The dome of the rotunda, the Script Ohio looping across the scoreboard video screen, the archways lining the stadium that is shaped, of course, like a horseshoe. In near-exact detail, Paul Janssen created all the curves of Ohio Stadium using 1 million Legos - which, if you remember, are mostly rectangular.
Janssen recently finished his 8-foot-by-6-foot masterpiece, having spent 1,000 hours over nearly two years building it in his Dublin basement. No cutting, gluing or painting was involved in making the replica, the scale of which is about 1/100. The 42-year-old began plotting his work in 2005, three years after he was hired as an associate professor of physiology and cell biology at Ohio State University.
Growing up in the Netherlands, where the Danish-made interlocking blocks are especially popular, Janssen loved building Lego trains in his youth but took a hiatus from the hobby until moving to the United States a decade ago.
Having three children of his own - ages 10, 8 and 3 - became an excuse to buy new toys. The family's basement - aside from a washer, dryer and a kitty-litter box - is now consumed by containers of Legos stacked nearly from floor to ceiling. Janssen's friends in the Central Ohio Lego Train Club, for which he serves as president, once mentioned in passing the possibility of building an Ohio Stadium replica. But few would attempt such a large and detailed undertaking, member Ben Coifman said.
"It's flat-out insane to build something like that," said Coifman, an associate professor of civil engineering at OSU. "But that's part of what we love Paul for."
To plan the project, Janssen studied stadium measurements and satellite images, often taking photos of the press box or other details during football games. (He didn't really understand the sport at first but is now a fan and a season-ticket holder.) He spent more than three years acquiring the necessary Legos, often improvising: Dragon horns from a Lego castle kit are part of the rotunda decor; chrome truck parts serve as pipes extending from the stadium bathrooms. Many pieces were purchased or traded through an online marketplace, Bricklink.com; others were already part of his collection. Had Janssen bought all new parts, he figures the project would have cost $50,000 to $75,000.
Construction began in May 2009, when Janssen assembled 450,000 pieces for the model's base. The stadium itself can be divided into 10 pieces, each weighing up to 50 pounds. Building to scale was often a challenge, given that Janssen couldn't re-size Legos to fit his calculations. He spent 15 hours constructing the east side of the stadium before deciding to dismantle it, unhappy with the steepness of the stands.
"I would have been disappointed forever if I built it like that," he said.
Most of the construction was completed on weekends, from 5 a.m. until his family woke up about 9. With Lego projects often being repetitive, Janssen says he can also accomplish academic work while putting blocks together.
His wife, Anita, declined to discuss the hobby, saying it isn't about her. But what about how the Legos have invaded the basement?
Janssen hopes to display his work on campus and to use it in fundraising for his research on heart failure and muscular dystrophy. The stadium can be filled with up to 6,000 Lego people, he says, each of which could represent a donor.
He hasn't decided on his next Lego project, although he's talking about possible additions to the stadium display: the BCS and Heisman trophies; and, if eventually installed permanently in the real Horseshoe, lights.
"I cannot sit still," Janssen said. "If I wasn't doing this, I'd be doing something else at an intense level - I'd work 20-hour days or something like that. "I can't watch TV for more than half an hour. Well, except if it's a football game."