Let’s go Build: A Festival for LEGO Lovers – and Lovers of Antiquity!
Babette Pütz is a Senior Lecturer in Classics at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand. She has a love of children’s literature alongside her expertise in classics, and has been contributing mightily to the forthcoming Our Mythical Childhood Survey. Over the summer she took her children to see the Brickman Wonders of the World exhibition at Te Papa, the Museum of New Zealand. Here’s her report on an event that unites play, learning, classical knowledge, and of course Lego!
On one of those rainy Wellington summer afternoons, we took our kids to the Brickman Wonders of the World LEGO exhibition at Te Papa (Museum of New Zealand). This was lots of fun for the whole family from pre-schoolers to school kids to grown-ups, as you could not just look at the large collection of iconic world landmarks built of LEGO bricks by Brickman Ryan McNaught and his team, but there were thousands of Lego bricks available to build your own (though smaller) versions of the structures.
I was delighted to see how many of the fifty buildings and machines on display were ancient. Shown were the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Egyptian Pyramids plus Sphinx and a Sarcophagus. My favourite was the Trojan Horse which had just been pulled into the citadel of Troy, represented by a piece of wall and a gate. It even included a little flap through which a Greek soldier was peeking out. I would not be surprised if the horse had been vaguely modelled on the Mykonos vase, as the playful style of the horse on the pithos is ideal to be copied in LEGO.
One side of the LEGO horse showed the outside of the horse, the other side was open to reveal what was going on inside. My 9 and 10 year olds, who fancy themselves experts in ancient Mythology after reading and re-reading the Percy Jackson books, had lots of fun finding little jokes, such as a little LEGO soldier inside the horse, sitting at a table and munching a pie and croissant.
Such fun elements aside, clearly much research had gone into planning these models and even more creativity was needed to represent them as closely as possible to the original in LEGO. Signs gave brief explanations about the original ancient structures, how many hours and bricks it took to build each model (the Trojan horse was one of the smaller and faster models, having been built in 53 hours out of 9 500 LEGO bricks) and which difficulties the builder faced, such as having to simplify parts of the decoration of buildings or statues in order to make them LEGO compatible, what to do about the lack of golden LEGO bricks, or having to use metal wire inside the model to keep it standing up.
If you live in Wellington or if the exhibition comes to where you live, make sure not to miss it and plan in several hours, especially if you are accompanied by young LEGO building enthusiasts!