Building blocks: Check out Lego exhibit through April 10

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Photos by Shoji Kudaka
Photos by Shoji Kudaka

Building blocks: Check out Lego exhibit through April 10

by: Shoji Kudaka | .
Stripes Okinawa | .
published: March 01, 2016

“That’s the Taj Mahal, isn’t it?”

“I wanna see Mount Fuji!”

Children’s cheerful voices filled the Urasoe Art Museum with questions and enthusiasm.

One after another, they headed down a corridor to the exhibition hall where an unusual art presentation featuring replicas of monuments and landmarks built with small but colorful pieces was on display. They had one thing on their minds, and it wasn’t art.

It was Legos.

This wasn’t your average art exhibit. This was the “Piece of Peace – World Heritage Exhibit Built with Legos,” which kicked off Feb. 20 and runs through April 10. 

Although this place is no Toy”R”Us or a theater featuring a movie starring Lego characters, the kids were giddy with excitement. Parents, who were telling their kids to calm down, found themselves fascinated by miniature Lego replicas of Eiffel Tower, Kremlin, the Roman Catholic Church Sagrada Familia and many others.

“Familiarizing kids with World Heritage sites is one of the purposes of the event,” said Takashi Kajihara, the executive producer of the exhibition. “Legos are not just for fun or entertainment. They can be a good way to introduce culture to kids.”

Looking out at the visitors, Kajihara smiled. “We would like people to know that Legos can be art,” he said.  “So, although a lot of kids would love this exhibition, we see many of their parents or young folks absorbed in the art built with small pieces.”

A total of 40 miniature World Heritage sites from 27 countries are on display. As I walked through the exhibit, I marveled at Shuri Castle, The Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal. I couldn’t believe the artistry of the Statue of Liberty, the Acropolis or the Palace of Westminster. Everything was made of Legos!

According to Kajihara, it takes effort from a lot of people to create each Lego art.  Normally, he explained, it is an artist that first sets a visual direction, telling builders where to place the tiny plastic bricks together.

“All the artwork is made with commonly marketed Legos,” Kajihara said with sly grin. “So if you like, you can re-create our art, although it is going to take some time.”

Although each art piece has a sign giving background and specifics on how it was created, it only in Japanese. But, honestly, it really doesn’t matter. The exhibit is all about the stunning visual the small, colorful bricks make. 

I was planning to spend an hour at the exhibition. Three hours had already passed when I came back to the lobby of the museum. There, kids were playing with Lego bricks set out on several tables.

Inspired by the artwork they had just seen, most of the kids were focused on putting together bricks. They paid no attention to their parents, who were sitting on benches, obviously exhausted from walking around. 

Impressed with the energy these young Lego artists were displaying and hoping to get a quote or two, I got closer to the action. One boy really caught my attention. He was passionately putting together bricks, one piece after another. Being curious to see what he is making, I simply asked, “What are you building?”

The boy looked at me with a perplexed expression and said, “Pyramid!” But his face said, “How dare can you ask such a non-sense question?”

This ended up being the only comment that I could get from the kids at the tables. They were too focused on their work. So, I decided not to get on the nerves on anymore of the little architects and joined the adults on the benches to chat with them. 

A couple sitting next to me sympathized with how I struggled with the kids. They said they came to the exhibition just because the venue was within walking distance from where they live, and were surprised to see such a big turnout. But they were amazed at the intricate details of each piece of art and enjoyed looking at World Heritage replicas, especially the ones of sites they had seen on their travels.

Although this exhibition may not be as entertaining as a Lego movie or video game, it definitely fascinates and inspires everybody, no matter what your age or where you come from. 

kudaka.shoji@stripes.com

PIECE OF PEACE - WORLD HERITAGE EXHIBIT BUILT WITH LEGO

Date: Through April 10
Open: 9:30 a.m. –  5:00 p.m. (7 p.m. on Fridays, Closed on Mondays except Mar. 21)
Location: Urasoe Art Museum (1-9-2 Nakama, Urasoe city, Okinawa, Japan 901-2103)
Admission fee: 800 yen for adults (High school students and above), 600 yen for children (4 years old to middle school students), Children 3 years old and under are free
Website: http://www.pofp.jp/ (Japanese)
For more information, call 098-879-3219