15 September 2022

Turner block covered in Lego bricks proves colourful tourist attraction

| James Coleman
Join the conversation
Man on Lego steps

Charlie Bigg-Wither standing on his handiwork, a staircase with a frame encased by LEGO (most of it made while his wife was away). Photo: James Coleman.

After an absence of three years, the block-buster is back.

The Green Shed will be emptying their storehouses of plastic bricks at Albert Hall for the Giant Charity Lego Sale on 30 November.

Everyone from die-hard collectors to parents and grandparents looking for Christmas presents on the cheap are invited to come along and fill plastic bags with Lego pieces for $30 per kilogram.

The money will go towards the work of Roundabout Canberra, a not-for-profit organisation providing safe and clean baby and children’s items to local families in need.

READ ALSO The surprising reason this iconic Canberra ‘suburb’ has a Maori name

The Green Shed co-owner Charlie Bigg-Wither says there’s already more than two tonnes of Lego ready to go.

“We get the hardcore collectors who queue up for three to four hours before it opens to the parents and grandparents bringing their kids in,” he says.

“Everybody loves Lego.”

Maybe not quite as much as Charlie, though.

The first charity sale was held in 2018 but can be traced back to a house in Turner, owned by him and his wife, Sandie Parkes. On pulling up the driveway, it’s easy to see why passers-by often pause to gawk here. And why it’s known around Canberra as ‘The Lego House’.

Lego mini-figures hang from the trees. Several bricks in the mailbox and driveway have been replaced with bricks made of solid Lego. A tower a couple of metres tall, all Lego, rises next to the porch. And through the window, the reflections part to reveal a staircase coated with … well, you know.

“I’ve been collecting Lego my whole life, but it got to the point at my place I couldn’t actually move around, so it was time to get rid of it for a good cause,” Charlie says.

“Nowadays, I have about a tonne of loose Lego on top of box sets.”

READ ALSO Inside Scrivener Dam: touring the tunnels in Canberra’s engineering landmark (mind your head)

His parents couldn’t afford to buy Lego for him as a child, so this passion started as an adult. And before you ask, his wife, Sandie, “tolerates it”.

The couple met at the tip here in Canberra and worked together for about 10 years, with Sandie as manager.

“The company sort of lost its way for a bit, however, so I went off to join the public service,” Charlie says. “But a few years later, we saw the tip was going out for tender and we thought, ‘Yeah, let’s go for it’.”

The couple has been running The Green Shed since 2010, alongside founder Tiny Srejic until he left for Serbia four years ago. It now includes stores at the Mugga Lane Resource Management Centre, Mitchell Resource Management Centre, and Civic.

As for the Lego, that started – subtly enough – with one rail at the top of the staircase when his wife was away, visiting her family in England.

“And then every time she went away, it got a little bigger and bigger. And then I added LED lights so it can be lit at night.”

READ ALSO Step inside Canberra’s new one-room hotel

A lot of it was a family project too. Several years ago, Charlie built the wall and mailbox in the front yard, with Sandie and the children contributing bricks made of Lego. He admits they are a little dirty, faded and possibly spider-infested today, but still make the brickwork pop.

They also show just how resilient the humble Lego brick can be (for those who still needed convincing after accidentally stepping on one with bare feet). Then there are the creations in his red-brick driveway that have stood the test of time and trucks.

“It’s probably not so good for the environment, but Lego lasts forever. You can’t destroy it.”

It’s not just Lego, either.

The front yard features a genuine red telephone box from London. The old connections are still lying in a heap on the ground inside, while Sandie reckons it still has a nostalgic whiff about it. There is a sturdy cast-iron bell beside the driveway, and behind a carport crammed with Hondas in various degrees of health is an exercise bike constructed from bits and pieces Charlie has salvaged from The Green Shed, all held together by a custom steel frame.

There was even a double-decker London bus parked in the driveway for many years before Charlie realised he “didn’t really need it”. It was donated to a museum. A Tardis from the Doctor Who science-fiction series also used to sit in the front yard.

READ ALSO Meet the 80-year-old architect with a plan to pretty up Kingston Foreshore

But it’s a hobby that also doubles as a major tourist attraction.

“We constantly see people walk or drive past and stop to look. We’ve even had people walk in thinking our house is a cafe. But we’re fine with the attention – it’s a good community piece.”

The Giant Charity Lego Sale is on Wednesday, 30 November, at the Albert Hall from 6 pm to 10 pm. If you want to get rid of any Lego, hand it into any of The Green Shed venues before then.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.