St. Olaf College | News

Building a future one piece at a time

Anders Cote ’24 spent a year and a half building St. Olaf College brick by brick.

Lego brick, that is.

Cote designed and built an accurate model of the entire St. Olaf campus using more than 11,500 Lego pieces. He unveiled the model during a celebration in Skoglund Center, where it is on display for all members of the campus community and visitors to enjoy.

The project began during Cote’s first year at St. Olaf, when took a few pages of one-eighth inch grid paper and began drawing a birds-eye view of campus to get a sense of the space and scale he would need to work with. Once he completed that, he used a computer modeling program to design a 3-D version of the Lego campus he wanted to build.

“I had this digital model for probably more than a year and then I realized I should actually do this and make it a real thing,” Cote says.

Using a funding award from the St. Olaf Student Government Association, he ordered the pieces and got to work, spending hundreds of hours painstakingly building the model section by section on his dorm room desk. While he was at classes, he stored the growing project under his dorm room bed.

The resulting Lego model is a replica of the entire campus, including the newly constructed residence hall and townhouses on St. Olaf Avenue and the recently completed president’s house.

The Lego model of St. Olaf that Anders Cote ’24 designed took more than 11,500 pieces to build — including some that are rare and custom-made. 

For Cote, the project was a fun way to explore two of the areas he’s passionate about: history and architecture. Over the past few years, he created a detailed story map that recounts the architectural evolution of the St. Olaf campus from its start in 1874 to the present. He’s also taken the History of World Architecture class on campus, as well as a hands-on Architectural Drawing and Design course the college offers. That class is taught by St. Olaf alumni who have gone on to become practicing architects and have achieved remarkable success in their fields.

“We learned all about the principles of architecture and design, so that was a really cool experience,” says Cote, an economics and history major at St. Olaf. “It definitely gave me a lot of insight into the actual field of architecture.” 

It’s also helped him decide that he wants to attend graduate school to study architecture.

In addition to exploring his academic and career interests through these projects, Cote is also a member of the St. Olaf men’s cross country and track and field teams. The opportunities to explore all of these interests and receive support for his projects is the value of a liberal arts setting like St. Olaf, he says.

“The benefit I see coming from the ability to do all these things is learning the importance of balance. I spend enough time on each of these areas that makes me the happiest and most successful person I can be,” he says. “I keep coming up with projects and want to share them with the St. Olaf community and the world. More stuff will keep coming along, for sure.”