Brick by (Lego) Brick: Dave Jungheim Update

“Prepare for the media.”

That’s what the Marriott School external relations department told MBA alumni relations director Dave Jungheim a year and a half ago, when we broke the story about his Lego-building hobby: the impressively-detailed replica he built of the Salt Lake Temple that took more than nine years and 35,000 Lego pieces to build.

Now the most-read post in the history of our blog, Jungheim’s epic creation went viral, and his work has been paraded in many a media outlet. No longer simply a Marriott School faculty member, Jungheim can now boast accomplishments as a Lego brick artist, a small business owner, and co-curator.

Jungheim considers himself an introvert and initially shied away from the media attention until his wife convinced him that the buzz was just what he had been waiting for: a chance for his Lego Salt Lake Temple to take its place in the spotlight.

Dave Jungheim (LEGO)

Jungheim as a boy with his Lego creations. He has been building since he was four years old. Photo Courtesty of Dave Jungheim

“I had tried to get into museums, and I didn’t know who to approach, or how to approach them, or even how to market my piece, and I kept being shown the door,” Jungheim says. After two years, rejection from various art competitions, and more than a little desperation, Jungheim had all but given up.

“When the blog went viral, I realized there are lots of people who think my work is cool and are interested in it,” he says. “It’s just amazing the things that have happened, but it’s not anything we ever planned.”

Since the first Lego temple, Jungheim has been contacted by numerous media outlets in and outside of Utah, including the Daily Herald and Fox 13 News, as well as the Huffington Post and the NY Daily News.  But individuals and groups interested in buying his one-of-a-kind creations have also been knocking on Jungheim’s door; Harvard even asked him to sell his temple blueprints, which he declined.

“Most of what people have asked me to build is really epic in scale, and it’s not something that’s easily repeatable,” Jungheim says.

Jungheim’s business, Inspired Bricks, launched its official website in October 2015. It has begun selling high-quality prints of his Lego temple and offering contact information for those interested in specific, commissioned works.

On commission Jungheim built a second Salt Lake Temple (watch a time lapse video of the building here), and is currently building the inside and outside of the Salt Lake Tabernacle, which has already taken him through hundreds of hours of design and prototyping. While building, Jungheim watches Netflix. He has completed the entire Star Trek Enterprise series and is currently working through Star Trek Voyager.

He has also begun collecting parts for a third Salt Lake Temple, which requires parts from thirty-nine different locations, as far as Bangkok. Five parts, Jungheim says, he has already bought out completely. For Jungheim, it’s hard to believe all that has spanned from his first efforts nine years ago.

“I wasn’t really interested in doing it initially, but the German heritage in me says if you’re going to do something, you’re going to do it right, and so I fought it for a while, and once I decided to take it on, there was no turning back.”

And after years of effort, Jungheim’s dream came true—the Special Collections of the Harold B. Lee Library contacted him about giving his temple its limelight. This resulted in a special exhibit featuring Lego creations, including a one-of-a-kind Lego Book of Mormon that Jungheim created especially for the exhibit. Credited as the exhibit’s co-curator, Jungheim finally secured the place for his Lego temple to have its grand debut. And it was no small soiree. Library communications manager Roger Layton says the Facebook post announcing the exhibit had more than 117,000 views, and they estimate that more than 10,000 people visited the collection.

“The library says that I have a claim to being the founder of a movement, which was not something I ever planned,” Jungheim says.

And true to b-school form, Jungheim is getting a hands-on education in real-life business practices.

“I’m learning a lot of things that normally you wouldn’t learn,” Jungheim says. “Most of us, in our normal positions, we do a small part of what a big organization does. It’s miniscule and we only really know that part and the things that are tangent to it, but you don’t have to know everything. Running a small company you have to know everything. Suddenly a date with the wife turns into business meeting on social media marketing.”

And it doesn’t seem that Jungheim’s momentum is going to slow down anytime soon, even as he faces new challenges and lessons to be learned.

“I often tell people that my artwork has a life of its own,” Jungheim says. “And every time I’ve tried to direct it, it’s not worked out. But when I’ve just sat back and let things happen, and listen to other people, some of the most amazing and unexpected things have happened. It’s been a wild ride over the last year.”