Hol­i­day dis­play

Lego masters show work at White House

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE -

The as­sign­ment for this year’s White House hol­i­day dis­play came with a tight dead­line. A team of Lego mas­ter builders, within 2 1/2 weeks, had to cre­ate 56 unique gin­ger­bread houses out of the toy bricks, one for each state and United States ter­ri­tory.

For this group, it was child’s play. The seven masters at the US head­quar­ters of Lego Sys­tems in En­field, Con­necti­cut, had them de­signed, built from more than 200,000 Lego pieces and in a van to Washington in time for the un­veil­ing.

“We had an all-hands-on­deck kind of thing,” said Paul Chrzan, one of the mas­ter builders. “We ba­si­cally gave our­selves a day for each house. And we just built like crazy.”

The team prides it­self on build­ing just about any­thing out of Lego bricks, in­clud­ing, among other re­cent projects, scenes for The Lego Movie, a replica of Rio de Janeiro for the Olympics, and a life-size statue of Bos­ton Red Sox slug­ger David Or­tiz.

Pro­moted to the high­est ranks for their skills, the mas­ter builders ful­fill a mar­ket­ing role for the Den­mark­based com­pany, but also see them­selves as in­spir­ing young builders.

The team of seven — in­clud­ing a for­mer pas­try chef, a re­tail worker and an ac­tor — works in the model shop, a build­ing down a slight hill from the ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fices that fea­tures a Lego Christ­mas wreath on the walls, de­sign­ers at com­put­ers and the sounds of builders tin­ker­ing with the lat­est struc­tures.

Some, like Chrzan, 55, had a Lego affin­ity from child­hood, when his Dan­ish mother was among the first in his neigh­bor­hood to buy the sets. Oth­ers did not play with Lego as much as kids but stud­ied sculp­ture or fine arts in school. All see the toy brick as a medium for artis­tic ex­pres­sion.

Mas­ter builder Pete Don- ner got his start as a model gluer out of high school in 1997. As a child, he said he was aw­ful at build­ing Lego sets, pre­fer­ring to set aside the in­struc­tions. He said that helped him win the job he has now.

“For each one of us it’s a unique jour­ney,” he said. “The se­cret to my suc­cess is I drew a lot and I built a lot.”

Ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy over the past 20 years have dra­mat­i­cally changed the job, with pro­pri­etary Lego soft­ware churn­ing out rough blue­prints that once had to be etched by hand on graph pa­per. Still, a life-size model of a char­ac­ter can take 70 to 150 hours to de­sign and 350 hours to build.

Don­ner said he builds with Lego even af­ter fin­ish­ing his day’s work. In ad­di­tion to build­ing with his two daugh­ters, he has his own side projects.

“I have ac­cess to the big­gest Lego col­lec­tion in the world,” he said. “Why wouldn’t I uti­lize that?”

I have ac­cess to the big­gest Lego col­lec­tion in the world. Why wouldn’t I uti­lize that?”

Paul Chrzan, Lego mas­ter

builder

AN­DREW HARNIK / AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

A model of the White House was one of 56 Lego gin­ger­bread houses that were cre­ated by the mas­ter builders for the hol­i­day dis­play.

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