Taj Mahal was commissioned in 1632 and was built along the southern bank of the River Yamuna over the course of twenty years. It is said that its construction enlisted a workforce of no fewer than 22,000 laborers, some 1,000 elephants, and numerous skilled craftsmen from across Asia and Europe.
However, for Rocco Buttliere, a LEGO architect from Chicago, it took just 17,000+ LEGO pieces and eight days to rebuild this monument of love. Of course, Buttliere took more time in designing, that is 14 days, than actually building the first-ever LEGO diorama of the entire complex.
“The central white marble mausoleum – with its signature iwan and pishtaqs (vaulted rectangular opening and arch-shaped portals, respectively, of Indo-Islamic architecture) and iconic amrud (guava-shaped) dome – is the primary feature of the Taj Mahal and the axial center of the prevailing bilateral symmetry. Unbeknownst to most casual observers, however, the mausoleum is just one small aspect of a much larger, 42-acre complex. The broader compound is built mostly of red sandstone and consists of a tripartite layout; a forecourt with servants’ quarters and royal tombs amidst a quadrangle before the Darwaza-I Rauza (main gate); a central Mughal Garden known as a Charbagh; and finally, the platform with an identical mosque and guesthouse on either side of the marble mausoleum,” says Buttliere.
Rocco Buttliere is an internationally recognized LEGO Artist with a passion for and a degree in architecture. A lifelong LEGO builder, he began his current body of work of original 1:650 scale models, titled Landmark | Landscape, in 2009. Since then, he has created more than fifty works depicting a multitude of world landmarks and geographically / historically accurate landscapes.
“Taj Mahal first came across my radar when I learned that much of the sandstone and marble structures are in constant need of repair, requiring a full-time restoration team mostly made up of the descendants of the original builders. In addition, environmental factors such as pollution and acid rain have weathered many of the ornamental details more quickly than usual. Meanwhile, the river Yamuna bursts its banks more frequently than it has in the past several centuries, raising concerns over the stability of the riverside platform foundations,” says Buttliere.
For Buttliere, inspiration goes hand-in-hand with intrinsic motivation. As a result, he always needs to find his own reasons for taking the time to design and build projects of this scale. In recent years, his work has taken on much more of a heritage-first outlook, in which he seeks to highlight particular landmarks or landscapes that may be at risk due to any number of factors.