An Arlington Heights man is combining his creative vision and lifelong passion for construction toys to bring a first-of-its-kind experience to Woodfield Mall in Schaumburg.
Adam Reed Tucker is one of only 16 Lego Certified Professionals in the world, but his Blocks to Bricks museum and studio opening Friday showcases the evolution of all tactile building toys -- from stone to plastic -- over the past 150 years.
"I really wanted something untraditional, like myself," Tucker said. "As human beings, we work with our hands. I'm trying to wean off the digital age as much as I can. ... It's not about ignoring that completely. It's about making that a tool, not a replacement."
Along his work with Lego, Tucker is a trained architect. In addition to the traveling exhibits he's done in cooperation with the toy company, his "Brick by Brick" exhibit was housed at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry for two years.
Tucker said his major inspirations all share the traits of creativity, originality and fearlessness. They include Archimedes, Leonardo da Vinci, Walter Elias Disney and George Lucas, along with Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka in the film "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory."
One example of the latter's influence on the new museum is a conveyor belt that delivers custom-colored Lego-style bricks from the machine that makes them to a display area near the entrance.
When Tucker is at Blocks to Bricks, he wants visitors' experience of seeing him at work to be as special as meeting Willy Wonka in his factory. For an additional cost, patrons can receive a combination to a vault containing his office and studio within the museum's exhibit hall.
On display through the rest of the museum's 13,000 square feet are 23,000 artifacts, ranging from Tucker's childhood toys from the 1970s to rare items such as stone toy sets carved by European monks in the 19th century.
Finding such rarities has taken Tucker from garage sales to auctions to eBay. The items ranged in price from 50 cents to $12,000.
Tucker said he's never been driven by money and wants to use what he's earned from his work with Lego to benefit others. He plans to invest what money Blocks to Bricks makes into future changes and upgrades there.
He already has some ideas, but he expects to take a break from such planning for the next six months after an exhausting eight months of preparing for Blocks and Bricks' opening.
That work included converting an area of the mall that once held seven separate storefronts into a single business space. Though the soft opening is Friday, Tucker estimates the museum won't be exactly as he intends for another three weeks. Until then, he plans to offer a $3 rebate on the $15 adult general admission tickets.
Blocks to Bricks also will sell a variety of construction toys, though only vintage sets when it comes to Legos. Current Lego toys are sold at Woodfield's Lego store less than a minute's walk away. And the Legoland Discovery Center at Streets of Woodfield next store is a place for kids to play.
All three businesses have their own distinct missions but are expected to benefit from their proximity.
Tucker hopes to benefit from foot traffic at Woodfield Mall every once in a while but believes the museum will be a destination in its own right.