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Builder Of World's Largest Titanic Replica In Lego Says His Autism Is A Gift

It took Brynjar Karl Birgisson 11 months to complete the world's largest Titanic replica, using only Legos.
Courtesy of Titanic Museum Attraction
It took Brynjar Karl Birgisson 11 months to complete the world's largest Titanic replica, using only Legos.

The world's largest Lego Titanic replica went on display Monday at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tenn. It initially began as Brynjar Karl Birgisson's ambitious idea and took 56,000 Legos, 11 months and 700 hours to complete.

The Icelandic boy built the 26-foot-long, 5-foot-wide ship when he was 10 years old with the help of his mother and grandfather. Birgisson, now 15, has spent the last five years following the replica around the world as it travels to different exhibitions, from Norway to Germany. But he says that in Tennessee, with finishing touches done and additional lighting, he's watched the replica come alive.

"The first ship that I ever discovered on the Internet when I became a ship fan, or into ships, was the Titanic," he says. "And [it] just was so beautiful that I wanted to make the Lego ship out of it because it was such an inspiration for me. I loved it, and I chose it."

Interview Highlights

On how Birgisson's mother first reacted to his idea

Bjarney Lúðvíksdóttir:My reaction in the beginning was, "Here he is asking me to assist him with — we call it 'the crazy project.' " And in the beginning, I was not going there in my mind. But he was determined, so I went for it with him. We used crowd-funding to raise the money for the Lego bricks actually.

On if this project has made him think differently about his autism

Birgisson: Well, first of all, autism ... is not a negative thing. It is a gift, because many people [with autism] are really intelligent — like many people [with autism] can do stuff too. We are people as well. We just seem a little bit different on the outside, but the inside, we're always the same.

On how it's felt to watch Birgisson achieve his dream

Lúðvíksdóttir: It's indescribable. I mean, we never thought that this project would take us — the family — on this journey. To tell you the truth, in the beginning, it was only to train him and teach him to start something and finish it. But when we discovered it was motivating other kids, and it was also like a lesson for other kids that have autism, that they can do whatever they can if they just follow their dreams and don't give up, I mean, we were amazed.

Alyssa Edes and Reena Advani produced and edited the audio story. Sydnee Monday adapted it for the Web.

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Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Consideredgrew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
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