos: courtesy of Tod William Billie Tsien Architects.


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