Let's meet Juditha Ohlmacher aka JandJLEGO, the designer who's work of art Bangladesh National Parliament (Jatiyo Sangshad Bhaban) is part of our latest review. She is our 10K Club member in focus today!
Please make sure to help us congratulate Juditha in the comments down below!
- Who are you?
- Where are you from?
I live in Dhaka, Bangladesh, but I am originally from Maryland, USA.
- How old are you?
48 years old.
- What do you do for a living?
I work at the University of Liberal Arts Bangladesh, where I am an advisor for communication, public relations, and student affairs.
- What hobbies do you have?
I love watching films, reading and I have done a fair bit of traveling. I am also a classically trained Bharatanatyam dancer.
- Do you have a personal LEGO portfolio website that you can share with us?
Take a look at my Flickr page: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jjlego/
- Have you created any LEGO MOCs (my own creations) that you’re particularly proud of? What is it, why are you proud it and do you have a photo of it?
I am proud of my 8,000-piece mega-version of Louis Kahn’s masterpiece, the Bangladesh National Assembly. I built it after the tabletop version, as a way of going deeper into the architecture of this amazing building.
- How and when did your interest for LEGO come about?
I have been building with LEGO bricks since I was a kid (1970s). Even as a teenager I would build houses using those same childhood bricks. I got serious only in the past few years: I built the WALL-E LEGO Ideas set, and it was like a revelation: a whole new passion opened up.
- What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games.. or 'just' watch the cartoons.
After I stopped dancing, I needed a creative outlet. At that time my son was still young, and it became a way for us to connect and play together while I was able to expand my creative reach.
- What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
My all-time favorite theme is Star Wars. Growing up in the 70s, the first films were very formative for me, and to have the Millennium Falcon or an X-wing fighter allows me to relive my childhood. The theme that has given the most inspiration for my own building has been the Architectural line. In particular, the ability to capture the unique essence of a structure with the most economical and creative use of elements.
- What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
The Hogwarts Castle (71043). It incorporated so many new techniques, like the round columns developed in Saturn V or the stained-glass effects, that every moment of it was exciting. The fact that the finished set is beautiful, playable, and filled with whimsy makes it probably a perfect build.
- What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
The Modified 1x1 Brick with Headlight. It’s a very flexible piece that can be utilized many different ways. I used a gazillion of them in my large-scale Bangladesh National Assembly.
- Is there a LEGO designer (official LEGO designer or fan designer) who you are inspired by and look up to? Who and why?
My first influence was my brother, Jay, who has a natural talent for architecture and engineering. The great Alice Finch was an inspiration, as she showed me that there is a space for talented women in the AFOL community. Closer to home, Singaporean builder Xylvie Wong has been a mentor to me, giving me insight on the day-to-day life of a professional LEGO builder, as well as always being there with advice.
- Is there one or more particular LEGO related websites (not official LEGO websites) that you visit often and/or are inspired by?
Brothers Brick, New Elementary, and Flickr for news and insights. Bricklink for buying. On Facebook, the "AFOLs of FaceBook," "FFOL (female fan of Lego)," and the "LEGO Fans of Bangladesh" pages for the communities.
About Your Project
- Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
I love architecture. When I realized that one of the world’s modern masterpieces – by the legendary Louis Kahn – was not in the Architecture series, I felt I had to do something to change that. Ask any architecture lover and they know this building. But for the layman this gem is hidden away in Bangladesh. Many people only hear negative stories about this unique country, so this is also my way of bringing positive news about Bangladesh to the outside world.
- How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
Would you believe me if I told you it took a year? The building isn’t open to the public, so I had to arrange special visits. Even then, you can’t take photos inside, so I had to sketch everything I saw on paper. I studied the original 2-D designs, and all the online photos, especially those taken from above. I also visited an architecture school to see models made by students.
- What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
It is hard to imagine how colossally huge the National Assembly is. The geometric designs are difficult to represent in LEGO at all, let alone at that scale. The two factors I wanted to capture were the immensity and the effect it has of floating on water. So to size it down to Architecture scale but keep it faithful meant a lot of compromises.
The west face of the building is a circle bisected by a large gap. The exteriors of the circle have large triangles cut out of the wall. It was simply impossible for me to recreate that cutout triangle faithfully. I finally decided to use two half cylinder elements and hope that a triangular sticker can be created.
- If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Don’t listen to naysayers. Learn how to use Stud.io right away!
- How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
Surprisingly a lot of that prep year was taken up just trying to build the model. I was a total newbie to MOCs and I hadn’t learned about the digital building programs yet, so I built the model in real life.
But Bangladesh has no official LEGO Store, or Bricklink exchange. Whatever you can get at the local store is what you have to work with. I built slowly with the available bricks, no matter what color. Over time I refined it, often buying an entire set just because it had that ONE PIECE I needed.
Then, it took almost all the full two years to reach 10K, so there was a kind of balance in the time spent building and promoting.
- How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
Unreal. Almost the full two years. So it means that this whole process has been my life’s work for three years. I’m not sure what I’m going to do with myself now that I’m not spending every day thinking about it!
- Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
I have two tabletop versions. One is simpler, at about 134 parts. The other one incorporates the unique water feature of the building and has 624 parts.
- What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
The jumper plate. They make the odd proportions of the building possible.
- If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
I originally built the model IRL, but now I use Stud.io for all my building, including updates to the model.
About LEGO Ideas
- Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
Most successful ideas tend to be based in popular culture, especially if they evoke nostalgia within the adult community. There were those who discouraged me from doing an architecture set – even though they are hoping for a single-building Architecture set (not just another skyline) – since it’s such a niche product.
Because of that, I knew I couldn’t promote among the traditional AFOLs. So I reached out to the Bangladeshi community, who all know and love this building and what it stands for. I am certain that if made, the set will be highly successful, as it taps into both the nostalgia and national pride of 160 million people!
- What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea?
I did a lot of in-person activations on university campuses, toy conventions, Bengali cultural festivals, etc. I also did some Facebook advertising, but it took a long time to figure out how to do that correctly and not waste money.
I was really disheartened when the shutdown happened on the verge of a big university activation. It took me a while to get reinvigorated. Then I did a Facebook Live interview that was shared by a local news portal. Somehow – maybe BECAUSE people are all online now – it went totally viral. I could never have predicted that would happen.
- What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
WALL-E (21303), because it ignited my interest in complex sets. NASA Apollo Saturn V (21309), because it incorporated amazing new techniques that I think really changed the game.
- What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea
The platform is great at seeing many creative and clever new ideas. The difficulty of creating accounts does ensure that only people who really care about an idea are supporting it. That being said, I do think that LEGO Ideas needs to update its account creation process as it is overly cumbersome, especially on mobile phones, which is how the majority of people access websites now. My advice is: Don’t try to market to all LEGO fans. Find your target audience and make your case directly to them. Be prepared with good visuals, even videos, that will show off the idea. Tell your story.
- Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint what that might be?
Let me recover, first!
- juditha ohlmacher
- bangladesh national parliament
- bangladesh national parliament jatiyo sangshad bhaban
- jatiyo sangshad bhaban
- 10k club
- 10k club interview