Linda, Queen's Square | March 1, 2018
Have you seen Art Stokman’s amazing 4.32m (14ft 2in) model of the Eiffel Tower at Idea Exchange Queen’s Square? That’s really tall! To get the idea, picture two seven foot tall basketball players, one standing on top of the other one’s head. It’s made from Meccano parts and is definitely worth a visit, even if you’re not an aspiring builder, engineer, architect or STEM aficionado. You can see it profiled against a tall window as you enter the library and look towards the Main Street bridge.
Before there was Lego, there was Meccano. Invented in 1898, Meccano’s heyday was 1930-1960, but the sets are still popular today. Meccano’s model construction system of metal strips, girders, axles, and gears, connected by bolts, nuts and screws, provided hours of imaginative tinkering time for many children, including Art Stokman.
Art was one of a family of nine children who grew up on a local dairy farm, where the toy served as a motivation for him to go into engineering. When he turned 50, he returned to the toy as a hobby, and began collecting older pieces of Meccano, the older nickel-plated parts that dated from 1908-1926. Stokman found his Meccano pieces at garage sales, antique shops, and eBay, but his best and largest find was a very old collection in Hamilton, following a “Meccano wanted” ad. Inspired by the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Stokman modelled it on a scale of 1:75, so 1 m on the model represents 75m in real life. The full size tower in Paris is 324m high.
Stokman’s unique masterpiece, remarkable for its accuracy, has been exhibited at the Cambridge City Hall and at the University of Waterloo. It is on display at Idea Exchange Queen’s Square until the end of April, where all are welcome to view it. Who knows what other constructions or models it may encourage? As Mr. Stokman says, “Meccano gets kids to step away from the computer and build with their hands. By using their imaginations, they can construct anything.”