#Jan van Schaik

In ‘Lost Tablets,’ Jan van Schaik Constructs Deteriorating Architectural Sculptures with LEGO

January 5, 2023

Grace Ebert

“Henry Edye.” Images © Jan van Schaik, shared with permission, all photography by Peter Bennetts.

“The first one I made, I made by accident, like a three-dimensional doodle,” says Melbourne-based architect and artist Jan van Schaik about the sculpture that founded his Lost Tablets series. Now encompassing 89 works, the ongoing project continues to reflect this intuitive, imaginative impulse as it scales principles of monumental design into dozens of models that stand about ten inches tall.

Built with secondhand LEGO, each monochromatic construction encapsulates questions of legacy and decay. Remnants like writing, dirt, and divots imprinted in the plastic bricks from rough play are visible in van Schaik’s sculptures, which recreate aspects of “the city caves of Matera, the churches of Borromini, the arches of the Doge’s palace in Venice, the buttresses of Gothic cathedrals, and the blue ceilings of the Shah Mosque of Isfahan” as deteriorating structures. Varied in style and aesthetic, the walls contain gaping, window-like arcs, exposed mechanical gadgets, and uneven bricks that appear on the verge of collapse. Each is named after a ghost ship, or a vessel found at sea with no crew members on board, imbuing the pieces with a sense of mystery about their origins and existence.

A third-generation architect, van Schaik has long been interested in “the ways that cities recombine themselves” and how new constructions often reuse materials, objects, and foundations and embed local history within the contemporary landscape. “Cities are always building themselves on top of themselves,” he tells Colossal, referencing the ancient walls of the acropolis of Athens as an early example. His use of LEGO mimics this tradition and captures the universality of the material and subject matter. “Architecture is for everybody, and everybody is aware of it, whether they intend to be or not, whether they’re conscious of it or not,” the artist shares. “That’s why (the works) have a strange familiarity.”

This year, van Schaik plans to complete the Lost Tablets series, which will total 100 constructions, and publish another book to explore the latter half of the collection. You can see the pieces on view at two spaces in the state of Victoria, Boom Gallery in Newtown and NAP in Mildura, this spring and at The Other Art Fair in Melbourne in March. Until then, find more on the Lost Tablets site and Instagram. (via Yatzer)


“Jian Seng”

“Alouete I” (installation view)





“Vrouw Maria”





#Jan van Schaik


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