Staff Photo: Jason Braverman LEGOLAND Discovery Center opens March 17 at Phipps Plaza in Atlanta.
ATLANTA -- Joshua Bohn of Lawrenceville knows LEGOs like the back of his hand -- every size, color, shape and measurement of each plastic piece. That should be no surprise, because he's been playing with them since he was a kid. As an adult, he continuously builds creations for his own personal collection on a regular basis. He knew at a young age that it was possible to make a living in LEGOs, and once out of high school he started working for the LEGO brand at Discover Mills Mall.
He's worked there for five years, making his way through the ranks. And now he has his dream job: Master Model Builder at the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Atlanta, which opens Saturday.
"It's the awesome job I always wanted, but got here a little sooner than I imagined," the 24-year-old said.
Bohn, a student at Georgia Gwinnett College, has roughly 500,000 to 800,000 LEGO pieces at his house.
"That's not including the pieces I've probably swallowed or got lost in the couch," he said. "Sometimes I chew on them while I'm building, and the next thing you know, I don't know where the piece went."
Bohn had to know where all the pieces were on Jan. 8. That's when he and hundreds of other LEGO enthusiasts had a chance to compete for the coveted Master Model Builder position to lead the new LEGOLAND Discovery Center Atlanta at Phipps Plaza. It was a competition that Bohn was born to be in.
In the first round, the group was asked to build an animal in 30 minutes. Bohn designed a koi fish feeding, leaping through the table. The Japanese good luck symbol must of given the builder good vibes because it secured his spot into round two.
For the next challenge, Bohn and the 29 other contestants had 45 minutes to build an Atlanta icon. He chose to create the Fox Theatre that also opened up to show the inside of the venue.
The legendary landmark advanced him into the last round with 11 other finalists.
For the last build, contestants were given an hour to sketch a concept that described them, then another hour to build.
"I paid homage to art since I was an art major in high school," Bohn said. "It was a pencil and pad, the face of comedy and tragedy, a gentleman thinking outside of the box, and Romeo and Juliet sketch on top of the whole thing."
With that, he won.
One of the first things he did was call his mother with the good news.
"I called my mom and said, 'I told you so. I can make a living by playing with toys,'" he said.
Bohn said he has been playing with LEGOs as long as he can remember.
"I've been playing with LEGOs since I was 18 months old -- possibly earlier than that, but it's the only photo (with me playing with LEGOs) that my mom had," he said. "It's been in my blood forever."
For the past five years, Bohn has been working retail at the LEGO store at Discover Mills. That experience will help him transition into his new job.
"At the Discover Mills store, I was making models, hosting events, working in retail, and working with clubs and meetings," he said. "As the Master Model Building, there are a lot of project elements, plus moments of teaching class for education and building technique. I get to be the face of LEGOLAND."
He also helps with birthday parties, is the head of concepts and creations, and interacts with the children to get their imaginative juices flowing.
"My favorite part (about kids) is that they teach you," Bohn said. "As an adult, I've played with LEGOs for 23 years. I will look at a piece that I've played with forever and have examined every way to use it, then a kid will walk up and stick it on something and I will be like, 'Ah, really?' They are amazing with their ingenuity. They don't have the limiters that we do as adults."
As opening day nears, Bohn is excited to meet and greet with the public because he's not going anywhere for a long time.
"The hardest part of the job was testing all the rides," he said laughing. "So I can't complain. I don't plan to leave anytime soon."