What would the Campanile look like as a LEGO set?

Michael Lin/Courtesy

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Answer: nothing short of “pretty darn cool.”

Every day, many avid fans of anything along the spectrum of the mainstream to the underground submit their designs for a dream LEGO set to lego.cuusoo.com. There they become “projects,” and people hope their submissions appeal to the masses and gain votes. Once a quarter-year is up, the Cuusoo team reviews the projects that have accrued a total of 10,000 supporters or more and decides on one to commercialize.

This year’s notable Cuusoo contributor is Michael Lin from the UC Berkeley class of 2001, whose idea it was to turn our 307-foot-tall Campanile into a 240-piece LEGO novelty. As a student, Lin worked as a campus tour guide. He’s operated the elevator and has taken students, alumni and visitors up and down the tower many times. The Campanile “represents our best values as an institution for bettering the world,” says Lin. We interviewed him to find out more about his inspired idea to turn our campus landmark into a LEGO set.

The Daily Californian: Have you always been interested/passionate about architecture? To what can you attribute the roots of this passion?

Michael Lin: I majored in architecture in undergrad. And while I don’t work in an architecture profession, I’ve definitely always been interested in various creative pursuits, which goes beyond buildings and LEGOs. I think I’ve always been artistically inclined, and that has manifested itself in different ways as I’ve gone along. In high school, for example, I actually took first place at the California State Fair in the arts category for a giant (six-foot-long) Converse All Star shoe that I made.

DC: What happens when your project reaches 10,000 votes? Can you explain how this will go from idea to product?

ML: LEGO set up the Cuusoo site a few years ago (in 2008), and I only learned about it recently. “Cuusoo” is the Japanese word for “wish,” and it’s a way for people to submit their dream projects. If a project gets 10,000 votes, the LEGO Cuusoo team will formally consider it for production against the other projects that achieved the required votes during a submission period. Currently, they review projects four times a year. There’s no time limit in achieving 10,000 votes.

In the evaluation, LEGO will look at the design and also the business viability of the project. They can reject the project, choose it for production or decide to further evaluate.

DC: Do you envision this project as a starting point to a series of college-themed LEGO sets?

ML: That is up to LEGO, of course. But I think a college-themed line of the “LEGO Architecture” series could be proftable for LEGO, actually. The series has been around for a few years, and most of the sets are of iconic buildings — the Empire State Building, Space Needle, etc. There are also some iconic buildings like the United Nations building that maybe are not as profitable (I’m assuming here). My thought is that even though specific college buildings like the Campanile are not as well-known worldwide, the community that does know the Campanile has strong ties to the building. And for the colleges and universities that have buildings that are so iconic like the Campanile is for Berkeley, there’s definitely a market for these types of LEGO sets.

DC: You bring up the fact that this project may be too “narrow in scope.” If this is the case, why not propose an “Education” series, as you suggested, that will encompass an array of ranked learning institutions that will cover a wider market?

ML: By nature, the LEGO Campanile has a smaller market and may therefore be narrower in scope. The Cuusoo site asks for single project submissions and not a “series.” But I imagine if the LEGO Campanile is successful, there are other schools that they can partner with.

I think an education series is also a good PR-type move. But ultimately, I do think there’s a strong business case.

DC: What quality or trait would you say you most identify with in the Campanile?

ML: I think the Campanile and I both like to welcome people to the campus.

The project just hit its 1,000-vote benchmark. To support the project, click here. Clicking the “Support” button will lead you to a registration process that will sign you up on the LEGO Cuusoo site. Once you’re signed up, you can vote!

Contact Raymond Yang at [email protected].