25 October 2023

Aspiring LEGO Master's collection got so big, his family moved house

| James Coleman
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Eric Wanigasekara and his LEGO collection. Photo: James Coleman.

It’s every kid’s dream.

Eric Wanigasekara’s LEGO collection started with one small fire truck gifted by a friend in 2016 when he was five. Within eight months, he was tackling larger, more complex sets rated for 19 years-plus. Then, the layouts began taking over the living room.

This was “dangerous”, according to his parents.

“You’d get up in the night and tread on a little piece,” his father, Nalin Wanigasekara, says.

The family agreed to move to a house further up the street in Bonner, where Eric could have an upper-storey room entirely dedicated to LEGO. Nalin is a biomedical engineer and also moved from his job at the Gosford Hospital to ACT Health to be closer to his son’s passion and assist him with transport to and from LEGO exhibitions.

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That’s some serious commitment.

But not only was Eric making inroads with LEGO Australia – having been invited to visit their Sydney headquarters twice now – he was also scoring trophies and meeting stars from Channel Nine’s LEGO Masters series at exhibitions across Sydney, Newcastle and here in Canberra.

There are educational benefits, too.

“He already understands how the Pythagoras theorem works,” Nalin says.

“And he does market research, finding the best price for special LEGO pieces around the world.”

Eric, now 12, attends Brindabella Christian College in Lyneham, where he’s met equal encouragement from both staff and students. Principal Keturah Jones has even booked tickets to see Eric’s work displayed at the Canberra Brick Show this weekend.

His two layouts, each with thousands of pieces and hours of engineering behind them, will be among 250-plus exhibits from more than 125 builders across Australia at Thoroughbred Park from 28 to 29 October.

The event is held annually by the Canberra LEGO User Group (CLUG), and while collections this serious have usually been the preserve of adults, president Jake Radloff is keen to make the club more family-friendly. Promising kids like Eric are encouraged to come along, too.

“I don’t go for the LEGO sets,” Eric explains.

“I mainly go for the pieces because with the pieces I can kind of construct and make my own designs.”

One of the two sprawling layouts, dubbed the ‘City of Eric’, traces its origins back to the Canberra Brick Expo in 2017.

“Every time since then, I’ve added more details and Easter eggs; for 2023, it’s expanded to three large scenes on three large base plates.”

His other layout is inspired by the world of Jurassic Park and includes a volcano (complete with a built-in smoke machine) that has wowed even the most diehard LEGO engineers.

“The whole layout took me around three to four months to make,” Eric says.

“The mountain was definitely the hardest part – it took me around one and a half months to configure and construct fully.”

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Apart from the enjoyment and the challenge, Eric is doing it for the “important skills” too, whether it be expanding his creativity and improving hand-eye coordination to the engineering that could go on to aid him in a future career designing structures or machinery.

“Many skills can be developed through LEGO, and that’s what I like best about it.”

For now, he dreams of making it onto LEGO Masters if they ever hold a junior competition.

“That would be very enjoyable.”

Now, that’s organisation. Photo: James Coleman.

It’s not a cheap hobby. But in Canberra, it doesn’t have to be expensive either.

Every year, tonnes of unwanted LEGO finds its way into The Green Shed at the Mugga Lane tip. This is compiled, sorted and poured out for the community to rifle through at the Giant Charity LEGO Sale.

The next is coming up on Saturday, 9 December, hosted at the Albert Hall from 1 pm to 7 pm.

LEGO pieces will be available for purchase at $30 a kilogram, in addition to 400 vintage, rare and new LEGO sets. This year, there’ll also be market stalls and a build-your-own-minifigure area. Funds go towards the work of Roundabout Canberra.

The Canberra Brick Show 2023 will be held from 9 am to 5 pm on Saturday, 28 October, and from 9 am to 4:30 pm on Sunday, 29 October, at Thoroughbred Park, 1 Randwick Road, Lyneham ACT. Purchase tickets online ($12 per person; entry’s free if you’re under three).

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