In the early morning hours of Monday, as a convoy of SUVs transported a Lego-brick replica of the Texas Capitol from Pflugerville to the Texas Capitol Visitors Center in downtown Austin, a school bus slammed on its brakes. The SUVs stopped hard in return, shattering the dome of Ben Rollman’s masterpiece.
“The dome crushed in on itself,” said Rollman, who works in IT for the Texas Medical Association.
Rollman, however, remained calm. He and his crew unloaded the intricately detailed model sections, built of Lego bricks on an approximate scale of 1 to 72, along with the hundreds of loose pieces, and immediately started the reconstruction, which he estimated would take a day.
Brian “Lasso” Lasseter, part of Rollman’s team, said stoically: “That’s Lego.”
It took a year and a half to design the replica, which is already on view for visitors, despite the repair process. Rollman’s team used the digital studio in Bricklink, a third-party Lego vendor, and then labored for four months on construction, tracking each piece by computer.
Meanwhile, the few people who gathered around the 150 pounds of Lego bricks in the welcome center before opening time marveled at the accuracy achieved of the 65,000-piece representation.
“They even made the trash cans,” said Chris Currens, director of special projects for the State Preservation Board, which operates the visitors center as well as parts of the Capitol, the Bullock Texas History Museum, the Governor’s Mansion and the Texas State Cemetery. “Once we realized its scale and elaborate attention to detail, we became interested in presenting it for up to 10 years.”
The board built a special wood-and-Plexiglass case for the model, which, without the base, is 102 inches long, 62 inches wide and 52.75 inches high.
“Lego gave us a lot of stuff,” Lasseter, an engineer who designs computer chips, said. “Many of the bricks were ordered directly from the factories in Denmark at a discount.”
Rollman’s Capitol was recently unveiled at Brick Fiesta, a Lego fan convention held at the Renaissance Austin Hotel over the July 4 weekend.
Although the details are astounding, the transition of the historic landmark to Lego form would have been more difficult if the exterior of the real Capitol had been constructed of more pliable limestone — as once was proposed — rather than harder, blockier granite.
“I wonder what Nimrod Norton, who donated the pink granite for the Capitol, would think of this Lego version?” Currens said. “I think he’d be flattered.”
Editor's note: Stay tuned to austin360.com in the coming weeks for an in-depth story about the Lego replica of the Capitol.