February 1 2018

Wheaton’s new Welcome Center has a surprise inside the Great Hall. A center table displays a model of Wheaton’s campus, made entirely out of over 15,000 LEGO bricks, created by senior Paul Vermeesch. Vermeesch, who has been playing with Legos since he was five years old, was commissioned to build this campus model during his sophomore year.

“I made a pitch to [The Admissions Department] almost two years ago for the idea and I think it fit the spirit they wanted to capture for the Welcome Center. They thought it would be a nice display feature for the main hall,” said Vermeesch, who has worked on the project intermittently until its completion this past fall.

Associate Director of Communications and Marketing for Undergraduate Admissions Beverly Mason served as Vermeesch’s advocate for the project.

“It was clear that all of Paul’s amazing work on this project was a labor of love and showed his deep care and gratitude for the college,” said Mason, “It’s a wonderful thing to see what’s possible when a student’s talent and creativity is appreciated and given space to flourish.”

Vermeesch completed the project in several stages, first deciding on the size of the model and then creating a digital version on his computer. He designed the model in a software that creates an excel spreadsheet with all of the different quantities, shapes, colors and pieces that he would need for the project. Vermeesch then sourced those elements from third party resellers since it was not possible to source pieces directly from the Lego Company.

Vermeesch ordered the Lego pieces from multiple resellers in five different countries. The focal point of the display is the top of Blanchard Tower, which Vermeesch considers to be the most distinctive architectural feature of Wheaton’s campus. Vermeesch worked with a friend’s aerial drone footage of campus to assist with early preparation. Vermeesch also noted his collaboration with interior designer Whitley Grey from Wheaton’s architecture team and professor of geology James Clark, both of whom gladly contributed their knowledge and equipment to the project.

Vermeesch’s largest challenges included creating the curves of the football field, angled elements like the train tracks and mastering the topography of the campus.

“The topography makes it tricky because, even though it feels like it, Wheaton isn’t a flat campus. There are hills. I simplified the topography so that there are basically three different levels that things are built on,” said Vermeesch.

The completed model is an integral part of Wheaton’s new Welcome Center.

“Since day one we have heard such positive responses from visitors,” Mason said. “The campus model display literally puts prospective students and their families at ease during what can be a stressful time during one’s college search journey. Even the football team is using the Lego model as a stop on their recruitment weekends!”

Wheaton’s team of sophomore tour guides, the Dekes, use the display as a central gathering spot and overview of campus before giving their daily tours.

“People love looking at it — it’s so helpful, too. Even before our tours people enjoy walking over and just notice it. It helps us to identify some of the main buildings they will be seeing on campus,” said sophomore and Deke, Kelly Fitzpatrick.

Vermeesch hopes that his model will leave a unique legacy on Wheaton’s campus.

“Maybe when [people] come to Wheaton, it will make the campus stand out, make it a little more special, a little more playful, a little more whimsical than what they’ve seen at other colleges. If it makes people smile, that’s what it’s all about.”