From Tiny Towers to Towering Dreams: How Plastic Bricks Lit The Spark For One Architect

March 28, 2024

For one INVISION architect, his career did not start by designing skyscrapers made of steel and concrete but by building cities that came together with the snap of colorful plastic bricks. Every architect has a story of how they became interested in architecture. Our inspiration stories anchor us to the essence of why we became architects, reigniting our passion. For Zach Detterman, LEGO® bricks lit that spark, sending him on his journey to become a licensed architect.

During car rides as a child, Zach found himself enthralled by the intricacies of the buildings passing by. Inspired by this, he turned to LEGO® bricks to recreate these structures and imagine new ways to build them.

I think this really kickstarted my interest in architecture and design. LEGO® bricks allowed me to take the ideas I had in my head and translate them into a physical form,” Zach said. As building with LEGO® bricks quickly became his new favorite hobby, he received different sets of buildings, structures, and vehicles for birthdays and holidays. While some children might simply follow the instruction manual included in the box, Zach often took a more creative approach.

I found myself taking the pieces from different LEGO® sets and combining them all together to build my own creations. Eventually, my parents caught on and started buying buckets of individual LEGO® bricks at garage sales instead of sets of specific structures,” Zach said.

 No one was surprised that he had the brain for this type of thing. He grew up with a dad who was an engineer and a grandfather who owned a construction business. While his family was sure he would follow in his father’s footsteps, becoming an engineer, Zach chose to pave his own path.


It was not until he reached middle school that he discovered how his innate technical and design skills perfectly aligned with the role of an architect. In sixth grade, an art teacher encouraged him to sign up for a state-wide architectural drawing competition. After placing in the top three, Zach knew this was what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.


Now approaching one year of being a licensed architect, he still appreciates the toy that introduced him to the architecture industry. Zach said, I love the LEGO® Architecture sets created for famous buildings around the world. I think they’re a cool collector’s item for a lot of people in the industry. It’s a reflection of their childhood and showcases what they do as a profession. It’s a cool connection between the two.” 

While he has not used LEGO® bricks as a tool in his professional career, he does see parallels between building with them and the architectural design process. He explains, There are lots of similarities between building LEGO® sets and being an architect when looking at the process. As architects, it’s like we are the people making the LEGO® instruction manual, and as a kid, you were the one following it. It’s very similar in the fact that you have many different pieces that need to come together in the right way to create a building.”


For any child who dreams of designing skylines, Zach offers this piece of advice: 

Hold onto that spark of creativity. Take as many art and design classes as you can fit into your schedule. Nurture your passion, and don’t be afraid to dream big. The world you build with your imagination might just become the foundation for a fulfilling career.”

What began as mere playtime with LEGO® bricks propelled Zach toward a remarkable career as an architect. Within the origins of our journeys lie the seeds of our passion for architecture. Let these stories be a reminder that inspiration often springs from the most unexpected and humble places.


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