If you got the opportunity to visit the Great Exhibition of the North you might have seen Steve Mayes' brilliant exhibition at the Mining Institute.
We caught up with him about the craft of making LEGO buildings and how he sees the city as a result of his unusual job.
How did you become a full time LEGO builder?
I got back into LEGO about 6 years ago when I decided to build a model of our house. I was an architectural photographer at the time so it really appealed as another way of representing the built environment. I figured it would be a quirky sideline to compliment the photography, and never expected it to take over! After a couple of years of being photographer first, LEGO modeller second, the balance started to shift, and for the last couple of years it’s been all LEGO!
How does LEGO building compare to your other hobbies such as photography?
Does it make you think about the built environment in a different way? (Photography was my job for 12 or so years, rather than a hobby). My entry into architectural photography and LEGO modelling were similar. I never 'studied' either - just started doing it because of a passion for it. In both cases it went very quickly from being a hobby to being a job. I don't seem to be able to just do something without trying to make it my job! I think the self-employed life suits me, and doing something creative is very important to me.
What have been your favourite structures to build? Are there any that you’d really like to do?
So hard to choose. Every build presents its own challenges. My house model will always mean a lot to me. I'm particularly proud of the Civic Centre model, and the Metro train was fantastic to build. St James' Park is right up there too. As for what I'd like to do, the list is endless! I've always wanted to have a real stab at the Sage Gateshead. I'd also like to do a whole area of a city, like a new quarter (e.g. Stephenson Quarter in Newcastle), where you could show what the site will look like once complete. Really, any iconic structure appeals, especially those with a mixture of old and new architecture. Spanish City would be a great one to do.
Does building out of LEGO give you an interesting perspective on our towns and cities?
Yes - I see everything in terms of how I could recreate it in LEGO! It certainly gets me looking in detail at our environment, but then I did that as a photographer too, so that's not particularly new.
I see LEGO modelling as a genuinely useful tool, as well as a bit of fun. It’s great for getting the public interested in the subject matter - e.g. a new development that's planned. It's also useful for exploring ideas because it can be changed so easily, and people of all ages can understand how the model is put together.
Visit Steve's website www.brickthis.co.uk to see his creations and where he'll be exhibiting next.
How do you view your city? We'd love to hear interesting perspectives on the built environment for this series. To get involved, email info@theNBS.com