Escher's "Waterfall" in LEGO®

Because The LEGO Company get paranoid about this sort of thing let me make it clear that I have no affiliation with them, that my views are my own and do not necessarily represent theirs, and so on. So if you think any of this is official you are as deluded as they are.

Click on the picture or here for a bigger version (about 540K)


Daniel Shiu and I worked on this as a joint project after we finished our rendition of Escher's "Relativity", making it our fifth Escher picture rendered in LEGO. Yeah, OK, this time we cheated big time. You can find out how we did it further down this page. There are also details of some of the more interesting construction features.

The original Escher picture (Waterfall, 1961. Lithograph) is shown on the right for comparison.



How We Did It

OK, let's come clean. We actually resorted to photographic manipulation for this one. The model as built has the right-hand tower in the background. The water channels running from bottom left to top right are genuine and connect the two towers as shown. But the channels running bottom right to top left are actually only connected to the left-hand (near) tower. We took two photographs of the model; one with and one without these channels, but from the identical viewpoint:



The final image was constructed by very carefully overlaying portions of the left image with the corresponding portions from the right. Yes, it's dirty. We couldn't see how else to do it. Sorry.

Construction Details

To make up for the gross cheating, the model does have a number of interesting construction details. Here are some highlights (click on the small pictures for larger versions):


Here's an overall view, showing the genuine water channels between the two towers and the false ones that lead nowhere. You can also see some of the Technic framework used to support the raised parts of the model.

The decorations on top of the towers were a bit of a challenge. We spent quite some time trying various alternatives. In fact, when originally planning this model, this was one of the big three problems we thought we needed to solve (the other two were the overall 'impossible building' construction and the waterfall itself) In Escher's original picture, the object on top of the left-hand tower is an intersection of three cubes. I couldn't quite manage that in Lego, but with judicious use of roof pieces (lots of 1x2 double/inverted slopes, 2x2 corner slopes and 2x2 double concave slopes), I did manage to construct an intersection of three cuboids. Close enough. Escher's other tower is topped by three intersecting octahedra. I just wimped out here and hacked together something vaguely geometric-looking. Both of the lego constructions are achieved by joining together six identical constructions on the faces of a cube. Oh, the uses for those1x1 bricks with studs on the sides...

The garden in the Escher original has some pretty weird plants in it. So here's a slightly unusual use for Technic bendy tubes and rocket engine pieces...

This little staircase was a bit of a challenge. It was hard fitting enough steps into the limited space available in the model. In the end we used half-brick spacing, using an obscene number of yellow 1x2 jumper plates in the process. The problem is that inevitably there will be a half-stud gap somewhere. I had just enough jumpers to hide it away out of sight...

There are two interesting features in this picture; the waterfall and the roof of the millhouse.

The waterfall itself was about an evening's work. I started by writing some C code to model a gradually widening parabolic arch with random variations for the spray (hacked from the code I use for my mathematical Lego sculptures) and then gradually modified it by hand until I liked the look of the result.

The roof was originally constructed with standard slope bricks, but we wanted to model the rough tiled look of Escher's picture. The general construction is blatantly stolen from a roof construction method I had noticed at Legoland Windsor, though I simplified it a bit for this model. The entire roof is built of brown plates, and pretty much exhausted my collection.

The washing line. Well, we thought it was cool ;-). The line itself was temporarily borrowed from a large pirate ship...



All M. C. Escher works (C) Cordon Art, Baarn, the Netherlands. All rights reserved. Used by permission. The official M.C. Escher web site is worth a visit. In particular they have a "virtual ride" through "Ascending and Descending".

All other pictures on this page are Copyright © A. Lipson 2003.

LEGO ® is a trademark of The LEGO Group, who have nothing to do with this or any of my other LEGO-related web pages.

Our other LEGO renditions of Escher works are "Balcony", "Belvedere" and "Ascending and Decending" and "Relativity"
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This page last modified 1st April 2005