Lego Main Library

Classic Lego instructions showing Main Library made out of Lego and a partial parts inventory.
Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

I’m currently building Lego versions of the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library to raise money for the charity Sight Scotland who support people with sight loss and blindness.

360° rotating animation of my 500-piece Lego model.

Main Library

I recently completed a large microscale version of the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library with over 500 pieces. I’ve worked at the University of Edinburgh for over 23 years and this is always my favourite building to visit.

Opened in 1967, the eight-storey building was designed by internationally-renowned Scottish architect Sir Basil Spence. The horizontal library exterior is deliberately designed to look like a bookcase; the architecture features brutalist elements.

Edinburgh University Library (Wikipedia article)

The Main Library viewed from The Meadows. Pink cherry blossom on trees surrounding the building and beautiful golden sky.

For a comparison please enjoy this beautiful photograph by Melissa Highton (@HoneybHighton), CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Reference materials

One interesting challenge when building my microscale model was the inability to visit the George Square site for research purposes due to lockdown restrictions.

I made good use of Google Street View and Google Maps, including its ruler tool that calculates the distance between two or more points.

But my favourite was this open-licenced University drone footage from George Square at sunrise:

Associated photographic and video resources

UoE Digital Imaging Unit ‘Library 50’ YouTube playlist

Media Hopper Create videos tagged ‘drone’

Wikimedia Commons images tagged ‘Edinburgh University Library

Healthy Working Lives

This initial model of the Main Library was completed for a University initiative called Healthy Working Lives. Each month we are encouraged, and supported, to try fun new activities. For March this year our goal was to build something with Lego. As an adult fan of Lego (AFOL) this was a perfect match for me, but even more so after my recent sight loss. Lego model building has been helping me adapt to reduced depth perception and I’ll expand on this in my next blog post.

It was lovely to read that my model was chosen by the organisers as the overall winner. There were so many cute builds from family teams, but I was genuinely chuffed to win.

Viral Tweet

After publishing and sharing the photos of my model Friday afternoon, things took off pretty quickly. Over the weekend my Lego model was viewed by over 40K people on Twitter alone!

I was so pleased to provide some internet happiness for the many fans of our Main Library. I felt interest was sufficient enough that I could publish some building instructions and possibly raise money for my chosen charity in the process.

Charity fundraiser

I’m currently challenging myself to build a 100-piece Lego version of the University of Edinburgh’s Main Library, George Square. Taking inspiration from Captain Tom Moore, I’ve set my parts limit to only 100 Lego elements. I’m fundraising for Sight Scotland and you can donate now on JustGiving.

Sight Scotland

For more than 225 years, Sight Scotland have been supporting people with sight loss and blindness. They are one of Scotland’s oldest charities and are dedicated to empowering people with visual impairments to lead fulfilling lives.

What your donation could buy

  • £10 could buy an adapted dinner plate to reduce the stress of eating.
  • £12 could provide information and advice in an accessible format for a visually impaired person.
  • £29 could buy an ultra-light cane.

Fundraising update

As of 10 May we’ve managed to raise over £800 for Sight Scotland. Thank you all so much, I know this money is making such a difference to people with sight loss and blindness. You’re welcome to follow my social media accounts for further updates.

Building instructions

Classic Lego instructions showing placement of various tan and light bluish gray bricks on a dark tan 16x16 plate.
Example page from building instructions.

500-piece version

You can download both PDF building instructions and an XML parts list. The XML file can be imported on sites like BrickLink to create a ‘Wanted List’ and purchase only the Lego elements you require.

Main Library made out of only 100 Lego elements. Floors are represented by grey and clear plates. Green shrubs and trees surround the building.
Smaller model made with exactly 100 Lego elements.

100-piece version (updated 10 May)

I couldn’t finish my Captain Tom 100 challenge last week due to severe headaches, but I’m happy to say I’ve finishing designing my 100-piece version of the Main Library. You can now download the PDF building instructions (19 pages) and XML parts list (100 elements).

Artistic licence

Due to the relative thickness of a standard Lego plate I’ve opted for only four grey balconies in the 100-piece version, rather than the five visible in real life. I did try five but it made the model look too high and skewed the proportions.

At this reduced scale I decided to forgo the little people, but I did substitute the brick-built vehicles for a cute minifigure roller skate (BrickLink item no 11253).

Rules are for breaking

Please note the instructions and parts list are only a suggestion, feel free to use bricks you have to hand, regardless of shape or colour. In the Lego community this approach is often referred to as a ‘rainbow’ build and is ideal for rapid prototyping.

Nerd facts (100 / 500 versions)

  • 11 / 20 different colours
  • 26 / 81 different elements (shapes)
  • 100 / 534 total number of elements
  • 40 / 390 grams (g)
  • 9.67 / 48.78 pounds sterling (£)*

*Estimated costs based on BrickLink prices at time of publication.

Share your #LegoLibrary

If you do build a version of the Main Library please consider posting it on social media with the #LegoLibrary hashtag, I’d love to see your beautiful creations!

Alternatively, you can always share it with me privately via the ‘Contact me’ web form on this blog.

Copyright and licence

The text, images, video and files published within this post are all intended to be shared, reused and remixed. In order to encourage this I’ve applied a Creative Commons free/open licence to my own content.

The requirements are to include the following attribution and if you remix the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as mine.

The only exception is the PDF instructions which have an additional non-commercial restriction in that you cannot use the material for commercial purposes.

Attribution (photos and videos)

Copyright © Stewart Lamb Cromar 2021 CC BY-SA.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Attribution (PDF instructions)

Copyright © Stewart Lamb Cromar 2021 CC BY-NC-SA.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

Download, reusing and remix assets

High-resolution photographs, wallpapers and videos have been published to my personal Flickr account:

Last updated

This post was updated 10 May to include a fundraising update and new download links for the recently finished 100-piece version.

By Stewart Lamb Cromar

Too geek to function.