Designer Rose got the idea from a pal who'd been making miniatures in Europe, where the hobby has a centuries-old tradition. Alan made a four-foot prototype of the Empire State Building, which is visible from his New York studio, and took it to Perigee Books in 1980. Since then he has added eight more projects, priced at $7.95 and $8.95, and sold almost 300,000 books.
Born an Army brat in Regensburg, West Germany, Rose, 34, grew up in Baltimore. He dropped out of art studies at the Maryland Institute after three years to become a free-lance designer, working for the National Lampoon, Saturday Review and filmmaker John (Polyester) Waters. Last December he wed lawyer Anne Diebold, 36, and now lives with her and her daughters, Hilary, 14, and Suthy, 12, in Springfield, Mass.
"As I get better at construction," says Alan, "the models get progressively harder." He has finished a model of a San Francisco cable car and is currently working on a Japanese pagoda. Among the architectural landmarks he hopes to put between covers are St. Peter's Square in Vatican City, Frank Lloyd Wright's Imperial Hotel in Tokyo and, naturally, China's Great Wall. "I would do only a section of it," says Rose. "To make it longer you would have to buy more books. That's cheating, I know, but what the heck."
Despite exorbitant mortgage rates, one small segment of the construction industry remains buoyantly healthy in the face of recession: Alan Rose's build-it-your-self replicas. But then, costs are low. To create a four-and-a-half-foot Sears Tower or a 10-and-a-half-foot Brooklyn Bridge, all you need is an X-acto knife, glue, from eight to 35 hours of patience and one of Alan's books of cut-on-the-dotted-line stiff-paper patterns (insert).