Scratchbuilding landmarks: Local man creates replicas of historical sites

An iconic historic building for the local arts scene has been miniaturized.

Bruce McDonald, a retired deputy minister for municipal affairs, decided to combine his passion for creativity and history by creating miniatures of city landmarks, with his latest work being the Starlite Room.

McDonald says he was inspired to create miniatures after reading an article in a magazine while on a flight three years ago.

“I kind of came across it pretty much accidentally,” he told CTV News Edmonton in an interview. “(I) read an article about a New York miniaturist that builds street scenes and things like that.

“I wrote him and asked him, What do you use for materials and how do you do this? And I just became fascinated with it.”

He started by creating a 1:24 scale version of a corner store. His love for detail has fuelled another 30 miniatures, including seven of the Starlite Room.

“I’ve had musicians that have played there and want me to build it,” McDonald said. “I’ve had one individual who met his wife and actually got married in that building.

“I enjoy doing it,” he added. “To me, it’s like asking someone how many hours do you spend golfing or gardening, and it’s a lot.”

McDonald uses the scratchbuild method, meaning he handcrafts every item instead of buying miniature props or accents.

“To me, part of the challenge is to figure out how do I make that lamp or what is that made of and how do I figure out the length of a ladder or stairs (to make them to scale).

“So a lot of it is just trying to be analytical and trying to figure things out,” McDonald added.

Tyson Boyd, Starlite Room owner and operator, received a miniature of his building as a keepsake and was surprised by the level of detail captured by McDonald.

“I was blown away, to be honest,” Boyd said. “The detail of the sidewalk even and the asphalt patch and a few things like that are the ones that really strike me.

“Just because you really have to have a keen eye to catch some of those little nuances,” he added.

For Boyd, receiving the replica now hits harder than before, as the pandemic impacts the legendary music venue.

“I think we really needed that at this point of the pandemic where it was just kind of nostalgia,” he said.

“Having a miniature of the venue itself in your own possession just really shows me how important the room and the building is to a lot of people, and it’s really something pretty special.”

McDonald says he’s already started his next project with his niece, who plans to study architecture. The pair are recreating the old Hub News stand on Whyte Avenue.

“I really wanted to capture something on Whyte Avenue, and it’s something that burned down,” he said. “It’s something that burned down, so I kind of pay attention to our historical buildings here in Edmonton.”

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