REYKJAVIK, Iceland (CNN) – The world’s largest LEGO replica of the doomed Titanic liner was built in 700 hours over 11 months — by a 10-year-old boy from Reykjavik who is on the autism spectrum. The model will make its American debut on Monday at the Titanic Museum Attraction in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Brynjar Karl Bigisson, now 15 years old, built the replica with 56,000 LEGO bricks. It is 26 feet long and 5 feet tall.
Bigisson remembers playing with LEGO bricks for hours when he was just 5 years old. “I sometimes built from instructions, and sometimes, I used my own imagination,” he said. At the time, Bigisson was obsessed with trains. But that changed when his grandfather, Ludvik Ogmundsson, took him fishing on a boat, sparking an interest in and appreciation for ships.
By the time that Bigisson was 10 years old, he knew everything that there was to know about the Titanic.
“When I traveled with my mom to LEGOLAND in Denmark and saw for the first time all the amazing big models of famous houses and planes, locations and ships, I probably then started to think about making my own LEGO model. By the time I was 10, I started to think about building the LEGO Titanic model in a LEGO man size,” Bigisson said.
The project was a family affair, with grandfather Ogmundsson, an engineer, and mother Bjarney Ludviksdottir helping out. Ogmundsson scaled down the original blueprint of the Titanic to LEGO size and helped figure out how many tiny toy bricks would be needed to create the model.
Ludviksdottir served as Bigisson’s personal cheerleader. “If she had not supported my dream project, it would have never been a reality,” the boy said.
Donations from family and friends enabled him to buy all of the LEGO bricks.
Bigisson said that he was able to embrace his autism through building the Titanic replica. Before starting the project, Bigisson had difficulty communicating, which he said made him unhappy and lonely. Now, he has confidence and is giving interviews about his accomplishment.
“When I started the building process, I had a person helping me in school, in every step that I took, but today, I’m studying without any support. My grades have risen, and my classmates consider me as their peer. I have had the opportunity to travel and explore and meet wonderful people,” Bigisson said.
Bigisson’s mother said that, when she started raising her son, she felt totally blind as to what his future would look like because of his autism, and she worried about the obstacles that many children on the autism spectrum have to overcome. She is now proud to share with other parents of children on the autism spectrum that it is possible to achieve their goals.
“When your child comes to you with an interesting, big, crazy dream, mission or goal, he or she would like to reach and needs your help, listen carefully and make an attempt to find ways to support the child to reach that goal. It might be the best investment you ever make for your kid,” Ludviksdottir said.
Ludviksdottir believes that it can be hard for children to follow their dreams, whether they are on the autism spectrum or not. They may face financial hindrances or lack of support. But she believes in the significance of dreams. “Dreams keep us going. That is something nobody can take away from us. It’s something good to have when you are feeling a little bit stuck or sad. You can always dream.”
The LEGO replica was shipped from Iceland in three large pieces and then carefully reconstructed before its American debut. It will be anchored at the Titanic Museum Attraction through December 2019.
Bigisson’s grandfather believes that there are lessons to be learned from what his grandson has achieved. “Autism does not have to be scary. Many great scientists and national leaders had and have autism. What matters is that such individuals get understanding and support, because everyone can learn from these people if they listen to what they are saying,” Ogmundsson said.
“When Brynjar was growing up, I often helped him with projects that called for thought and hard work that I thought would be good for him,” Ogmundsson said. “Then he got this crazy idea to build a six-meter ship from LEGO cubes. Today, he speculates a great deal about complex things that require technical understanding.”
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