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How we made Manchester United’s Old Trafford out of LEGO® bricks|

How we made Manchester United’s Old Trafford out of LEGO® bricks

February 2020. AKA ‘The Calm Before the Storm’. Amidst our innocently misplaced optimism about the new year ahead, we released our first set of a real-life sports stadium – Manchester United’s Old Trafford.

It was designed by Michael Psiaki, one of our Design Masters (yes, that’s his actual title…). Michael spoke with us for our Brick Expander series on Adults Welcome, where we get behind-the-scenes insights from the designers of the most impressive LEGO® sets.

Whether you’re a Mancunian, Madrileños, Londoner… or even a Liverpudlian… we think you’ll enjoy learning more about the design process of this model.

Let’s kick off with the basics – who are you?

Hi! I’m Michael Psiaki and I’ve been working in Product Development for over eight years.

Michael Psiaki, designer of LEGO® Old Trafford

Why Manchester United’s Old Trafford?

We’d thrown around the idea of sports arenas for the past 10 years. We went through quite a bit of exploration as to what it could be, but in Fall 2018 we narrowed down our choice to Old Trafford. Part of our considerations was the stadium’s 110-year anniversary, but another is simply the incredible history and following the club has on a global scale.

What were your first thoughts as you started?

Over the years, whenever we’d taken prototype versions of sports arenas to consumer tests, everyone thought them ‘underwhelming.’ So when it came to Old Trafford, we knew that if we were going to do this, it needed to be BIG! The LEGO version is scaled at about 1:600.

What kind of barriers did you hit? How did you learn from your mistakes?

The most unique problem was how to find a solution for representing the 75,000 seats. We originally tried stepping plate layers to capture all of the rows, but not having enough rows of seats did a bad job of conveying the model’s scale. We played around with a few different ideas for how to capture the scale of the seats before we ended with the solution of using angled classic profile bricks – a solution I’m quite proud of!

The Sir Alex Ferguson stand

How many iterations of the design did you go through before the final test?

We had three main versions. The first was something we built quickly to show the overall idea. The second version had some details of the stadium and a building flow that built concentric rings around the field going upwards. But for the third model, we decided to split the model into the four major stands instead of building it in rings, so the building experience between versions 2 and 3 changed completely.

Did you get a chance to fly out to Manchester to help with the design development?

Yes, after we built the second version, I had the chance to visit the stadium in person. We even brought the second version model with us! Being shown around and having the history of the club explained to us really helped us make a much more accurate model and gain insight into all the small details that make the stadium so special. We spotted loads of small quirks that were eventually integrated into the final version. For example, we saw that the Munich Tunnel, hospitality suites and the shaping and structure of the East and West stands roofs were either missing from our prototype or built incorrectly.
The entrance to the Munich Tunnel

What are your favorite parts of the model?

I’d have to say the roofs of the East and West stands. We built them with cantilever supports using our 3.2 bar system, and the struts support the transparent roof just like they do in the real stadium!

As an American, do you support a particular football (soccer!) team?

At the start of developing this model, no. But after learning so much about Manchester United, I can’t help keeping up on the scores and feeling excited when they win. I would say I’m a United fan in the making!

Do you work with any fans of rival teams? What did they think?

I have a few colleagues who support Liverpool who would insist on at least a weekly basis that we were making a huge mistake and should be building Anfield instead.

Looking for more?

Check out the Adults Welcome homepage to see our collection of adult-focused sets and articles!