Two for Tuesday: Adrian Egli

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Good evening constant reader, its happy hour and our bartender Lloyd is setting them up neat, just the way you like it. Tonight’s V.I.P. in the Manifesto lounge is an O.G. savant that you may not be familiar with, in part because he’s never been one to seek the spotlight and in part because he hasn’t posted much in the last few years (with the exception of convention photos).  As a connoisseur of fine models you should get to know him though, because he’s responsible for some of the greatest large-scale bridges online and helped push the envelope in the formative days of LUGNET and Brickshelf.  Above all that, Adrian Egli is just a good dude who deserves some props in a hobby that tends to forget the soft-spoken, urbane gentlemen that walk among us unnoticed in the herd of sweaty, often churlish mankinder.

I had the good fortune of meeting Adrian Egli on two seperate occasions: BricksWest 2003 and BrickFest PDX 2007.  Both encounters were unfortunately unremarkable, like driving a Hyundai or drinking a Rolling Rock and fall into the “drive by” variety of conversation that characterize all too much of the convention scene.  After nearly every one of the dozen cons I’ve attended, I’ve left feeling like I’d missed an opportunity to really connect with some of the people I wanted to.  Also, I think it’s fair to say that Adrian was a somewhat awkward guy back then or at the very least shy in public situations with idiots like me.  During both meetings Mr. Egli made solid eye-contact, politely listened to me ramble my praise about his bridges and thanked me for the complements.  But so say that there was a connection, or that we became fast-friends like other people in the TfT column would be a lie.  Adrian also didn’t seem that interested in my space ships (can’t say that I blame him) and the conversation just kind of died on the vine.  I think it might be different if I met him today, because back then I was a wide-eyed greenhorn and he’d already accomplished a great deal in terms his involvement in LUGs, LTCs, conventions and all that larger community stuff.  My convention-based interests were limited to enjoying intoxicants with like-minded sci-fi nerds and people-watching all the magnificent weirdos our hobby has to offer.  But drive-by conversation aside, the builder and his builds made a lasting impression on me.

For tonight’s first shot, we’ll be examining the bridge that first captivated me over a decade ago when I first became aware of Adrian’s work on LUGNET, where I would often read his posts about building curves, LTCs and trying to get a LUG off the ground in our mutual home town, San Diego.  I’m going to date this bridge in the very early 2000’s, I wish I could offer a more precise date, but his Brickshelf account is gone and the dates on Flickr refer to when he uploaded the shots, not when they were originally posted online.  You’ll find very little commentary or statistical information in Adrian’s Flickrstream, which is a shame, but very much in line with his humility about what he builds and his quiet demeanor.  I would also like to mention that San Diego is an underrated city for bridges, it has a little bit of everything and you can certainly see echoes of them in Adrian’s work.

For my money, this lovely curved suspension bridge encapsulates everything that makes Egli’s work so memorable and important to the history of the hobby.  Of course you’ve got the curved road, which might not seem that difficult today, but back then this was like alien technology to many of us, or purely theoretical in nature.  Then you’ve got those striking V-shaped support stands, which are impressive creations in their own right.  Lastly you’ve got the suspension factor, something I still don’t see done very often.  And yes…yes…we all know the boilerplate axiom that bigger doesn’t necessarily mean better, that size alone should not be a determining factor for brilliance.  But look at the size of this thing in comparison to the furniture and the fireplace in the background…if that doesn’t impress you more than a spaceship you can fit into the palm of your hand, you’re either lying, possess questionable faculties or you’re a god-damn communist.  This model also doubles as a legitimate piece of home furnishing!  Talk about a conversation starter, I don’t know if I’d have the heart to tear this thing down if it were mine, this thing should be preserved for permanent display by a convention or that oddball Lego museum I hear strange whisperings about.  For my money, this is a wonder of the ancient AFOL world and an important slice of action that showed me what was possible and stoked the fire of my imagination at a crucial moment.

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For our second shot, I selected this little number, again from the mid 2000’s.  It doesn’t have a name, none of them do, they are named after the seasons Winter StudySpring Study …etc, there is no tedious backstory to distract from the build.  I like his naming conventions, and the implicit notion that a particular model took an entire season to build, it kind of drives home the committment involved to see such a project through.  What’s also lost in the ‘bigger isn’t better’ argument is that many people who like to play that particular trumpet don’t have the attention span or endurance to build something on this scale and complexity.  Yes, some can’t afford to build something this big but it’s not the limiting factor.

I cannot overstate the personal importance of this bridge and the inspiration it provided to my own build, Zero Hour on Highway 44.  I didn’t quite have enough space or gray brick to pull off a bridge at this scale so I opted for a double-decker highway, but without Adrian’s work I don’t know if I would have dreamed big enough to build something this ambitious on my own.  I’d previously built a slightly larger project, but that was with major contribututions from two other builders and it didn’t have nearly the same height.  At the time, I thought seriously about reaching out to Adrian to see if he wanted to collaborate, but as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I didn’t feel like I knew him well enough and that it wouldn’t be his bag.  If I had it all to do over again I would change that, and I don’t rule out working with him somewhere down the line.  San Diego is only a short drive from Vegas…

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Another reason I wanted to talk about Adrian this week is because in addition to being a great builder, he also suffers from epilepsy and uses the brick for a way to cope with it.  I stumbled on this article  in the San Diego Union-Tribune a couple of years after meeting him and I appreciate his bravery for putting it all out there in the hope that it might help somebody suffering in silence.  Normally I would never reference a person’s medical condition in a blog post, I’ve only done it once before when Chris Giddens had his public bout with cancer so I don’t write this lightly.  Much like Chris with his condition, Adrian is comfortable talking about epilepsy and advocating for his peers in a public forum, so I figured he wouldn’t mind me mentioning it as a part of this story.  Although I can only think of one other builder who suffers from epilepsy, I don’t think this kind of relationship between the brick and health is all that unique.  Whether it’s cancer, epilepsy, autism or clinical depression, I know from my travels both online and in person that a number of us suffer from serious ailments and use building as a form of therapy.  If you don’t want to click on the article, here is the relevant quotation:

Adrian Egli of San Diego also has continuing difficulty with convulsive seizures. Not yet 40, Egli has been unable to work full-time and is soon to go on Social Security disability. His hobby, which he credits with helping him overcome depression, is building structures with Legos.

Egli said he got epilepsy after being struck by a car when he was 5. He went years without a seizure, and was even considered cured. Then he had a convulsive seizure in a ninth-grade class.

Suddenly, students didn’t want to be near him. “I felt like a freak,” Egli said.

Egli spoke at a meeting-related press conference sponsored by UCB Pharma, a maker of epilepsy drugs. The company is trying to address the stigma of epilepsy by sponsoring a program to place service dogs with those with epilepsy.

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Photo credit: Joe Meno

For this particular feature on the Manifesto I like to conclude the proceedings with a photo of the builder in question. I do this to help you put a face to the name and sometimes with the express intent to take the piss out of the builder. This is one of those times. Please recall that a precedent has been set in this ongoing series that we will be reviewing the fashion choices of each builder.

Even though it’s nowhere nearly as bad as Dan Rubin’s now infamous pink version from a previous installment of Two for Tuesdays, Adrian is sporting the uniform of the damned…a polo shirt.  The color and lack of corporate logo certainly help his case and it is accessorized with a perfectly serviceable belt…but I simply cannot go on the record endorsing this most hated style of shirt.  Adrian, you’re better than this, leave the polo shirt for golfers, prep-school attendees and low-level corporate yes-men.  At your age you still manage to have it all: good teeth, a full head of hair and a distinct lack of a spare tire that plagues so many of the early generation of builders.   Please don’t let that go to waste my friend, there are other more humane options out there.  I hate to pick on a guy with epilepsy but master bridge-builder or not, old school AFOL or not, I’m afraid it’s time to…

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14 thoughts on “Two for Tuesday: Adrian Egli

  1. Saw the “uniform of the damned” and instantly thought, “Uh, oh.” XD At least he didn’t accessorize with a backpa… oh dear.

    Thank you Keith, that tri-curved intersection is mind blowing. There isn’t a straight section anywhere on it, that’s some serious commitment to just dive into the shapes regardless. Nothing easy. I love that the big quality he attains isn’t for any sort of ego trip or some sort of altar to hubris, the pieces needed to get the shape dictate the size. I’ve run across that myself with building a font for a poster.

    I know of only one other AFOL with epilepsy and she is fantastic! Her and her husband are one of the best teams I’ve seen work together. It’s great to see the therapeutic values of Lego.

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    1. I’ll forgive the backpack too because of his surroundings, and you of all people should value an accessory that allows you to tote around an extra bottle or three of Jamesons.

      I wondered if the impact of these beasts would be lost on the ‘modern’ consumer of Lego action, so I’m glad that you appreciated Adrian’s work. Had you heard of him before? When I was constructing the article I wasn’t able to get a good sense of what his visibility is, whether he was an obscure choice or not.

      It is indeed nice to see that the brick has some practical value beyond the artistic or entertainment factors. Again, I don’t want to make it sound like as a group we’re a bunch of broken toys, but I really do think a significant percentage of us uses the act of building in a therapeutic way.

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      1. I prefer obscure choices, the more so the better. In Adrian’s case, I can cite your comment on FNF regarding the pains of presentation. His photo stream is 90% convention pics; that gets tiresome pretty much instantly. But more to the point is that his builds are doomed to fall into obscurity because they seem damn near impossible to photograph in an appealing way. This is where the impact is more the focus on the large scale after which it is the detail and trust of the brick that shine forth. No NPU, just brick. No wild technique, just engineering. The appreciation of this will always be lost on a tiny screen. His work reminds me of studying Seurat in A History of Art; a small black and white photo with a description of the size degrades the impact of turning the corner at the Chicago Art Institute and being blasted with the 7′ x 10′ pointillism A Sunday Afternoon. It really screws with your sensibilities in a fantastic way. This is when going big is to express the medium to its fullest and prove the details can engineer the mass safely past the tipping point and draw the viewer in further, not just for the sake of being big (that’s just unimpressive, dick swinging hubris.)

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      2. I don’t mind the convention pics so much, but for a selfish reason. He actually had a photo of my contribution to BricksWest 03′ while I seem to have lost mine, so I appreciate people who take convention shots. But I see your point, it’s hard to get to his good stuff when you have to sift through so much material. I just go straight to the albums to get the good stuff. I also agree that the photos don’t have the same impact for models like these, they really are best appreciated in person. It’s much more impressive in person.

        So had you seen Adrian’s bridges before this article? I’m curious how much visibility he has. With so many images come and gone it’s easier than ever for great models and quiet builders to slip into obscurity.

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      3. Nope, never heard of him. But I am a poor metric to judge by, my experience is really only limited to the past couple years and trying to take it all in without going any more bat shit crazy than I already am. That, plus the fact that in my normal drunken stupor, I am not normally capable of remembering jack shit except for Shasta commercials from the 80s.

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  2. This guy bent my brain TWICE.

    Years ago, when I first heard that there was a guy who’s MOC specialty was bridges, I was skeptical. I thought “Talk about over specialization!’ Mr. Eglis work shows just how underdeveloped my initial view was. I was absolutely energized by his massive detailed builds. Every time I see one of his bridges, I begin to imagine the rest of a dio large enough to accommodate them. These bridges, being so much more powerful than I had originally thought they would be, have changed the way I think about specialization entirely. Now when I hear about an AFOL who only does this or that one thing… where I used to think: “That’s it?”… now my first thought is to wonder what the builder will show me about their particular focus topic that is new to me.

    In addition, I also look at bridges differently because of Eglis. Because of his presentation style, with the bridges out of context, in a stand alone format, I no longer think of bridges simply as larger things that are “between” or “connecting” two locations. Now when I look at a bridge, I see the bridge itself, just as Eglis presents them. An object of focus in it’s own right.

    It’s good stuff, there’s no doubt. And yeah, I agree with Keith’s assessment of conversations at conventions. There is so much going on, so many people, and so much to be said… I have met people at fests and beyond the “high five” level of conversation, I have often been frustrated at the lack of time for any sort of in depth conversation. In Keith’s specific case however, I think the fact that he is so obnoxious probably has a dampening effect as well.

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    1. I had the same attitude towards Nnenn initially, when it seemed like he only built 1 man pointy spacefighters. It took me a while to see the complexity and value of the seemingly endless VOAT action. There is power in the repetition. Too bad that doesn’t seem to apply to your questionable constructs, repetition doesn’t seem to help you at all.

      As for you comment about me being a damp, obnoxious type:

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      1. Ah… The Bridges of Madison County. I put that one on the shelf next to Saturday Night Fever, and Top Gun. A movie that everybody has heard of, and upon watching, is actually better than one would expect.
        I always thought Eastwood should have made a sequel to The Bridges of Madison County. He should have called it The Unforgiven Bridges of Heartbreak Ridge.

        Thank you Keith. Thank you for taking us all on a magical journey through… The Bridges of Agli County… a film that starred neither Clint Eastwood nor Myrel Streep… but which featured MOCs that are large enough, strong enough and excellent enough to support their combined weight of these two Hollywood greats. I suppose that would make the bridges “supporting actors?”

        See it’s funny because…

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  3. Another bridge to add alongside your favorite Bridges (Lloyd, Beau and Jeff).I like how he added absolutely nothing around it, just a piece of (LEGO) engineering marvel.

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    1. I see what you did there. I also liked the Nash Bridges television program, at least the one episode I watched. Were you familiar with Adrian’s work before this post? I’m trying to decide if profiling him was an obscure choice or an obvious one.

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  4. “Uniform of the damned” indeed. That aside, these are pretty incredible and a real treat to someone who has never seen them before. Those curves….normally I find large structures made out of lego rather mundane, but these are something else.

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    1. I agree, I’ve seen some massive skyscrapers that left me cold but there is something about these bridges that I find fascinating, and you can’t take away the impact of these when the hobby was younger, very few people were capable of stuff like this.

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  5. This is what Two for Tuesdays is all about! Adrian’s bridges are incredible, and Mike’s comment about his specialization make it quite clear how “consumerish” our hobby has become. Keith, you mentioned that so few builders have the patience to build these amazing monstrosities. There are a few, but it really drives home the point how easy (and yet satisfying?) it is to build a quick one, take a shot, upload, and watch the likes roll in.

    I think this was an obvious choice of an obscure builder. I am certainly more enlightened from witnessing Adrian’s work, and I doubt I would have had that opportunity without this post. As an up-and-coming engineer, I understand how this specialized topic could be so entertaining to build. They are marvelous structures, pure curves, as you said no NPU… He really takes the challenge that we all profess, “building something inspired from a limited selection of parts”, and makes it true.

    Thanks again, Keith. What a remarkable builder. And what’s the blocky x-wing he’s holding in the picture for?

    *VAk goes and burns his complete rainbow collection of polos*

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