Pint-sized architects can recreate historically significant Long Island buildings -- out of Legos -- at a family-friendly event this weekend.
Some 60,000 Legos will be available for Saturday's second annual Building Blocks Workshops for Families at Stony Brook Village Center. The two-hour event, hosted by the Ward Melville Heritage Organization's Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook Village, allows children and adults to work in small teams to reconstruct real architecturally and historically significant Long Island buildings. Then, they put the Lego buildings onto a massive, scaled paper treasure map so they can see how the buildings would look set out in a real Long Island community. They can't take the Legos home with them, but they can take pictures of their building next to all the other buildings.
Architect in charge Stephen Schwartz, past president of the American Institute of Architects and a New Jersey resident, says he first came up with the idea of the project years ago with the help of his daughter, an elementary schoolteacher. "My daughter asked me to come to her classroom -- she was teaching second grade," he says. "She wanted to teach the kids something about city planning. I had one group build city hall and the post office, and another group built residential buildings. We arranged them into zones. We built them all out of Legos and laid them out."
The idea blossomed into a project that's taken off in New Jersey and now on Long Island.
Schwartz says he chose each of the 50 Long Island buildings carefully, with one building for each group participating.
"The whole idea of the program is to make people aware of the architectural heritage of the community," he says. "We look for buildings that are architecturally significant, or that are significant in Long Island. Also, if I think that a building would make a great Lego building, I pick it for that reason. Many times, churches have that type of quality."
The Ward Melville Heritage Organization owns many of the properties, some of which date to the 1700s, says Marie Gilberti, spokeswoman for the group.
Buildings this year include Sts. Philip and James Church, St. James Episcopal Church, the Museum of American Art, History and Carriages, Old Field Point Lighthouse, and the Old Field Bethel AME Church, all in Stony Brook, as well as the Thompson House in Setauket and the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, Infant Jesus Roman Catholic Church and Christ Church, all in Port Jefferson.
The first 50 families or small groups with up to five people to sign up at stonybrookvillage.com get to do the Lego project. Each group gets a photograph of the building that their project is based on, and then they get to work. Schwartz will be on hand Saturday to help participants figure out how to create the Lego buildings to scale and look more realistic.
There isn't a competitive element -- it's all for fun -- but there is a time element. There are only two hours to get the buildings built. While 71-year-old Schwartz admits that he never played with Legos as a child, he's had a lot of practice making Lego buildings and says he loves to share his newfound Lego architecture knowledge.
"Some people who are building a building, say, 'I pass this every day and I never notice this or that,' " Schwartz says. "That's what happens when you do this. That's what this is all about."
WHEN | WHERE 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 26 at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook, at the Stony Brook Village Center
stonybrookvillage.com; register early (last year, it sold out; 631-751-2244, wmho.org