North Park resident Ben Smith is no Lego master builder. Instead, his — hobby? passion? obsession? — began as a way to visit places he missed going to during the pandemic.
Since then, the native of Brisbane, Australia, has created dozens of North Park “builds” — so many, in fact, he’s set to hold an exhibition soon to raise money for Feeding San Diego and Youth FarmWorks.
So, how bad has it gotten for Ben? Well, he’s got bins on top of bins — dozens? hundreds? — full of the little plastic bricks. Pressed, he speculates he’s spent between $10,000 and $20,000 on Legos, “but not six figures,” he adds with a laugh.
The bearded mathematician slash data analyst played with Legos as a child and got back into it when his kids, Peach and Auggie, came of age. Yes, they have Legos, but theirs are kept in separate bins.
To date, Smith has re-built many of San Diego’s iconic structures, including St. Patric’'s Catholic Church, the Casbah, Live Wire, Fall Brewing, Soda Bar -- even the North Park neighborhood sign. For those keeping score, his Instagram page is @northparklego, but not ALL of the buildings are in North Park.
“That’s OK,” Smith said. “I’m not saying it’s IN North Park. I’m just saying I BUILT it in North Park.”
Smith’s first faithfully reproduced replica was of his own North Park home, but, completing that, he moved on to reproducing spots he was preventing from visiting due to the coronavirus. His next build? Tribute Pizza, a location he built a second replica of for its owners, who in turn invited him to hold a fundraiser exhibition last December.
However, the pandemic giveth, and the pandemic taketh away. When the time came for the big reveal, Smith came down with the coronavirus.
Fast-forward to March 14-15, though, when a rescheduled exhibition at Tribute Pizza is planned and all of his models will be on display. Tickets are $10 and there will be a silent auction as well, with the venues he’s replicated in bricks donating experiences, whether that’s a pizza-making class at Tribute or The Friendly bringing a Burger Party at your house. And, for one lucky bidder, Ben will even build a model of your choosing.
It might just be the only time you can get Smith to put one together for you. He takes on the odd commission, but, since the projects take weeks to complete, he only reproduces local venues he has an interest in.
- Tribute Pizza
- 3077 North Park Way
- San Diego
- March 14-15
- Admission is $10
So what does Smith plan on building in the future? Plenty. He said he has more ideas than he knows what to do with.