Inside Santa Clara Convention Center’s ballroom at the seventh annual Bricks by the Bay, a Lego fan convention, were about a thousand exhibits of handmade wonders made from everyday Lego bricks. Against a wall was Erik Mattson’s majestic eight-and-a-half-feet construction of Oregon’s Multnomah Falls, made with 50,000 to 100,000 Lego bricks. Set on a table were Alice Finch’s charming replications of German castles. On another table was Dan Kees’ miniature roller coaster with a car shooting across the tracks. The four-day convention drew about 450 people from Aug. 18 to Aug. 20 and the public expo on Aug. 21 brought in about 5,000 people.
“People here learn that Legos are not something that you just dump out of a box and build according to the directions; people learn that they can be their own designer and creator and that they can come up with their own pieces of art,” says Erik Wilson, president of Bricks by the Bay. “The thing I’m the most famous for building is a model for the Colosseum of Rome. I tell people that Rome was not built in a day, and neither was my Colosseum of Rome. Even though we think of gladiators and blood when we think of the Colosseum, it was only used 10 days a year for games. The rest of the time, it was used for theater and chariot races.”
At the exhibit, a mirror strategically hovered above Wilson’s Colosseum so that children could view the Lego people inside. Beside the Colosseum was a Roman city, also created by Wilson. Together, the city and Colosseum stretched out to 15×3 feet.
Robert Hallett created a medieval themed Four Corner Kingdom, complete with interactive prompts for spectators to spot things, such as a dragon, ship anchor and wine cups.
“It took me six years to make this with over 20,000 Lego bricks,” Hallett says of his kingdom, which extended to six by three-and-a-half feet. “I was playing a video game about knights and a kingdom and I decided to make my own kingdom. This structure has over 20 knights, a castle, booby traps, a royal carriage, a fleet of ships and a king and a queen.”
Corey Gehman is part of a Lego user group based in Arizona called Cactus Brick. Six members of the club collaborated to construct the City of Cactus Brick, a 15 by 22-and-a-half feet composition with a superhero theme. One especially appealing feature was the golden Wayne Mansion, intended to be inhabited by Batman’s alter ego Bruce Wayne, and the dark and edgy Batcave built underground.
“The trains are powered by three tracks; we have a control system where we can park and pull out different trains,” says Gehman, giving a tour of the city. “We’ve got an office building here and a bank that’s being robbed. You’ll also see the Flash in his red and yellow trail going through town. Here’s Superman and Starro. Over there is the Hall of Justice, the Lex Corp. building and the building for a newspaper called The Daily Planet.”