Ancient gods, modern masters
By Jennifer Lang – Cloverdale Reporter
Published: July 04, 2012 7:00 AM
Updated: July 04, 2012 10:12 AM
Has a modest travel budget got you down? This summer, the Surrey Museum brings the wonders of the ancient world to you in Lego: Myths and Muses.
Marvel at the Great Pyramid of Egypt. Be dazzled as gladiators brawl at the Roman Colosseum. Feel the awe of Mount Olympus, the highest peak in Greece, and the seat of the ancient gods. Ponder epic battles in miniature.
The Vancouver Lego Club is back with another spectacular exhibit, proving there’s no limit to what these creative minds can come up with when given a challenge.
The club chose to depict the stories and mythologies of the ancient world – and Underworld – Greece, Rome, Persia (Troy), Egypt, Hades, and the lost City of Atlantis.
It’s a universe built from colourful, tiny plastic bricks. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. None can say quite how many.
“Needless to say, it’s a lot,” says VLC member Pierre Chum, who was part of the crew that feverishly assembled the exhibit in time for last week’s opening.
“And there are no instructions,” he adds. “These are not sets you can buy in stores.”
Adding to the challenge was the lack of classical-themed Lego pieces, like those that come with Star Wars, Secret Agents or the castle sets, and include appropriately-attired Lego people, or “minifigs”, and specialized bricks. “We had to experiment with what would work.”
The club’s Lego exhibits are among the Surrey Museum’s most popular attractions, and it’s easy to see why.
Two summers ago, the club mounted Pirates! Blocks n’ Buccaneers, which showcased everything from a traditional armada of 18th Century marauding pirate ships to a modern navy doing battle with Somali pirates.
There was even a huge Steampunk airship floating above a desert-roving Crawler Town.
The layouts were as intricate as they were spectacular: Lighthouses, waterfalls, islands – even an underwater scene of a shipwreck, revolving whirlpool and castle rising from the sea floor.
The worlds created in Lego: Myths and Muses are just as imaginatively realized.
Since the subject matter involves history and the real world, there is also a certain level of accuracy that is expected – particularly when you’re talking about replicating ancient sites that have survived to modern times, such as the Colosseum, the Hippodrome and the pyramids.
Look closely and you’ll discover surprises like a red parrot gazing at the Sphynx, or a hot Grecian babe relaxing in a bubbly azure pool.
“A lot of research, imagination and creativity is involved in putting together an exhibit like this,” Chum says.
Due to the amount of planning involved, and how large some of the displays are, it would be impossible to build the whole exhibit on site.
Instead, each area of the exhibit had a primary builder, who may or may not have had assistants.
Large sections are built, taken apart, carefully transported and reassembled in the exhibit hall.
“Sometimes,” Chum says, “there are mishaps and things get broken en route to the museum. But that’s the beauty of Lego. We just rebuild it.”
Inside the exhibit hall, builders work late into the night to get their displays ready in time.
“We’ve been given a lot of space at the Surrey Museum and we intend to fill it,” Chum explains.
The members live across the Lower Mainland and represent a cross-section of backgrounds and professions – drawn together by a common passion. They spur each other to new heights of creativity and complexity in their Lego displays.
“The most challenging thing can be juggling one’s career with one’s hobby,” something that ramps up for a major project like the Myth and Muses exhibit, Chum says.
“It can draw a lot of time in preparation. But when we see the smiles on people’s faces as they see something cool that we’ve built, that makes it all worthwhile.”
They also hope to inspire the next generation of Lego builders, young or old. “They learn something new about what is possible and hopefully, they’ll take it even further and build something even better.”
– LEGO: Myths and Muses runs to Sept. 15. Admission for 2012 is sponsored by Friends of the Surrey Museum and Archives Society. Visit surrey.ca/heritage.