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Brick by brick

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BUILDING HISTORY: Luke Anspach created the Brickwork Project to help educate people on Marion’s history and help transform their perspective of the city.
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CLASSIC COKE: Even small details like the bottles of soda are taken into consideration when creating these sculptures.

BY Samantha Oyler - soyler@chronicle-tribune.com

When Luke Anspach was an undergraduate student at Indiana Wesleyan University, he didn’t spend much time in Marion or in its community. It wasn’t until he was encouraged to walk through the city like a tourist that he got interested in its history.

After researching and exploring Marion through brand new eyes, Anspach created the Brickworks Project, where he creates replicas of significant buildings in Marion using LEGOs.

“I started walking around looking for patterns and themes. … I believe our architecture is the treasure of Marion,” Anspach said.

He first noticed several unique homes on Washington Street and, as he continued looking, he saw beauty in not only the houses Marion is most proud of, but also those that might have been forgotten.

Anspach said most people tend to come across a building in disrepair and think “it’s a shame, someone should take care of that.” Anspach thinks the conversation should go beyond that.

“Vacancy reminds me of opportunity. Decay reminds me of history,” he said.

Anspach started viewing buildings for their character, almost as if they were human.

Through his research into “play theory,” Anspach came to the conclusion that infusing play into everyday activities can outweigh pain or negativity associated with it, which led him to the idea of using LEGOs to educate citizens on Marion’s history.

By incorporating a well-known toy into how people view historic buildings, Anspach believes he can reshape the community’s perspective.

Some of his current pieces include the Spencer Hotel, which was remodeled to be apart of the Grant County Jail, the County Courthouse, the old Coca-Cola plant and the PCC & STL Train Depot.

Anspach tries to focus on buildings that have a historical significance and inspire preservation, like buildings designed by Samuel Plato or Frank Lloyd Wright, or buildings that aren’t as well known.

Finding buildings to replicate is only a portion of the work though.

Anspach said he uses a 3D modeling program specifically designed for LEGOs. He also does sketches, takes photographs and researches how other designers use the plastic bricks.

With the help of friends, volunteers and teaching assistants, Anspach tackles these pieces in a few sittings. He said one sculpture took three people and 15 hours of work.

Ideally, Anspach would like the Brickworks Project to be a nonprofit organization dedicated to sharing history and encouraging community engagement, but that will all depend on how well it is received.

For now, Anspach is trying to finish up the sculptures he’s already planned and designed.

He hopes to have do-it-yourself kits available this summer for anyone who wants their own little piece of Marion’s history.