One day last June, Richard Paules got a call from a friend at the Kennedy Center. The performing arts venue wanted a LEGO display for its 4th of July celebration and, knowing Paules’s affinity for the small, interlocking plastic bricks, the friend wondered if it was possible to create a miniature Kennedy Center.
“I said, ‘Absolutely,'” recalls Paules, who enthusiastically launched into creating the work. “In just a little over three weeks, I was able to build a 70,000-piece Kennedy Center.”
Paules donated his time and the Center footed the bill for the LEGOs, about $8,000 he reckons. “It’s a lot of money for plastic bricks,” he laughs. “But it’s amazing what something that’s just a giant box of colored bricks can turn it into.”
The final model, 8 feet long by 3 feet wide, is a striking creation, an exact replica to scale of the building, as well as its exciting new addition, The REACH. Everything is constructed from LEGO, from the 63 golden columns that envelope the grand main building to the greenery that flanks it.
“To do the willow trees that surround the Kennedy Center, I took flower stems and turned them upside down and locked them all together in sort of draping strings,” he says, pointing out that while LEGO has an abundance of sizes, colors, and shapes, ingenuity is the key to creating something of substance with them. “They’re really great for problem-solving and creativity,” he says. Paules even fabricated the interior of the hall of nations and hall of states, complete with its signature red “carpeting” and rows of flags.
The piece is presently in storage while the Kennedy Center has a lucite case built for it. While some of the structure is glued for stability, much of it is not, so it needs protection from small, curious hands.
Paules — whose LEGO creations are a passion and hobby — has created everything from a replica of the White House to an ornately detailed replica of Opera Garnier in Paris, and he is pleased with how the Kennedy Center turned out.
“When everything works out so perfectly, there’s an immense satisfaction,” he says, conceding that LEGO, by design, is not meant to last forever.
“It’s pretty unique among sort of art forms,” he says. “It’s never permanent. So you can just keep remaking something with the same pieces over and over and over again, endlessly. It’s amazing how something that takes so long to build, you can destroy and have an ‘Independence Day’ moment so quickly.”
Tearing down a structure is “a little sad, I guess, for a bit, but then, once everything’s broken apart, you start imagining again, ‘What can be built now?'”
The LEGO Kennedy Center will be on display again later this year. Sign up for our email alerts at MetroWeekly.com/join to stay informed.