Canada 150: Sizing up our home from coast to coast

Click to play video: 'Sizing up Parliament Hill' Sizing up Parliament Hill
It’s the centrepiece of a giant project to recreate Canada in miniature. This time-lapse video shows a team of 3D printing specialists assembling a replica of Parliament Hill to mark Canada’s 150th Anniversary – Jun 28, 2017

To see Canada, to really see it, you’d have to take a train from coast to coast or at the very least do a lot of driving. And to do it right would take weeks.

Well, how about in an afternoon? That’s the goal of a Toronto attraction in the making.

Our Home and Miniature Land is the brainchild of Jean Louis Brenninkmeijer, a miniature enthusiast who was looking for something to fill his time seven years ago. And after a fateful visit to one of Germany’s top tourist attractions — Miniatur Wonderland in Hamburg — he vowed to shrink as much of Canada as he could.

“I wanted to share with what I’ve learned about Canada since I arrived in 1999,” he said. “It has to be in a way that’s exciting, enjoyable and meaningful.”

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As many as 25 people have been involved in the project since they started building pieces in 2012. Currently, 12 people are building the miniature Canadian landmarks.

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So far they have all of Toronto and the Golden Horseshoe completed.  Toronto buildings and landmarks included in the project are the Danforth Bridge with working subway rolling underneath, the Distillery District, the Air Canada Centre, Union Station as well as the CN Tower and Rogers Centre.

“Yeah, the Rogers Centre actually took a person a whole year to build,” chief engineer David MacLean said. “It’s 2,500 hours of work, so that was a big project, but if you compare it to the rest of what we’ve built around here now, it’s actually a very small component of the number of hours we’ve put into this.”

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Click to play video: 'Manitoba Museum gets huge for new display' Manitoba Museum gets huge for new display
Manitoba Museum gets huge for new display – May 23, 2017

Every model is 1/87 of its normal size, which is a fairly common ratio in miniatures.  That sizing worked for everything but the Rogers Centre — the roof also opens just like the original — and the CN tower.

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“It would just overwhelm the scene,” Maclean said.  “The CN Tower, we decided to make only five-metres tall. To make it to scale, we would have to punch a hole in the roof and go through the roof, so we decided perhaps the landlord wouldn’t be too excited about that.”

Maclean, like the rest of the team assembled to make Brenninkmeijer’s dream a reality, arrived with big ambitions.

“Can you imagine being in this space — yeah, I’m sitting up front there. It’s Jan. 2. It’s cold. The heater in the building isn’t working, so I was cold and terrified. Like, ‘OK, what have I done? I’ve quit my job at FedEx and walked into this giant empty warehouse. And now what?'”

That “now what” turned into 60,000 man-hours of work and a few missed deadlines. They originally wanted it done for the Pan Am games then hoped they could open to the public for Canada 150. Now they’re cautiously optimistic it could be completed by the end of 2018 or early 2019.

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For that to happen, they’ll have to finish Ottawa and Quebec City before moving on to the Prairies and both coasts. Parliament Hill was only recently finished so the amount of work left is staggering.

So far, they’ve spent $5 million replicating Canadian landmarks in miniature. By the time it’s all done, they expect that bill to swell to $15 million.

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Plans for a venue and how much you’ll have to pay to see Our Home and Miniature Land are still to be determined.

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