The construction of the T’s North Shore Connector took four years, cost $523 million and stirred considerable controversy. It demolished Carnegie Science Center’s annex, which housed the original SportsWorks and traveling exhibitions such as Bodies ... The Exhibition and Titanic: The Artifact.
That was 2008. Almost 10 years later, the Science Center unveiled its new home for traveling exhibitions, the PPG Science Pavilion, and its first exhibition: The Art of the Brick.
“Pittsburgh is a city that needs to be able to host these great exhibits,” says Ron Baillie, co-director at the Science Center.
“They’re great for tourism. … People are driving from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia or to [Washington,] D.C., to see exhibits like this. Well, no longer.”
The Art of the Brick is an artistic work of one man: Nathan Sawaya.
A former lawyer, Sawaya quit his full-time gig to play with Legos. No, seriously. For the past 14 years, he has made art with this iconic construction toy, creating everything from a replication of the Mona Lisa to a 20-foot long Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton.
For the exhibition’s stop in Pittsburgh, which runs through January 9, 2019, Sawaya created a Lego sculpture honoring the city’s sister bridges. But it’s not an exact likeness of the Roberto Clemente, Andy Warhol and Rachel Carson bridges.
“What [Sawaya] did is he created [the sculpture] with a series of those big, iconic arches on those bridges,” Baillie says. “So, there’s a big one, then there’s one that’s a little smaller, then a little smaller and there’s seven or eight of them that sorta just keep going down. You can stand at the end and just look through them, and it’s really quite nice.”
The Science Center has also added a hands-on element to The Art of the Brick called Science of the Brick, which explores physical science. Timed racetracks with custom Lego cars explore aerodynamics, while skyscraper and bridge-building areas put to the test attendees’ engineering skills.
“One of the really intriguing activities with Legos is … how do you make a curve with a block that is all 90-degree angles?” Baillie says. “And of course, you see it in how [Sawaya] did it in the gallery, then you have a chance to try and do that yourself.”
If Sawaya’s love for Legos as an adult doesn’t make it apparent these bricks aren’t just for kids, a convergence of art and science makes The Art of the Brick a draw to people of all ages.
“This is something that’s gonna be of interest to the entire family,” Baillie says. “This is for Grandma and Grandpa, as well as your 5- and 6-year-olds.”
The Art of the Brick
Continues through Jan. 7 at Carnegie Science Center, 1 Allegheny Ave., North Shore.
$19.95 for adults, $15.95 for children and $17.95 for seniors. Carnegie Museum members receive discounted rates, and package deals for entry to both the Science Center and The Art of the Brick are available. carnegiesciencecenter.org