Friday, 4 March 2011

Grand Opening

One of the best things about being a member of the Brickish Association (BA) is that you get the chance to do cool stuff, and I've previously posted about a couple of model builds I've participated in, as well as last year's BA Christmas party at LEGOLAND Windsor.

BA, which describes itself as a "UK-based community of Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOLs)", is often the first port of call when organisations or individuals want access to adult LEGO enthusiasts in the UK, and when a request arrived from the LEGO organisation for BA members to help with the grand opening events for the UK's latest two LEGO brand stores, a number of us answered the call.

Both new stores, Cardiff and London Westfields, actually opened their doors late last year, but the official grand openings for the stores didn't take place until February of this year. The grand opening event for each store lasted for 3 days and featured giveaways plus an opportunity for anybody to come down to the stores, lay their hands on lots and lots of LEGO bricks, and show the world what they could build. BA members were asked to join in with the public building events and construct some large local landmarks, presumably to provide some building inspiration for the other attendees. So no pressure then ! An interesting twist was that only red 2x4 bricks were made available to builders, encouraging building on a larger scale.

I was able to get along for the last day of the London Westfield event, and it was immediately evident that people had been busy for the 2 previous days, judging by the number of completed creations already on display in the building area (click pics below to enlarge).

London cityscape at Westfield
Photographs of London landmarks were scattered around the building area to provide us with inspiration, and after a few moments deliberation I decided to take a crack at building Big Ben. Or, to be more precise, the iconic clock tower at the north end of the Houses of Parliament. Big Ben, for anyone that's interested, is actually the name of the great bell itself, rather than the clock tower which houses it. One of my BA brethren had already constructed their take on the Houses of Parliament (a clever diagonal build - nice one, Jason !) which was prominently on display (see below) so I figured I needed something bigger so as not to be completely upstaged.

Houses of Parliament by Jason Railton (thanks to David Tabner for the pic)
I have to admit that these days I tend to solve building challenges by delving into the huge catalogue of available LEGO parts and finding a specialized brick to do the job. I therefore initially found it very restricting to build with just 2x4 bricks, particularly bricks in just one colour. In some ways, the large variety of specialized pieces that are available these days, together with the fact that I now have some cash to be able to buy what I need, has taken some of the challenge away from building my own creations - when I was a child I just had to make do with what I had, which forced me to be more creative. Anyway, after a while spent grappling with the limitations, the lack of a parts palette started to become quite liberating and the rules became clearer - think big, accept the limitations of what can reasonably be achieved with 2x4 bricks, and just build....

Building proceeded quickly - one of the advantages of just building with 2x4 bricks - and other than a few headaches when trying to figure out how best to reproduce the 4 clock faces at the top of the tower it was pretty straightforward. I finally completed the build after about 3 and a half hours, and you can see the finished result below.

Finished !
Once Big Ben was built, I took some time to look around. There were, it must be said, some pretty excellent creations on display. These including David Tabner's Tube Train and Gary Davis' London Bus (pics of both below), the latter of which nicely complemented the exclusive model produced in honour of the opening of the London Westfield store and which was given away to the first 300 visitors to the store on the Sunday who spent £20 or more.

Big Ben alongside a superb Tube Train built by David Tabner
London Bus by Gary Davis
I have to say it was fascinating watching the kids and their parents building. In general, the parents initially just watched and encouraged their kids, but before long many of the adults were up to their elbows in bricks and producing some pretty respectable creations themselves. A few asked enviously if I built LEGO models for a living and I had to confess that I was just an enthusiastic amateur. :-(

So an excellent event, then, and a great way to launch a new LEGO store. I'm just glad I didn't have to clear up all the LEGO afterwards....


  1. Jabba the Taff6/3/11

    Cracking tower! It would have been good to get one of the openings, but I was in London when the Cardiff store opened and in Cardiff when the London store opened! So very annoying! How's your Tower of London coming along?

  2. Tower Bridge is now done, and wonderful it looks too ! I'll post pics and comment in due course, but in the unlikely event that anyone's putting off buying it before I give my final verdict (!) then wait no more and go buy it - awesome !