Lego builders show off their skills at Bricks by the Bay (photos)

Grown-up Lego fans in Northern California come out of their basements and workshops to show off their building skills.

James Martin
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Adult fans of Lego, known as AFOL

This weekend, hundreds of Lego building enthusiasts are gathering for a celebration of Lego as an artistic medium at Bricks by the Bay.

Adult fans of Lego, known as AFOL, in Northern California are gathering for the second year at Bricks by the Bay, where they exchange ideas, challenge each other to building contests, and build with one of the most creative toys ever made.

The event is open to the public this Sunday, March 27, at the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara at 5101 Great America Parkway in Santa Clara, Calif.
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Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back chess set

Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back chess set by Brandon Griffith is the second in a series of chess sets Griffith is building to celebrate the "Star Wars" trilogy.

One side represents the rebels, led by Yoda, with the Empire opposite, led by Darth Vader. AT-ATs are the Rooks.
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Bill Ward's Pink Fractal Tree

Bill Ward's Pink Fractal Tree is an extremely fragile design built with hundreds of spiraling pink 1x2 sloped bricks.
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Erik Wilson from Pleasant Hill

Erik Wilson from Pleasant Hill, Calif., puts the finishing touches on his impressive model of Rome's Coliseum.
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NASA Mobile Launch Platform and Crawler

NASA Mobile Launch Platform and Crawler by Carlyle Livingston II, depicts the vehicle which carries the Space Shuttle from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the Launch Pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
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Some vendors at the show are selling complete, unopened vintage sets.

One big-rig truck model that I had years ago was selling for $725 unopened.
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Golden Gate Bridge by Johannes von Galen

Golden Gate Bridge by Johannes von Galen at a scale of about 1:1,600.
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The Ballerina Jewelry Box

The Ballerina Jewelry Box, made by Laurene Johnson, is made with 1x2 pink slopes and features a motorized spinning ballerina and jewelry built of Lego.

Johnson says she got interested in building with Lego after her two boys got into it.

Eventually, Johnson says, she wanted to find ways to bring more girls into Lego building, and she started exploring more girl friendly designs. That led to Johnson teaching summer building classes for girls.
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A very detailed Lego bunny

An original design, a very detailed Lego bunny that resembles a carved stone sculpture.
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Yamato Battleship

The 1":9' Lego model of the largest battleship built during World War II, the Yamato Battleship, was built by Marcello De Ciccero and is 8 feet long.
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Blaster and lightsaber, weapons from 'Star Wars,' by Carl Merriam

Detailed Lego versions of a blaster and lightsaber, weapons from "Star Wars," by Carl Merriam.
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The Witches of Get

The Witches of Get were the first to befriend Dragons and initiated a Dragon Riders Order, says builder Arthur Hill, resulting in the Dragon Riders Goddess Temple situated near a dragon lair in the remote Zom River Valley at the edge of civilization.
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Organized by Lego type

Different regions of the ballroom at Bricks by the Bay have been organized to represent different Lego themes.

There is a space and sci-fi area, tables for art and sculpture, and areas for fantasy and towns.

Those attending the Lego conference are each allowed a plot of standard building plates, and the pieces are assembled by attendees to create massive Lego cities.

Here, in the historic area, an Old West train rolls into the station.
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Working on the rest of their city plates Friday afternoon, builders combine their work into a massive Lego city, with three towering sky scrapers already built more than 20 stories tall.
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Specialized pieces or rare items

Many builders coming to the conference are looking for specialized pieces or rare items.

As builders trade, they keep an eye out for classics. These "Star Wars" characters are selling for $15 to $20 apiece.
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Santa's workshop

Elves work on next year's toys in Carl Merriam's Santa's Workshop scene.
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Checking out custom figurines

On Friday afternoon, a builder checks out custom figurines. While many vendors are selling traditional pieces, some are selling custom figures, including historic war figures, Victorian era characters, and creative space figures. Some vendors even offer to put your own face onto a Lego character.
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Building the city

At a Lego builders conference, the set up is part of the fun. Builders work together to combine their creative Lego work into massive creations of cities and spacescapes.
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1973 Chevy Mud Racer built by Tim Inman

A 1973 Chevy Mud Racer built by Tim Inman.
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A city block

Up close on a typical Lego city block, built by one of the show's organizers, Loren Merrell.
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Butch Patterson

Butch Patterson works on his City Park, adjacent to Legoland's City Zoo, just beyond downtown's towering skyscrapers.

After the hard-core builders have their fun Friday and Saturday--with games, contests, and an educational session--the public is invited to come explore the creations on Sunday.

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