At new Legoland Hotel in Carlsbad, some off-the-wall design

The Legoland Hotel opened in Carlsbad over the weekend -- the first Legoland Hotel in North America -- and though a pirate-themed room with skull and crossbones over the bed may not be your definition of “weekend escape,” the 3,400 plastic-brick creations that master model makers crafted for the hotel will have some design fans curious to know: How did they do that?

Take the wall that at first glance looks like Lego-themed wallpaper. Upon closer inspection, visitors can see the wall is populated with miniature Lego people -- 5,000 figures in all.

“We’ve never done anything like that here,” Legoland master model builder Ryan Ziegelbauer said. “Definitely nothing on that scale.” Though the figures snap to base plates, model makers used glue to keep each piece in place lest guests’ wandering fingers pick, pry and pull on the design. (Those taking notes at home, a tip: When the pros use glue, they often use Loctite, not Krazy Glue, to avoid cloudy residue on the bright plastic bricks. But model makers often don’t use glue at all. They employ the solvent methyl ethyl ketone, which subtly dissolves plastic edges and bonds pieces together.)

A bicycle built of Lego travels back and forth along the people wall, its wheels acting like magnifying glasses so visitors can get a good view of the Lego people without having to squint. “A model maker from England came up with that idea,” Ziegelbauer said. (Our question: Who has to dust?)
A staff of 40 spent one year building and installing the hotel’s Lego models, the largest of which is a dragon on the front exterior that consists of 400,000 bricks and breathes smoke, said Ziegelbauer, who graduated from the urban planning program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before landing his dream job.


He said all of the 250 guest rooms -- themed “adventure,” “pirate” or “kingdom” -- have smaller-scale Lego sculptures. The kingdom rooms have a Lego-brick frog sitting on a treasure chest. Bathrooms might have a scorpion, spider or hat on the wall -- sculptures that initially were meant to be decorative. But during the testing of the rooms, the design team discovered that guests used the scorpions and hats as towel holders. Now some of the rooms even have Lego dragonflies on doors that function as handles.

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