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8305 Six Forks Road, Ste. 203, Raleigh, NC 27615

Rocco Buttliere has been building Lego for as long as he can remember. When he was in high school he started crafting scale skyscraper models such as the Empire State Building and the Burj Khalifa.

Now, eight years later, he’s constructed more than 50 landmark models, is featured at BrickUniverse, a traveling Lego fan convention, and, oh, did we mention he’s in architectural studies at the Illinois Institute of Technology? See, parents! Don’t ever tell your teenagers to stop playing with Lego.

BrickUniverse approached Buttliere at Brickworld Chicago in 2015, where he had been exhibiting since 2011, and he says that’s when things really took off for him.

“Up until that point, I’d been displaying all my models on cluttered table spaces because conventions try to squeeze in all the fan displays,” Buttliere said. “My display area at BrickUniverse, however, is much more of a gallery spread between multiple table layouts. I’m grateful for the confidence this has inspired in me to share my work. I’ve formed so many meaningful relationships through the BrickUniverse shows.”

Buttliere is graduating next month, and he’s hoping his career path is Lego-oriented. For now, he’s traveling to a few more cities with BrickUniverse to show off one of his crowning glories: the 12-foot Golden Gate Bridge. This thing is beyond impressive.

“Sometimes I impose seemingly impossible challenges on myself just to see if I can overcome the odds,” Buttliere said.

Coming in at a whopping 40,000 individual Lego pieces, this is Buttliere’s largest model to date, as well as his new favorite. He started designing it in January and ended up using steel wire inside the Lego pieces to make up the main cables. Because of this, the model became an actual suspension bridge, basically functioning as the real-world structure does. He finished the model in late March and debuted it at BrickUniverse in Raleigh, N.C., where Cigars & Leisure got to marvel at it. Look at the pictures; this thing is a feat of construction, Lego or not.

In his exhibit at BrickUniverse, Buttliere uses roughly 300,000 pieces. His model of New York City’s World Financial Center is roughly 22,500 pieces alone and took him about 10 months to build.

“My overstock at home probably has somewhere near 300,000 in extra pieces, which actually isn’t a whole lot compared to other serious Lego artists and professionals,” Buttliere said.

As you can see, Lego-building isn’t just a kid’s activity; it’s an art form. If you don’t believe me, check out BrickUniverse (additional dates listed below), and think about this: These guys who are building Lego are living out most of our childhood dreams. Playing with Lego in your 20s, 30s, 40s? Hell, yeah! Where do we sign up?

For more information on BrickUniverse and Buttliere’s exhibit, visit:

Madison: July 1–2
Knoxville: August 26–27
Tulsa: September 9–10
Cleveland: Sept. 30–Oct. 1

Fun Lego Facts!

  • The plural of Lego is Lego. It doesn’t matter if you have one or 100 pieces of Lego, it’s still Lego—although many people call them Legos.
  • Since the first mini-figure in 1978, more than 4 billion have been made. This makes Lego the the world’s largest population group (if they were alive).
  • As of 2013, over 560 billion Lego parts have been produced. On average, that is 86 Lego bricks for every single person on the earth.
  • Lego is the world’s largest producer of rubber wheels. They produce more than Bridgestone, Goodyear and all other car tire manufacturers.
  • The tallest Lego tower was 94 feet high and used 465,000 bricks. The tower was a pirate ship mast with a “treasure” made of gold, yellow and clear bricks on top and was built at Legoland in California.
  • If you laid all the Lego bricks sold in 2012 end to end, they would stretch around the world more than 18 times.
Convention overview
Lego city
Lego D-Day reenactment (yes, that is Lego blood in the water)
Lego builders getting a little too creative
Portrait made entirely from Lego

Photos courtesy of Rocco Buttliere and Brian Ledtke

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