- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 12, 2015

DECATUR, Ill. (AP) - Retired Decatur dermatologist Dr. Robert Carney Jr. has a love for castles that’s always been more than skin deep.

Ever since he was a boy, the 72-year-old’s self-prescribed path to happiness involves imagining what life was like in these medieval projections of power in stone

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery, he naturally progressed to re-creating them. That would no doubt have involved multiple abrasions and lower back pain if he was actually using blocks of stone in his basement castle workshop.

But, happily, he was introduced to LEGOs long ago when his children were young and soon discovered the plastic building blocks were the perfect prescription for building tabletop castles.

Drawing up detailed plans, he’s built 147 LEGO-scale versions of mostly European castles, and his fame is now snapped into the heart of LEGO castellated legend. So much so, that when “Cadw,” the Welsh government agency entrusted with the care of real Welsh castles, went looking for a cool promotional video, it knew the ideal muse would be the Decatur LEGO legend.

The result was a model of Rhuddlan Castle in North Wales that measures 7 by 5 feet and took Carney six weeks to build. The entire process was captured in more than 2,500 photographs, which were turned into a fascinating three-minute video, which, in stop motion form, shows the castle rising up from its plastic foundations.

You can watch it on YouTube (go to https://bit.ly/RhuddlanLego) and Cadw is using it in a campaign to promote tourism and encourage visitors to build their own castles out of LEGOs or even “cardboard or cake,” according to its website.

“The video created by Mr. Carney is a must watch, and I hope people are inspired to create their own replicas following visits to Welsh monuments over the spring,” said Ken Skates, the Welsh deputy minister for culture, sport and tourism.

“Encouraging people to get involved in heritage in new ways will ensure Wales’ fascinating stories are kept alive and passed on to future generations.”

Part of Wales’ fascinating culture is its impenetrable language. Cadw apparently means “to keep or to protect,” as in guardian of the past. Wales is also home to “Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch,” which is the actual name of a train station. Armed with their own tongue and a rather fierce and independent nature, the Welsh were constantly rebelling against the Norman overlords who had conquered England in 1066 and soon set their sights on neighboring Wales. Somewhat like the aircraft carriers of their day, in-your-face castles were the way the new conquerors sought to subject and rule the perpetually disgruntled Welsh.

Cadw has now bequeathed the ultimate honor on the castle doctor by handing him a paid commission (for the princely sum of 1,000 pounds or $1,488), and he is now busy building the massive projection of power called Caernarfon Castle in the north of the country.

It will also be the subject of a promotional video and the LEGO model will stretch more than 9 feet long and rise to a height of several feet. How many LEGO blocks it will hold is hard to say, but we’re talking tens of thousands and a build time of more than 10 weeks.

Carney says the buzz he gets from the transmutation of stone to plastic never gets old, no matter how long it takes.

“Oh, no, it’s always great fun, and every time it’s different,” Carney says. “The downside is I am not going to live long enough to build all the castles I want to build.”

When completed, the LEGO Caernarfon will be exhibited at the Brickworld show in Schaumburg on June 20 and 21. This is a gathering of LEGO eagles, a show where the best builders come to strut their interlocking prowess and win coveted awards as a salute to their skills.

Carney has been dragging along magnificent castles for years but wasn’t conquering the top prize while competing with fantasy stuff like a giant model of Bruce Wayne’s (aka Batman) Wayne Manor mansion, for example, complete with a three level Bat Cave. Carney’s wife of 49 years and trusted construction adviser, Judy Carney, diagnosed the problem:

“I knew what would win,” she said. “I knew it had to be outstanding.”

Her command to her LEGO knight errant was to go forth and build a massive scale version of the legendary Castle Neuschwanstein in Germany. Bedecked with pointed fairy tale towers, the original had been part of the inspiration for Walt Disney’s iconic Cinderella Castle. Although Neuschwanstein is technically a palace, not a castle, Carney (who once made a LEGO re-creation of the tomb of ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertari) decided to stretch his talents again and build a plastic paean to the joys of Deutschland fairytale architecture.

His LEGO version hit the bricks at the Brickworld 2014 show, and no fantasy creation could stand against the majesty of its captured reality: Carney took home the giant red plastic brick trophy for “Best Mega Creation,” the LEGO equivalent of an Oscar. The doctor said he had been ordered by his wife to produce something with the military qualities of “shock and awe,” and Judy Carney says hubby delivered his ordnance right on target.

“People were amazed,” she recalled. “They just couldn’t believe what he had created.”

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Source: (Decatur) Herald & Review, https://bit.ly/1FMZHzM

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Information from: Herald & Review, https://www.herald-review.com


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