After three years of building and more than 30,000 Lego pieces, University of Michigan alum Adam Mael placed the final block on his proportional Lego replica of the University’s iconic Diag and Central Campus.
The model, featuring the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, the University of Michigan Museum of Art and the Chemistry Building among many other structures, is a tribute to the 2011 graduate’s love of Lego bricks and the University.
“I did not start this project with the intention of doing the full thing, I just thought it would be cool to make a campus building, and so I worked on the Angel/Mason/Haven/Tisch complex,” said Mael, Graduate Program Coordinator for the Department of Mechanical Engineering.
“And then, a year later, I thought maybe I’ll make another building, and so I did the UGLi (Shapiro Undergraduate Library) and the grad library, and I think after I did those three, I thought maybe I could actually make this whole big thing.”
Much of Mael’s inspiration for building the Central Campus replica came from his time at the University as a student, where he was also a campus tour guide.
“I was a tour guide for three years, and so that really fed this interest in the campus and wanting to learn more about all the different buildings and the school’s history,” Mael said. “I was a history major and biology minor, so I have this natural interest in history … and the University has a very rich one.”
Ilana Black, a Class of 2012 alum who met Mael during their time together as tour guides, said she was not surprised Mael took on the project.
“He loves the stories behind Michigan. He loves the University. He took pride in knowing things really well and, obviously, he has stayed a professional at the University, which is just really cool,” Black said. “He is so talented, and his pride and passion for these types of things, combined with his deep attention to detail, his intricate knowledge of various things and patience, it makes complete sense.”
While some Lego builders go straight to the building process, Mael was more methodical in his approach, planning each building before creating any physical structures. He said he took pictures of the buildings to get a feel for their architecture.
To ensure proportionality, Mael used a variety of digital software to aid him, including Google Earth. Once the buildings were constructed digitally, he could then begin to build.
Mael said one of the most time-consuming steps in the construction was creating the Diag’s landscaping, despite it being one of the last things he worked on.
“I thought all I have to do now is the landscaping. That will probably take me a month or two,” Mael said. “I was so wrong. Each of those little trees is 40 or 50 really tiny pieces, and it looked great, but was very time-consuming.”
Once the model was finished, Mael posted photos online and was surprised to receive such a large response to the project on social media.
“I thought people would be like, ‘That’s cool,’ and then move on with their day,” Mael said. “But it just kept going and more people kept posting.”
The Alumni Association of the University of Michigan also noticed Mael’s replica and posted photos on Facebook.
Sean Yuille, Alumni Association digital marketing manager, said he’s seen other Lego-like replicas of the Michigan Stadium and the Crisler Center, but not one of the Diag.
“We’re always looking for opportunities to connect alumni back to campus and showcase the passion they have for the University of Michigan,” Yuille said. “This project combined those two things in such a unique way.”
LSA junior Veronica Marr came across Mael’s replica online and was impressed by how true it was to the actual scale of the Diag. Marr also said she would be interested in going to see the replica on campus.
“I think it would be cool if it were on display for students to see,” Marr said.
Mael said he wants his model to remind people of their time at the University.
“I would hope that (when people see the replica) they have warm, fond memories of the time (they) spent on campus or the people that (they) met there,” Mael said.
Correction: This article previously stated Mael’s role at the University is an event coordinator. He is a program coordinator.
Daily News Contributors Andrea Johnson and Madeleine Bauer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.
For a weekly roundup of the best stories from The Michigan Daily, sign up for our newsletter here.