Legacy has been the buzzword of the London 2012 Games and now London Living is pleased to reveal that visitors to Westfield Stratford City between next Tuesday (25th September) and 1st October will be able to participate in the recreation of the former Athletes’ Village and the new Queen Elizabeth Park – with LEGO!
Yes, that’s right: East Village and its surrounding park will be recreated in breathtaking accuracy in everyone’s favourite childhood brick. Measuring 3m x 3m, the scaled model will replicate the iconic Olympic skyline, clearly showing the shape of what’s to come when East Village opens to residents in Summer 2013. Not just that: members of the public will also be able to join in this interactive masterpiece, adding bricks to this very special piece of Olympic LEGO-cy.
Leading the build is profession LEGO Master Builder, Duncan Titmarsh. Yup, that’s a job. And we’ve got an exclusive interview with the man himself, right here.
We’re pretty sure we speak on the behalf of a generation, or two, when we ask: is being a Lego builder the best job in the world?
Yes, it probably is. And what I love most about it is that not only do I get to work in a medium that I love, but that there is such a variety in terms of the different projects I work on: one day it might be mosaic pictures, the next it’s 3D models, creating buildings, working with kids at events. The opportunities are endless!
Is Lego something you’ve always loved and enjoyed or is it strictly a professional pastime for you?
I loved LEGO from a really young age – like all kids – and my earliest memories are probably being about 3-4 and playing with it for hours on end. Working for LEGO now as a Master Builder is a childhood dream come true, but it’s certainly not what I anticipated as a career when I left school! Today, LEGO is more of a 9-5 job, but I still undertake private projects, particularly some of the mosaic pictures.
Tell us about some of your most epic builds to date: what’s been the most challenging? Have you had any disasters? Which iconic buildings have you had to replicate?
No disasters. Yet. Touch wood! I think the most epic build we’ve undertaken was most probably the 12m tall Christmas Tree that we installed at St Pancras Station last year. It took eight weeks for four of us to build it and then a further two weeks to install, working every night as we had to keep the concourse clear during the day! In terms of challenging designs, we are always pushing the boundaries at LEGO and we recently recreated the engine of a Rolls Royce; this was particularly tricky as it had to include moving parts. It took us six weeks to build and we even had to head over to the Rolls Royce factory in Derby to make sure our final creation was as accurate as possible. It’s great to be able to work on such interesting projects and to create iconic buildings – the Olympic Stadium is definitely one of the most distinctive buildings we’ve worked on, ogled by global audiences of millions throughout the Summer.
In today’s digital gaming world, do you think Lego can and will remain a timeless children’s toy?
I think there will always be a place for LEGO and that parents and children alike enjoy the tactile nature of handling each brick to build models. It’s also an interactive process and something that parents and children, or friends can do together. There is such a sense of achievement when a project is finished and although it can be broken down and the pieces used again and again, it’s a tangible monument that can be passed around, photographed and shown off – that’s something you just can’t do with a computer game! I think parents are also mindful that LEGO can enhance skills in a number of areas too – it’s a strategic and logical process that involves maths (not least counting the bricks and working out what is required) and design. And, believe me, there is no more fun way to learn!
What’s the secret to being a Lego genius? Does it require a certain architectural nous?
Undeniably, the biggest ‘secret’ is practice. It really does make perfect! I think I started practising as a child and a lot of the skills I use today, I first acquired when I encountered LEGO as a youngster, but even now we still practice designs, and if something isn’t working we pull it apart and start again. It’s important to have spatial awareness and common sense, as well as the skills to finesse designs (anyone can build square buildings, but creating a curved edge with square bricks is no mean feat!). I’m lucky that jobs that I have done in the past have all required logic and a degree of common sense and that has translated across to inform the projects I work on today.
What’s it been like trying to build a Lego East Village?
East Village and Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park has been an interesting project and is such a high-profile space to be recreating. For us, the scale has been an important thing to get right to ensure that the finished design works and accurately represents what will be there. At the moment, our work is focused on creating the bare bones of the structure and elements of the design but because we are inviting members of the public to take part in the creation of the installation, it’s also a question of ensuring that we have the right bricks to hand to, ensure that the work can be completed once we get it into Westfield. So, really, you’ll have to ask me in a week when it’s up and running – I love these interactive installations; it’s exciting to see the reaction of the public and their enthusiasm is so contagious!
What are you favourite architectural designs in London and across the world?
This is a tricky one. I love older buildings and buildings that were created in homage to the aesthetic rather than being overly practical. I’d love to recreate the National History Museum, it’s such a spectacular old building with so much detail to it and then we could recreate the spectacular dinosaur skeleton in the main entrance. I think the Golden Gate Bridge could also be spectacularly represented on a large scale and the details on some of the Far Eastern temples are also stunning.
To get involved with the project, head on down to Westfield Stratford this Tuesday from 12pm.