When school starts next week, kids returning from break will probably get asked by classmates and teachers alike, “How did you spend your summer vacation?”
Beckett Mundell-Wood, who will be entering eighth grade at the William S. Cohen School in Bangor, spent it building the Bangor Opera House. An incredibly accurate scale model, that is.
Made out of Lego bricks, in nearly the exact color and dimensions of the actual Opera House — right down to the Art Deco flourishes and solid wooden doors of the historical building, built in 1920.
Like most Lego masters, Mundell-Wood got his start making kits and was particularly drawn to the Architecture series, which gives the builder plans to make scale Lego models of famous places such as the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.
He’d tinkered with a few smaller projects of his own design, but last summer — after his summer session at Windover Arts Camp was canceled — his mother, Clare Mundell, encouraged him find something else to do with his time.
“My mom didn’t want me watching TV all summer,” he said. “I decided that my school would be cool with my Legos.”
Last summer, he tackled the outer facade of the Cohen school, with help from plans given to him by Bangor’s city planning office. That project took him several days, and the resulting model — 2 feet in length, utilizing thousands of bricks — so impressed the staff at Cohen that they put it on display at the school.
This summer, Mundell-Wood decided to take it up a notch, with a project featuring another Bangor landmark that was a little smaller in size, but much more complicated in construction: the front portion of the Bangor Opera House, home of the Penobscot Theatre Company.
“The Cohen school is a bunch of doors and windows, but with the Opera House there are a bunch of details on the front, and there are pillars that jut out, and I had to get special bricks for it and do lots of little adjustments,” he said.
Mundell-Wood starts the process by taking photos of the building and measuring various elements of it.
“We go there and take a bunch of pictures, and then I do some math with proportions to figure out how big the structure is,” Mundell-Wood said.
From there, he uses a program to draft what’s essentially a blueprint with which to start putting bricks together.
“When I’m designing it, I use an online program called Lego Digital Designer, and that allows me to design it without actually having to have all the parts already,” he said. “And then we order all the bricks from Lego.”
The Bangor Opera House construction process took about 12 hours over the course of three days and used 4,187 Lego bricks, resulting in a building that’s at 1:38 scale. Staff at the Penobscot Theatre Company are currently looking for a place to display the model for the coming season.
“I don’t think they quite realized what a serious piece of Lego art this thing is,” Clare Mundell said. “We showed them the photo and they were pretty impressed.”
“I just like how it lets me let my imagination go wild and create whatever I want without having to use a bunch of, like, power tools or whatever,” said Mundell-Wood, who is already thinking about pursuing architecture or civil engineering as a career. “I can just pick it up and start working anytime.”
He’s also already thinking about next summer’s project.
“Next year I’m planning to do Bangor City Hall,” he said.
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