In many ways, Brynjar Karl Birgisson is your average 19 year old. He studies at a menntaskóli, where he is learning to play bass guitar. He loves classic rock: AC/DC, Guns and Roses, Deep Purple—today he is wearing a Whitesnake hoody. He lives with his mum and stepdad, in a separate basement apartment where he and his girlfriend hang out, do school work and watch movies.
But Brynjar also has another identity: the Lego kid. In 2015, aged 12, he completed the world’s largest Lego replica of the Titanic, a feat that took 11 months, 120 tubes of glue, and more than 65,000 Lego bricks to complete.
“I started to take notice of Lego when I was four or five years old,” Brynjar says. “When you’re a kid you just want to create, and you start to imagine ‘just how big can I build something?’”
A trip to Legoland sparked something serious in young Brynjar. “I remember looking at the old Millennium Falcon,” he says. “It just kind of gave me inspiration to do something similar. Because if they could do it, surely I could too.”
Not many people might have felt the same burst of confidence as Brynjar, but he was determined. Already fascinated by steam locomotives and history, when it came to decide on what his big project should be, the Titanic was an obvious choice.
“The idea was to have it the same scale as a Lego person,” Brynjar explains. “So if you put a Lego figurine on my ship, it’s equivalent to someone who’s roughly 175cm tall.”
“My grandfather is a former engineer, so he used this idea to calculate the dimensions. When it came out that it would be 6.33m long, it stopped me for a minute. But I didn’t hesitate for long, because Lego was the only thing on my mind. All I wanted to do was build—that was my mentality.”
When Brynjar’s mega model was complete, it was first displayed in Smáralind mall in Kópavogur. From there it started to gain national—then international—attention. Brynjar and his ship were invited to Sweden, Norway, Germany and eventually, the US, where the model now resides. The experience had a profound impact on the young builder.
“I already knew that Lego was big when I was building the Titanic,” Brynjar says “But I didn’t know it was something that could put you on the world stage. I didn’t know about the whole community aspect.”
“It’s nice to find a community that you have something in common with—it doesn’t matter if it’s Lego or another subject,” he continues. “And also, that helped me a lot because of my Autism.”
In fact, Brynjar credits his experience of showcasing the Titanic model with changing his life. “I can see a big difference from when I was younger in how I speak and portray myself,” he says. “I learned how to be more social, and I just feel better about myself and how I can talk to people. When I was building the Titanic I had no interest in anybody.”
Although Brynjar acknowledges that people’s perception of him is somewhat frozen in time, while his own personal hobbies and interests have changed, he has only gratitude to express when it comes to his time in the media. “I’m glad to be the Lego kid,” he says. “And I’m privileged to know that I’ve gone so far in life because of it.”
The Islanders is our series where we interview interesting people in Iceland about their unique lives. Know someone we should speak to? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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