Repairing Damage with "the World's Greatest Toy"

Legos 1

You want to know about a good way to make $12? Just grab a big box of Legos, drive downtown, find a hole in the wall of some dilapidated building, and sit down for three hours to repair the damage with the world’s greatest toy.

At least, that’s what I tried. I wanted to do a project, and apparently in attempting it, I unwittingly entered the same street performance world of that guy who is constantly drumming the exact same rhythm two blocks south of Monument Circle. While I went about my work, some kindhearted woman took pity on this poor college student, left with nothing but his Lego reconstruction, and dropped some cash in my box.

It was a confusing mixture of pride and insult that I felt.

Legos 2

I don’t think I looked that destitute, but the money bought even more legos, so I couldn’t really complain, and I was glad that passerby so appreciated the spectacle. But that first attempt was only a prototype for a larger project which, incidentally, was completed just in time for the August First Friday at the Harrison Center.

The idea of the project was to capitalize on the unfortunate reality of entropy. In any city, there are cracks in the sidewalk, mortar fallen out of place, and bricks missing mysteriously from their proper home. But at the Harrison Center, we see those marks as an opportunity, rather than an architectural scar. Instead of simply living with the reality that things fall apart, we decided that it would be so much better to leave that spot even better than it was before it was broken. Cue Legos.

We looked around our building at 1505 N Delaware and decided that, even here, there were some spots that could use a facelift. With the prototype work in mind, we took stock of the needed materials and set about our preparations to finish the project before First Friday. The final list of required ingredients included 10,000 Legos, several large Datsa Pizzas, and a bunch of 10-year-olds.

Legos 3

That’s right, with a project as large as this, I couldn’t do it myself, so we enlisted the help of a horde of neighborhood boys who were eager to help out. Well, really it was only six, but as soon as the Legos were thrown in the mix, all semblance of order and reason was abandoned making it feel like so many more. Homegrown, Indy anarchy.

And it was some of the most fun I’ve had all summer. The boys soldiered on like warrior-poets in the heat of the day, keeping pace with me, someone more than twice their age and height, to fill every possible pothole and crack in our parking lot. They sang songs, discussed the finer points of “wet willy” etiquette, and laid plastic brick after plastic brick.

Thanks to the hard work of Danny, Leo, Sam, Nate, Eli, and Luke, there are now Lego fixes for more than a dozen potholes that mother nature had ripped into our parking lot, and several other holes in a brick wall which was adjacent to our work site. After hours of work in the hot sun, we had a whole series of patchwork repairs—all carefully and diligently prepared by hand. Upon completion, the repairs were pulled from their rightful home and put on display inside the City Gallery to best showcase the work that went into them.

The pothole pieces were actually a temporary installation we are memorializing and preserving online, since toys don’t hold up very well when large cars drive over them, but the repairs to the wall can still be seen in their original home 15 feet above the ground. And we took plenty of pictures to capture the work as it was meant to be seen—as a  summer spectacle you don’t want to miss.

Looking back, I think this project was a celebration of something that I’ve loved and written about Indy multiple times already. Since moving here, I’ve appreciated this community’s willingness to make or do something just to see if it’s possible. Building because it can, and getting the next generation of movers and shakers to join in to top it with something even more interesting.

As I’ve experienced, there’s always a set of helping hands ready to throw in and make it happen too. And sometimes, 10-year-old hands are the most capable. So thank you boys, and thank you Indy, for being willing to take part in a spectacle with me. It was a ball, and I couldn’t have done it without you.

Let’s play with Legos again sometime soon.