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Look Inside The New Legoland: 3 Million Bricks, 2 Rides And 1 Tiny Boston

The Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge is a landmark at the center of Legoland’s “Miniland” model of Boston. (Greg Cook)

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You’ll recognize the Legoland Discovery Center, opening Friday at Somerville’s expanding Assembly Row mall, by the giant yellow Lego giraffe standing some 15 feet tall on the street corner outside the building.

This Legoland is a cross between an amusement park, a children’s museum, a toy store and a shrine to the iconic Danish plastic toy building brick. Already tickets are sold out through at least Memorial Day weekend, the venue reports.

“We’ll be forever changing,” Ian Coffey says.

The 26-year-old grew up in Albany, New York, filling the basement of his parents’ home with Lego ships, an airport, the Eiffel Tower, a museum, an opera and so on. He worked as a clerk in the New York State Senate until a friend told him, “Ian, you are a Lego addict,” and signed him up for a two-day competition against a hundred people that he won to become this Legoland’s master model builder. Which means he’ll develop the venue’s Lego workshop curriculum, teach off-site workshops, and construct Lego structures for the center. Of late, he’s busy malleting and gluing together Lego cases to enclose cash registers throughout the building.

“I’ve got the coolest job in the world,” says Ian Coffey, master model builder at Legoland, pictured here in his workshop stocked with tens of thousands of Lego bricks. (Greg Cook)

“I’ve got the coolest job in the world,” says Ian Coffey, master model builder at Legoland, pictured here in his workshop stocked with tens of thousands of Lego bricks. (Greg Cook)

The 44,000-square-foot indoor attraction offers an interactive video introduction, a Harry Potter-ish wizard-themed shooting-gallery ride, a room filled with Lego recreations of Boston landmarks, a theater screening three 15-minute 4D movies (4D in this case means 3D movie plus “wind, rain, snow”), a climbing maze with a slide, three themed Lego building areas (house, racetrack, farm with slide), another wizard-themed carnival ride, a “Master Builder Academy” classroom for demonstrations, a café, and rooms for private parties. Much of it accompanied by soaring, piped-in orchestra music.

The Somerville attraction feels roughly half the size of Boston’s Museum of Science or Children’s Museum. Its promoters suggest it’s a two- to three-hour experience. Since it’s geared toward children ages 3 to 10, adults can only enter when accompanying children—except during monthly adults-only events (the first is scheduled for June 18). For now, all tickets must be purchased in advance, but the venue expects that as opening day excitement recedes a bit, they’ll begin selling walk-up tickets this summer.

Lego (a contraction of two Danish words “leg godt” meaning “play well”) was founded in Denmark in 1932 by carpenter Ole Kirk Kristiansen to sell his line of wooden toys and remains in the family, according to the company. The iconic, interlocking plastic brick that we know today debuted in 1958, but grew out of products the company began manufacturing a decade before.

The original Legoland opened in 1968 near the company’s factory in Billund, Denmark. Additional Legolands were developed, including the debut of the first Legoland in the U.S. in California in 1999. The Somerville Legoland Discovery Center is a bit more modest in its scale and indoors rather than outside. Over the past couple decades, the company has sold off most of its stake in the theme parks. This Legoland is not actually owned or operated by the Lego Group company, but by Merlin Entertainments Group, according to a publicist.

The potential of the place—from the exhibits you just look at to the various hands-on building stations—is a chance to create and recreate our own primary-colored worlds. It’s about the power each one of us has to change the world.

“The purpose of Legoland,” Coffey says, “for me is to take my creativity—it’s in my hands, I’m a hands-on person—and put it in a room and have it grow and grow.”

Greg Cook is co-founder of WBUR’s ARTery. We highly recommend that you follow him on Twitter @AestheticResear and friend him on Facebook.

A giant Lego giraffe serves as a landmark outside Legoland’s entrance at Somerville’s Assembly Row mall. (Greg Cook)

A giant Lego giraffe serves as a landmark outside Legoland’s entrance at Somerville’s Assembly Row mall. (Greg Cook)

Visitors enter Legoland through a giant silhouette of a Lego Minifigure cut in the lobby wall. (Greg Cook)

Visitors enter Legoland through a giant silhouette of a Lego Minifigure cut in the lobby wall. (Greg Cook)

Visitors use joysticks at “Star Trek”-like consoles to design virtual Lego Minifigures during the interactive Lego factory tour video. (Greg Cook)

Visitors use joysticks at “Star Trek”-like consoles to design virtual Lego Minifigures during the interactive Lego factory tour video. (Greg Cook)

The Boston Harbor Hotel (from left), Children’s Museum (with giant milk jug), the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, the Custom House Tower and TD Garden are recreated in Legos in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The Boston Harbor Hotel (from left), Children’s Museum (with giant milk jug), the Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, the Custom House Tower and TD Garden are recreated in Legos in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

Looking down a Lego Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, with TD Garden and the Custom House Tower to the right, in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

Looking down a Lego Zakim Bunker Hill Bridge, with TD Garden and the Custom House Tower to the right, in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The Duplo Farm offers a bin of Legos in the planter around the tree and a slide emerging from the barn. (Greg Cook)

The Duplo Farm offers a bin of Legos in the planter around the tree and a slide emerging from the barn. (Greg Cook)

“Merlin’s Apprentice” (shown here) and “Kingdom Quest,” a virtual shooting-gallery gallery, are two carnival style rides at the attraction. (Greg Cook)

“Merlin’s Apprentice” (shown here) and “Kingdom Quest,” a virtual shooting-gallery gallery, are two carnival style rides at the attraction. (Greg Cook)

The “Lego Racers: build and Test” area offers tracks to roll custom Lego built vehicles down. In the left background is the “Lego 4D Cinema.” The Coast Guard cutter and “Fire Academy” in the middle background offer a climbing maze and slide as well as large rubber Lego blocks to play with. (Greg Cook).

The “Lego Racers: build and Test” area offers tracks to roll custom Lego built vehicles down. In the left background is the “Lego 4D Cinema.” The Coast Guard cutter and “Fire Academy” in the middle background offer a climbing maze and slide as well as large rubber Lego blocks to play with. (Greg Cook).

“I think it’s awesome,” said 6-year-old Travis McDonald, pictured here during a visit last week. Describing the “Lego Construction Site” that’s part of the climbing maze, he said, “You can use a little wrecking ball to get a building and then knock it down.” (Greg Cook)

“I think it’s awesome,” said 6-year-old Travis McDonald, pictured here during a visit last week. Describing the “Lego Construction Site” that’s part of the climbing maze, he said, “You can use a little wrecking ball to get a building and then knock it down.” (Greg Cook)

A clock tower and café at the center of the Legoland’s central hall. (Greg Cook)

A clock tower and café at the center of the Legoland’s central hall. (Greg Cook)

The Lego Friends house. (Greg Cook)

The Lego Friends house. (Greg Cook)

Even the bathrooms are Lego themed. (Greg Cook)

Even the bathrooms are Lego themed. (Greg Cook)

The Prudential Tower, Custom House Tower, Hancock Tower, Boston Public Library’s Copley Square Branch, Trinity Church and Boston City Hall are among the local landmarks replicated in Lego bricks in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The Prudential Tower, Custom House Tower, Hancock Tower, Boston Public Library’s Copley Square Branch, Trinity Church and Boston City Hall are among the local landmarks replicated in Lego bricks in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

Fenway Park and the Citgo sign glow when night falls on the “Miniland” display. The model repeats through a quick lighting display of day and night. (Greg Cook)

Fenway Park and the Citgo sign glow when night falls on the “Miniland” display. The model repeats through a quick lighting display of day and night. (Greg Cook)

Tossing crates of tea into Boston Harbor (the models feature real water) during the original Boston Tea Party. (Greg Cook)

Tossing crates of tea into Boston Harbor (the models feature real water) during the original Boston Tea Party. (Greg Cook)

A jetliner taking off from Logan Airport. (Greg Cook)

A jetliner taking off from Logan Airport. (Greg Cook)

A whale! (Greg Cook)

A whale! (Greg Cook)

Fenway Park, the Citgo sign and Corita Kent’s rainbow gas tank in Dorchester from the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

Fenway Park, the Citgo sign and Corita Kent’s rainbow gas tank in Dorchester from the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

MIT’s Great Dome in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)


MIT’s Great Dome in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The Massachusetts State House in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The Massachusetts State House in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The “Cheers” bar from the television sitcom set in Boston’s Bull and Finch Pub. (Greg Cook)

The “Cheers” bar from the television sitcom set in Boston’s Bull and Finch Pub. (Greg Cook)

The USS Constitution at Charlestown Navy Yard in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

The USS Constitution at Charlestown Navy Yard in the “Miniland” display. (Greg Cook)

 

Comments

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  • John Brissette Jr.

    This.Is.AWESOME.

  • Collin F

    I need a model city hall set ASAP!