Take a stroll down the toy aisle and you’ll be greeted by all kinds of LEGO products. America’s favorite little plastic brick can be used to build scale models of everything from the Batmobile to the Avengers’ Tower to the Millennium Falcon. But what if you didn’t want a scale model? What if you wanted to drive your own time-traveling Delorean made entirely out of LEGO bricks? Or destroy planets from the command station of a life-size LEGO Death Star? Well, now you can! (So long as you have a couple million dollars saved up and access to the biggest LEGO store in the universe.) We went through some of the most beloved properties in all of nerd-dom and, with a little help from a world renowned master builder, we figured out how many LEGO pieces it would take to build your favorite sci-fi megastructures.
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We didn’t start with moon-sized star destroyers. We began with one of the smallest units of LEGO possible: the 15.8 mm x 3.2 mm brick. With two of these, a red one and a blue one, we were able to recreate one of the tiniest icons in all of sci-fi cinema: the pills offered to Keanu Reeves at the beginning of “The Matrix.” Of course, you probably don’t want to swallow either of these, since the only trip they’ll take you on is a one to the emergency room. From there, we moved upwards; from 300 LEGO to build the 12th Doctor’s sonic screwdriver; 550 LEGO to build our very own Baby Groot; to 940 LEGO to build Benny’s spaceship from the LEGO Movie. (We know that seems tiny, but Benny is a LEGO mini-fig, so his spaceship would be LEGO-sized too.)
Jumping into slightly bigger structures, we started to turn to Matija Puzar, our certified LEGO expert, for help. Matija is a trusted business partner of the LEGO company who has built some amazing scale models of the world’s most iconic landmarks. If there’s a guy who knows about how LEGO and the real world intersect, Matija is it. The first thing our LEGO expert alerted us to was that any LEGO structure of a certain size wouldn’t be all LEGO. “Larger models need both a steel structure and gluing of the bricks to prevent them from collapsing on their own weight. I’ve made a 1.5x1x1.5 m model with no glue at all, although in retrospect I probably should have glued it.”
Matija also alerted us to some real-life LEGO creations to help us with our equations. A man in Austin, Texas, actually built his own fully functional LEGO R2D2 using 16,000 bricks along with a steel frame and a motor from a remote control plane. Our master builder also pointed us in the direction of an actual, working car that was built entirely out of LEGO. Although he was quick to remind us that the plastic LEGO bricks wouldn’t “fancy the temperatures around the engine,” that didn’t deter us! Using the real LEGO car as a basis of comparison, we were able to determine that it would take 573,314 LEGO to build and travel through time with the flying Delorean from “Back to the Future Part 2” and 955,200 LEGO to build and bust ghosts in the Ghostbusters’ Ecto-1. Our master builder also had a friend who built a life-size Tardis from “Doctor Who” with 150,000 LEGO. But, of course, that number would go way up if you built the inside to scale as well. (There are more LEGO on the inside.)
As we took off for space, our LEGO numbers took off into the millions. The Millennium Falcon would take 15.5 million LEGO to complete, the Saturn V would take 104.9 million LEGO and Discovery One from “2001: A Space Odyssey” would take 186.3 million LEGO to complete. Matija even had some theories about how a LEGO starship would hold up when it jumped into hyperspace. “I am not sure how LEGO would survive the constant radiation and extreme temperatures. It would definitely be an interesting (albeit expensive) experiment to perform!” NASA has shown that plastics are, pound for pound, more effective at shielding against cosmic radiation than aluminum!
Heading back down to Earth for a little bit, we also wanted to see how many LEGO it would take to build our favorite superhero homes. James May, a presenter from the British hit Top Gear, actually built his very own full-size LEGO house a few years ago as part of an art project. The house was two stories high, 20 feet tall and took 3.3 million bricks to complete. Using that as a basis of comparison, we determined that Superman’s Fortress of Solitude from the 1978 film would take 850 million LEGO, and it would require Tony Stark to assemble 6.6 billion bricks to recreate the Avengers Tower in Manhattan. Matija commented that the “Avengers Tower would definitely be an interesting one to build! Definitely not a life-size one, but a nice scale model would be cool to do.” Which kind of disappointed us, as we were really looking forward to partying with a full-size LEGO Hulk in the full-size LEGO tower.
We have to go back to the sky for the really gigantic stuff. Matija told us that “in space, it would be hard to keep track of pieces, in addition to the space suit making it difficult to grab the pieces and build precisely.” But we think the geniuses at Starfleet Academy are up for the challenge. The iconic Starship Enterprise from “Star Trek” would take 13.5 billion LEGO to build. That’s still pretty small compared to some other ships, like the Dark Aster from “Guardians of the Galaxy.” According to its creators, this villainous starship measured as long as 11 Empire State Buildings laid on their sides, which we calculated would take 42.5 billion LEGO. The Axiom from “Wall.E” would take 463 billion LEGO, and the Spaceball One would take 554 billion.
It would require a move into the trillions to complete the granddaddy of all LEGO sci-fi megastructures: The Death Star. This moon-sized planet killer would require 435 trillion bricks to complete (even more if you want to go the extra mile for safety and throw in a few guardrails!). Sadly, Matija didn’t see completing this model as entirely realistic. “It would be a really nice experiment to see how many bricks it takes before a structure collapses on itself due to its own gravity (e.g., Death Star). A bit unfeasible, though, I’m afraid 🙂 The average 2×2 brick can withstand 950 pounds.”
But this is sci-fi, and who’s to say what isn’t possible today won’t be possible tomorrow! Could some brilliant hero create a new, stronger LEGO brick capable of withstanding the cold, hard realities of space? We sure hope so! Until then, we’re going to keep building, and we encourage you to do the same. Just please put your toys away when you’re done. Your mom isn’t going to be happy if she has to pick up a quadrillion LEGO off the living room floor.