LEGO, that’s the life!

The first thing see is the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo’s characteristic smuggler ship from the early Star Wars trilogy and one of LEGO’s biggest commercial sets ever. Another is Hans Brettschneider’s broad smile. "That is the jewel in the crown", he says, grinning from ear to ear.

BUILDING FOR REAL

Some think LEGO is only for children. But that’s not quite true. Skellefteå is home to Sweden’s biggest collection of LEGO. Of course, children are welcome, but an adult perspective is at least as important.

The first thing see is the Millennium Falcon. Han Solo’s characteristic smuggler ship from the early Star Wars trilogy and one of LEGO’s biggest commercial sets ever. Another is Hans Brettschneider’s broad smile.
– That is the jewel in the crown, he says, grinning from ear to ear.
And he has good reason to be pleased. Not only is he owner of Skellefteå’s most dedicated LEGO shop, he is also the father of Sweden’s largest permanent LEGO collection. Just inside the door, a couple of hundred LEGO Star Wars figures are on display.

– I’m missing a C3PO in 14 carat gold and a bronze Boba Fett. Otherwise, in one way or another, every Star Wars figure released by LEGO is represented in the collection.
I think I see a few doubles. Hans takes down two Luke Skywalker figures from Return of the Jedi, both in black, with green swords.
– Check out the pupils.
I can see difference. A very slight difference.
– Details are important to a collector, he says.
And those pupils set the standard. I now realize that LEGO building isn’t just a casual pastime.
This is serious business.

Millenium Falcon

GREETINGS FROM BOBA FETT

Everywhere, there are completed LEGO models. Some standing on their own; others arranged in complete landscapes. I recognize the planets Hoth and Tatooine from the early Star Wars films, and  13
Helms Deep from the Lord of the Rings trilogy. His interest in Star Wars and a family trip to Legoland, in Denmark, that brought out the LEGO builder in Hans. That was more than ten years ago.
– That was just before LEGO became trendy.
Hans explains that the Millennium Falcon, which stands near the entrance, now costs between twenty-five and thirty thousand kronor. Little more than ten years ago the price was a reasonable six
thousand.
– LEGO is a good investment, he says, laughing.

My glance falls upon a signed picture of the coolest bounty hunter in the history of film. “To Hans”, it says. Underneath, it is signed by none other than Boba Fett. The sentimental value of
such an object is obvious.

Boba Fett

MORE THAN STAR WARS

The LEGO scene is strong in Skellefteå. I’m guessing Hans’s shop has a lot to do with it. Many visitors from afar also come to view the LEGO collection.
– If you’re a serious LEGO builder and plan to travel north, you might want to make this a compulsory stopover, says Hans.
And there’s no doubt about that. The oldest pieces in the collection are from the 1950s. Star Wars dominates, but there is plenty else besides. You’ll see everything from gigantic models of the Eiffel Tower and the Taj Mahal to obscure, limited-edition Japanese sets that were released on only a few markets. And the collection continues to grow.

OUT OF THE ORDINARY

I wonder what makes LEGO so special.
– You know, when you build, you’re in the moment. All thoughts about everything else vanish. But there’s a difference between building and building, explains Hans, as he wanders through the shop.
He stops at a glass display case.
– The water tower in Bastuträsk, he says, pointing to the scale model.

LEGO is not just about following instructions. It’s also a matter of giving yourself over totally to an enormous creativity. In this case, it is materialized in the model of the Bastuträsk water tower.
Hans lifts it out and dismantles the four sections.
– Everything is there, he explains. Water mains and even a bathtub.
The builder is Johan, who works a couple of days a week for Hans. The project took three years to complete.
– Not full-time. Sometimes, a few pieces were missing and Johan had to search the web and order what he needed.

The LEGO centre in Skellefteå is in many ways a monument to the boundless joy of creativity – a reason as good as any to come and see the collection, even if you’re not a LEGO freak.