In the minds of members of the Central Ohio Lego Train Club, Columbus is a city where a stroll through Downtown reveals a jousting match or a roving pack of monkeys.
A drive along a thoroughfare might turn up a team of astronauts on a horse and buggy; or a look skyward to the top of the Riffe Center, a peek at Batman watching vigilantly over the metropolis.
The ideas come together in the amazingly elaborate Columbus: Real and Imagined, consisting of more than 150,000 Lego bricks.
The installation is making a return appearance at the Columbus Museum of Art in “Think Outside the Brick,” the institution’s third annual showcase of Lego-created artwork.
The 2014 offering centers on the miniature cityscape as well as the work of the 17 finalists (12 teams and five individuals) in the museum’s Lego Design Challenge.
A reliably popular holiday attraction for families, the playful exhibit highlights the potential for creative expression beyond the traditional tools of art-making and encourages visitors to explore it through interactive workstations.
The witty vision of the city in Real and Imagined also includes unusual attractions such as a fortresslike medieval-themed restaurant; a castle with royalty and a treasure-hoarding dragon; an octopus residing in the Scioto River; and city-based farmlands in which corn grows and cows are abducted by alien ships using fishing-wire- activated tractor beams.
For the 2014 Design Challenge, Lego buffs from central Ohio and beyond were directed to create unusual responses to the question “What building, structure or mode of transportation does a new Columbus need?”
The finalists delivered answers ranging from a self-sustaining shelter (to protect the city and its cattle from future alien attacks) to a Buckeye-themed adult play center.
The former, Treehouse Defense Shelter by Emmett and Adeline Foley, covers everything from transportation to food supplies in about a square foot.
Ricky, Kathy, Coco and Jeff Gonzalez — the team that won the 2013 contest — return with the latter, Buckeye Towers, which depicts a monorail, bungee jumping and a telescopic view of the sky.
Some teams offer a clever vision of the city’s future with expanded green space or rainwater collection; others look backward — specifically, to the February release of The Lego Movie and the double-decker couch created by its main character.
Double Decker Cityscape by Nick Armstrong and Christian Moore might lose points for originality, but they score with the multilevel design of a city block capped by a building that mimics the shape of a Buckeyes fan using hands and the body to form a block “O.”
Four grand-prize winners — chosen through a vote by exhibit visitors — will be announced on Jan. 1, with each winning a $200 Amazon. com gift card.