Design alumnus Dale Harris builds Bendigo landmarks in Lego

We’re used to acronyms at La Trobe, consider LTU, SHE, ASSC, etc, etc, however AFOL is a new one. That stands for Adult Fans of Lego.

Alumnus Dale Harris laughs his AFOL status was a secret, but thanks to his phenomenal models of Bendigo icons, the word is out.

The Bendigo designer has been re-interpreting the city’s landmarks in Lego. His work is now on show in the Living Arts Space as part of the group exhibition, Wonderland. There’s the Old Fire Station in View Street, the Alexandra Fountain and the Shamrock Hotel. The latter took Dale eight months and around 15,000 bricks to build.

“You’ve got to wait for the bricks to arrive a bit at a time and they come from all over the world,” he says on the logistics of sourcing Lego to match the heritage colours and details. Not to mention the inside of the buildings.

Dale approached the design by taking lots of photographs and working with a Lego digital designer to get started. “The good thing about this building is it’s really repetitive,” he says, modestly.

On the other side of the Shamrock façade is a different story. Here Dale has recreated life within; a Lego man wheels a barrel of Bendigo Brooke’s beer into the bar. A hotel guest washes up in a bathroom. The owner of bob boutique sells deer and bunnies from the local gift shop and gallery below.

There are tiny beer glasses hanging above the bar, food being cooked in the kitchen, and diners enjoying the view of the city from the window seats. The window panes even feature the Shamrock logo Dale designed, just as they do in real life.

“There’s an amazing website called Brick Link, which is a marketplace for second hand Lego,” Dale says. “I spend far too much time there – and money.

“I wouldn’t have a clue,” he adds when asked how much the raw materials cost him. “I wouldn’t want to know to be honest. This is my hobby. It’s what I do to relax at the end of the day.”

Dale is co-director of Studio Ink, one of Bendigo’s most successful marketing and design companies. He started the business with fellow Graphic Design alumni Leah Hartley in 2008, having honed his skills in multimedia, web development and design since high school.

“After high school I got a multimedia traineeship with Bendigo Senior Secondary College,” Dale says. “They gave me a day and a half each week to go to La Trobe and do my degree while I was working. It was awesome.”

Dale and Leah later worked at the same marketing company in Bendigo before launching their own business. Today their local clients include Bendigo Bank, Bendigo Health, North Central Catchment Management Authority and Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, plus a host of national and international names.

“I still pinch myself that I’m self-employed in this industry and have been for over a decade,” Dale says. “It’s all because of the clients we have. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”

Creativity runs deep in work and play for Dale. Look closely inside his Shamrock and you’ll see the walls feature mini prints of his own artwork of yet more Bendigo buildings. “I’ve illustrated these buildings before. We’re spoilt for choice in Bendigo with all this beautiful architecture,” he says.

Dale’s Shamrock is a contender for the international 2019 ArchBrick Build of the Year. See why at the Bendigo Visitor Information Centre’s Living Arts Space, where it will be on show until February 29.

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