“I love the idea that I’m rebuilding these buildings that are, in many ways, works of art.” – George Lohmer, Model Buildings customer
Growing up in the Midwest, George Lohmer built “all sorts” of models, and had a special fondness for ships. Although the love of models remained, over the years the habit of building took a backseat to education, work, and family responsibilities.
Lohmer admits to a lifelong love of architecture, and says he particularly admires the works of Frank Lloyd Wright, Frank Gehry, I.M. Pei, Richard Meier and Santiago Calatrava. But rather than pursue architecture himself, Lohmer’s academic and career path was finance. He eventually became the CFO of the Minnesota Medical Association. During the numerous holidays, he and his family enjoyed creating elaborate Christmas villages around the tree, often including trains, sometimes featuring European castles. But for many years, he says, he didn’t build much beyond those holiday displays.
For the Love of Architecture and the Building Process
More recently, as retirement loomed, Lohmer rekindled his love of model-building, and he was happy to discover the work of Marcus Bree.
“I was literally doing online searches for companies that produced architecturally-accurate building models. I spent a lot of time hunting down other models but none really claimed to be accurate. Then I discovered Little Building Company,” Lohmer says. “That has worked out well.”
That accuracy in design and scale is one of the reasons he enjoys the model building process so much.
“The accurate scale and the well-chosen materials really gives you insight into the building process. You’re creating something from the ground up, just like (the architects and designers) do,” he says.
And once complete, the tangible results are especially welcome, particularly in comparison with many of his professional endeavors. While his work on investments, policies and planning in the medical realm is important, from a tangible perspective he says there’s just not much to sit back and admire.
In contrast, he enjoys seeing the results of his model building efforts. Completed and on display, the models offer concrete proof that the structure is sound, and ultimately, beautiful.
Building Excitement for the Future
“Unity Temple has always been a fascinating building to me and Marcus is the only person I know who has modeled it." Lohmer is looking forward to the upcoming release of the Johnson Wax Complex, to date the only one of these landmarks he’s seen up close and personal.
“You can really see how the primary tower echoes the modern skyscraper, especially Richard Meier,“ he says. “I’m interested in seeing how (Marcus) handles the internal structure, and the brick and glass materials in the model.”
Lohmer would like to see some more Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in person, he says, along with other notable structures. He’s aware that time will not be kind to many. “I think a lot of architecture is going to be threatened by climate change,” he says, citing the Sydney Opera House, for example, which sits on Sydney Harbor in New South Wales.
Less grand but closer to home, the Mid-Century Modern Farnsworth House, a mid-century modern, is at risk due to the river’s flood plain. In 2007, the World Monuments Fund added global warming to its list of threats to important buildings and landmarks.
Regardless, Lohmer is optimistic. He enjoys modern works as well as iconic structures. And, he muses, we may see dramatic new architecture as a result of the pandemic and the so far tumultuous 2020’s. Some of the most dramatic architecture seems to have arisen out of society’s struggles, he says.
Only partially retired, Lohmer enjoys spending time with friends and family, and his return to model building is hardly an obsession – though he does admit to sharing his love of architecture with those in his circle.
Is the Appreciation of Architecture Contagious?
“I gave my brother a Guggenheim Museum model for his birthday,” Lohmer said. “He hasn’t built it yet, but I hope he will.” Lohmer also shared his progress on some of his recent model-building endeavors with friends during those Zoom video calls that have all but replaced real-life visits. He’s eager to share his interest in building with his friends and extended family in person, as soon as the epidemic ebbs.
Is the love of architecture and the building experience contagious, we wonder, like a virus? Who knows?
Lohmer is sure that his grandson has the building bug, though. They have built some models together and plans for future joint efforts have been put on hold due to the COVID -19 epidemic. We fully expect this story will have more chapters.
We sincerely thank George Lohmer for his time and willingness to share his experience with us and with other model builders and those who admire great architecture.