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Lego Architect's Biggest Project: 9,000-Brick Prudential Plaza Model

 Illinois Institute of Technology freshman Rocco Buttliere is tackling Chicago's skyline on a 1:650 scale, one Lego at a time.
Lego Marina City
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THE LOOP — Illinois Institute of Technology sophomore Rocco Buttliere is re-creating Chicago, one Lego at a time.

Well-known for his highly realistic recreations of Second City buildings, Buttliere's latest project is his biggest: a model of the Prudential Plaza made with more than 9,000 Lego bricks.

"I've wanted to do this building for a really long time. I tried it in 2011, but I got really stumped at the top part of Prudential, the four angled parts that look like spikes," he said.

"Coming back to it a few months ago, I started right there, because I knew it was going to be the trickiest spot. Once I found a piece from a set of spaceship parts that worked perfectly, it took about a month to design, and four months to assemble."

Buttliere has wanted to be an architect for as long as he can remember, and he first started tinkering with the popular toy in 2009. He chose Legos for their variety and low-budget availability with a dream to create full-size structures in Chicago someday.

Having previously completed mini versions of the adjacent Aon Center and Blue Cross Blue Shield Tower, Buttliere moved on to complete a full stretch of Stetson Avenue for his collection, which includes a mini-Marina City, Willis Tower, Hancock Center and more.

Buttliere now has a collection of 14 Chicago buildings, all built on a 1:650 scale. Mapping out the rest of the city building-by-building "isn't necessarily my end goal," he said, "but if eventually I got enough individual buildings, then I could probably start filling in the spaces in between.

"I'm definitely open to the idea of the city layout," the architecture student said.

His collection tours the country (when it's not housed in his old bedroom at his parents' Buffalo Grove home). The next showcase is Sept. 28 and 29 at a Brickworld convention in Fort Wayne, Ind.