As a kid, Paul Janssen immersed himself in the world of Legos. Then, at around 13 years old, he stopped playing with the colorful building blocks.
Many years later, at the beginning of Janssen’s professional career, he was cleaning out his parent’s basement and rediscovered not only his old Lego sets, but also his passion for building.
Currently placed in the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital of the Wexner Medical Center is a 8-by-6-foot Lego replica model of the Ohio Stadium made by Janssen, a heart disease and muscular dystrophy researcher at the medical center.
People can “buy tickets” for a spot in the stadium — for Lego people, that is.
With a minimum donation of $20, a Lego person will be placed in one of the 6,000 stadium seats to represent the contribution made.
The idea of building the stadium came from wanting to challenge himself, Janssen said.
“I did a couple of other projects where the builds were a little bit easier like skyscrapers, downtown Columbus, the [Ohio] Statehouse,” Janssen said, but he was getting bored and desired more of an architectural challenge.
“When I saw the stadium, it has this round shape on the outside, all the seats are angled and [angled differently] towards the field, so this would be a lot more challenging.”
The construction of Janssen’s replica stadium, which has close to 1 million Lego bricks, took “a little bit more than 1,000 hours spread over five years,” he said.
“On Saturday mornings, I’d wake up every day at five, typically 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. … so when the rest of the family sleeps ’til 9 a.m., I wake up at 5 a.m. and then spend three hours on that,” Janssen said.
The stadium previously was on display at the Columbus Museum of Art. But since being placed at the hospital, it has transitioned into being a medium to fundraise for his research centered around investigating human heart failure.
“As I was building it, people would ask me ‘Are you going to put seats in the stands?'” Janssen said. “Then I got the idea that maybe if I charge for that, I can use the money [to fund research].”
Now, the stadium sits atop a table in the Heart Hospital, awing and attracting many passersby.
“So far I’m speechless by the fact that this is so magnificent, and second, that Dr. Paul Janssen made this,” said Bowen Wang, a postdoctoral researcher at the medical center.
With the stadium, Janssen hopes to not only raise money for his research, but also to “give back to the spirit of community-giving.”
“This is some giving that even students can afford,” Janssen said. “People can get together with their roommate, they each put 10 bucks together, that’s 20 bucks … 20 bucks will go a long way because basically then we can pay a technician for doing some work on this project.”
For more information on how to donate to the project, visit https://buckeyefunder.osu.edu/project/7981.