Dream job: LEGO’s Master Model Builder

For his “interview,” Johnson, right, competed in a LEGO build-off.

Andrew Johnson has the job you wanted when you were 6 — and likely still covet now. As the new Master Model Builder of LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago, the 23-year-old designs 3-D LEGO models for the families that visit. Last week, he completed his first display since starting full-time at the beginning of the month.

“I just made a cardinal — that’s the state bird of Illinois,” he tells us. “It’s a lot of fun to be able to design something and watch it come into creation so fast.”

Plenty of aspects of the job could be described as “a lot of fun,” which is why the position isn’t easy to come by. There are only four Master Model Builders in the U.S. and an additional eight abroad. Johnson landed the gig after competing against eight other finalist applicants in a “build-off,” during which he created a replica of Chicago’s Daley Plaza Picasso sculpture, a model of the Lorax using less than 40 LEGO pieces and an especially tricky audience-member request: a violin and a hands-free harmonica.

For now, Johnson — who is one credit shy of a degree in history from DePaul University — isn’t concerned with big-picture career questions or especially eager to join his friends in the cubicles.
“It’s one of the only toys I can think of that you don’t grow out of,” says Johnson of LEGOs. “I’m going to stay here as long as I’m having fun — which I can see being a long time.”

His building style

Johnson has been playing with LEGOs since he was a child, but sharpened his skills while working at a camp where the toys were used to teach architecture and engineering. “There are people who have a lot of kits, but I’m more of a free-builder — I haven’t used instructions in a long time,” he says. “I don’t buy kits, just the basic building blocks. It’s a lot of trial and error.”


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