Newest Official American Lego Master Model Builder is Also the Youngest

By Norman Chan

23 year-old Andrew Johnson is one of only four people in the United States granted that title.

The title of Lego Master Model Builder isn't just something you can pick up at the local Lego store and put on a nametag. It's not an achievement you get for building a certain number of Lego sets or even winning Lego speed building competitions. It's a rare honor and full-time job granted to only a handful of people each year by Lego's corporate headquarters in Denmark. In fact, there are only four people in the United States in this exclusive guild, its newest member being also its youngest. Andrew Johnson, a 23-year old college student at DePaul University in Chicago applied for the job when Lego announced that they had to replace a recently retired Master Builder's position, and caught Lego's eye with a stop-motion animation video that was his resume. Johnson, who is studying digital cinema in school, hopes to use those skills to introduce new digital and video programs to Lego, a natural fit given the popularity of Lego toys in homemade stop-motion videos. According to NPR's report, Johnson won the job by impressing judges in a three-round build off, where he constructed a replica of a Picasso sculpture in front of an live audience of kids and their parents.

Photo Credit: Legoland Discovery Center Chicago

But what do Lego Master Model Builders actually do? Lego kits are designed by the Master Builders in Denmark, but the ones in the United States are more than just Lego ambassadors. They design, improve, and supervise the construction of the special Lego displays that you see at Lego stores, theme parks, and special events. The life-sized Star Wars Lego sculptures you may have seen at a trade show or comic-book convention were built by these Masters, and then carefully shipped to the event for public display. And while Master Builders are clearly obsessed with the hobby, but their backgrounds vary wildly--many started off as painters, woodworkers, or even scientists. What they share in common is the ability to look at a pile of Lego bricks, imagine the infinite possibilities of construction, and then execute that vision efficiently. It's a dream job for many kids (and AFOLs), and Lego has catered to that by offering a Master Builder Academy subscription program to teach aspiring builders the tricks that Master Builders use in their awesome jobs.