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On Site: A Small World, After All

Malky Lowinger

If you think the world is too big, try visiting 25 cities across five continents in just three hours

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

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A s jaded New Yorkers, we think we’ve seen it all: the tall buildings, the glitter and glamour … the subway. But then comes Gulliver’s Gate, a new attraction located in the Times Square area that manages to surprise us. And that isn’t easy for a New Yorker.

Gulliver’s Gate is a 50,000-square-foot world in miniature where you can visit 25 cities across five continents in the span of a few hours. The vast space contains more than 100,000 miniature people, 1,000 trains, and 10,000 cars. Approximately 600 artists from eight different countries built Gulliver’s Gate, which opened in May of last year.

Creator Michael Langer says he dreamed up the idea more than five years ago, then just happened to bump into Eiran Gazit, the creator of Mini Israel, while visiting a mountaintop in Guatemala.

“I was one of those kids who loved to build models. I just didn’t have the dexterity to do it myself,” says Michael, who grew up in Brooklyn and the Five Towns and now lives in Manhattan. “Together, Eiran and I came up with the idea of building this in the heart of Times Square.”

The $40 million project, which is a full city block, took 16 months to build and the co-founders insisted that each model be built on location. That meant teams of designers, sculptors, and model makers worked together to build the different models, which were then shipped in pieces to Times Square, where a new group of engineers, designers, architects, and painters put the pieces together.

It was a massive undertaking, Michael says. “The nuts and bolts of this project,” he says, “were really hard. I would say it was almost impossible to make this work. But with a lot of tenacity from people who believed in this, we made it happen.”

Did he ever stop and ask himself, “What am I doing?”

“Every single day,” says Michael. “Every single day.”

Nevertheless, he also realized that he had tapped into something special. 

 

A Giant Little World

I come out of the subway at the Times Square station and am greeted by massive billboards, flashing neon lights, and soaring skyscrapers. The city’s tourist industry is booming and the sidewalks are overflowing with humanity. It’s a festive and noisy atmosphere — but also a bit overwhelming. So it’s almost a relief to duck into 216 West 44th street, the home of Gulliver’s Gate, named for the giant in the Jonathan Swift classic, Gulliver’s Travels.

On this cold, end-of-winter day, the space is packed, especially with families and young children. There’s a buzz in the air as parents and their kids ooh and aah at the different buildings, people, and scenes, marveling at the detail.

I’m eager to begin our tour, so our guide leads us to the airport exhibit, an impressive re-creation with runways, airplanes, terminals, and lounges. Runways are lit up and air traffic controllers sit high in their tower. I look closely through the window of the terminal and I can make out a miniature airport scene, complete with impatient passengers waiting for their flights and hand luggage strewn about.

But this is no static model. A group of boys are glued to the exhibit, totally fascinated as they watch the airplanes rev their engines, taxi down the runway, accelerate, and then — to everyone’s delight — zoom into the air! Gulliver’s Gate is a little boy’s dream come true, a supersized, world-class Lego playland filled with model trains, planes, people, and automobiles.

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 702)

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