Block Parties

Be a kid again with two awesome Lego exhibits that open this month.

A bucket of Legos is cool, but a room brimming with the plastic building blocks makes everything really awesome.

Enter the ultimate Lego playland beginning May 24 when Lego Travel Adventure opens at the Great Lakes Science Center and Nature Connects: A Lego Brick Experience kicks off at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. Whether it's the humble homes you built as a child or the elaborate Star Wars ship made with your kid, there's something about those tiny bricks that spur imagination. "I don't think we outgrow Lego," says Dante Centuori, director of creative productions at the Great Lakes Science Center. "You use it differently."

Featuring life-size sculptures, the exhibits look like scenes from The Lego Movie. To give you a head start, we asked both places to craft a vehicle.

Great Lakes Science Center // The exhibit: Playful works influenced by travel, including Henry Ford's Model T, a Lego travel computer game and seven to 10 Lego landmarks and mosaics by Arthur Gugick, a Beachwood High School math teacher The vehicle: Space capsule The environment: Space The designer: Gugick

 1  Shape Shifter: "We wanted something aerodynamic," says Centuori. "That's why it's a cone. You want a little bit of lift." It took Gugick, a Lego artist who will be demonstrating how to build this capsule during specialized workshops, 10 hours of math to calculate how to make flat Legos appear curved.

 2  Dock Hand: The docking mechanism at the top of the model harkens back to the Apollo missions in which astronauts hooked capsules to the Apollo Lunar Module.

 3  Holy Grail: "There are holes all around for thrusters when they were making maneuvers in space," Centuori says. The two next to each other are for dumping water and urine.

Cleveland Botanical Garden // The exhibit: Nature-inspired fun. Certified Lego professional Sean Kenney used 500,000 bricks to create 14 plants and animals — with some weighing more than 500 pounds. The vehicle: Monkey suit The environment: Costa Rican rain forest The designer: Mark Bir, garden horticulturist

 1  High Flyer: "There are no roads in the Costa Rican rain forest, so you swing through the branches just like a monkey," says Bir.

 2  Climate Control: "It's very foggy in the rain forest so there are three fog lights and a windshield wiper," he says. The driver also wears a rain hat to shield him from the heavy rain, fog and mist he's likely to encounter.

 3  Fuel Up: "It's an ecologically low-impact machine," Bir says. "It gathers fruit as it goes with a fruit handler — it feeds fruit into the motor." It's similar to howler monkeys, which follow the abundant supply of ripening fruit through the rain forest.

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