LEGO© Creations

Cathedral of Learning in LEGO bricks

11 June, 2012 (19:41) | LEGO© Creations

UPDATE:   Read more about the LEGO Ideas project here –


Contact me if you would like to obtain the instructions for this build!  Here’s a video of it being digitally blown up!

Back when I did the first post of the Pittsburgh mini series, I hinted at doing a model of the Cathedral of Learning.  It’s such a clean geometric building, it just begs to be recreated in LEGO bricks.   I had been tinkering with scaling after being lucky enough to find a 3D model for free use in Google Sketchup.  The program is awesome and proved to be an invaluable resource when creating this sculpture.  Being able to spin around and zoom and look at it from all angles is something I wish I can do on all future models.  I was also able to measure specific sections of the building to help me maintain scaling throughout the different sections of the model.

Originally, I had planned on doing a model that would fit on a 5×5 inch (16 x 16 stud) base plate.  I used basic blocks to build it up, and it looked good enough, but it would be a bit awkward to get details at that smaller scale, especially given that the majority of the building was based on a 3 stud scale.  I had decided to double the dimensions, giving me a 10×10 inch base plate to work on and then plenty of surface area to do some SNOT (studs not on top) techniques to add character.  As luck would have it, my sister Deirdre alerted me to a local LEGO model competition at a toy story called S.W. Randall in Squirrel Hill.  Kallie stopped by to pick me up an entry form and I knew right away that I was going to build the cathedral for my entry.  The biggest snag was that the rules stated a 10 inch cubed restriction, while my design called for it to pierce the 11 inch mark.  I had to improvise a bit.

In my google image searching, and really even my own viewing of the cathedral, I know how great it looks at night.  Though lit from the outside, I wanted to feature some energy in the model, rather than the cold stone Gothic look that is so easily perceived.  I constructed a tower of 4 LEGO light bricks that light up when pressed from middle of the roof to shine through the transparent plates of the walls.  I think the effect is perfect, even the color of the light is just right.

I was also impressed by the sand green color being the perfect color for the roof of the Stephen Foster Memorial along the Forbes Avenue side of the Cathedral.  Though I didn’t plan on creating it when I first set out, I knew it had to be added once I saw the cathedral coming together.  The space to the side was just perfect to nuzzle the building in.  Most people don’t even realize it’s there, or if they do, they don’t realize it’s not part of the Cathedral of Learning.

This is probably my most time intensive build to date.  I lost track of hours, since I was working on it most week nights after work and even putting in time over the weekends over the span of 3 weeks.  Probably close to the 50-60 hour range.  I also made a lot of bricklink orders.  First design changes.  Then miscalculations.  Then inspiration for the memorial.  Then miscalculations.  Then inspiration for the letter tiles.  Then miscalculations.  Then design changes.  Certainly a skill I need to work on, but as a project manager, I am all too familiar with unintended costs and delays.  All told, we’re looking at around 1,500 pieces.  I decided to use a lot of 1×1 transparent plates for the glass, as opposed to longer pieces because the lines between pieces break up the facade enough to subtly suggest window lines.

Here’s a shot of the 2 together, taken at the 2013 International Children’s Festival!

News coverage:

Tribune Review (Cathedral was featured on the front page in print) :




Thanks to The University of Pittsburgh, Mayor Bill Peduto, and many others who tweeted it during the week of March 3rd 2014 to make it the 4th most supported project of the week on Cuusoo! top10cuusoo


Now, if we could just get Larry Fitzgerald, Dan Marino, “The other” tall Cathy, VisitPGH, and maybe even Mark Cuban to tweet a link…Care to try for me?

So please, vote for it, share the link, and tell others to share it as well!  it’s going to take all of pittsburgh to get this to become a set!  Tell LEGO how awesome the Cathedral of Learning is!

And if you’re in the Pittsburgh area and want to know what being an Adult Fan of LEGO is like, be sure to check out