InterKOM

Every Kid’s Dream

My name is Matt. I’m 36 years old. I’ve got a wonderful wife, three amazing kids, a career I enjoy, and – as a Packers fan – some serious bragging rights.

And, I admit, I like to play with LEGOs.

You see, recently I was able to work on a project with the architects at Friar Associates that would make many other structural engineers drool … the LEGO Imagination Center at Mall of America. And while I’ll stop short of saying it was a dream come true, it certainly does in many ways for me represent the completion of some sort of LEGO-life-circle.

When I was a kid, I was definitely into toys that were made to be built … Lincoln Logs (remember those?), Tinker Toys and Erector Sets. But LEGOs were my real love. And while I loved all colors, sizes and configurations equally, my LEGO systems of choice were definitely the castle sets and the spaceship sets.

Fast forward through high school, college, several Packer playoff appearances (and two Super Bowls), my wedding and the birth of my children … and again I’m surrounded by LEGOs. My basement is of full of ‘em. They’re everywhere. And I love it.

My two oldest kids – Jack, age 8, and Roen, age 4 – are like mini versions of me. They play with LEGOs constantly … Jack is even in a LEGO club. And the best part? I get to play with them! I get down on the floor, lay on my belly and start sifting through the piles, looking for a flat two-by-one, or a two-by-six brick, or …

(In the interest of fairness, I should mention that my one-year-old daughter Olivia likes LEGOs, too … especially the yellow heads on the LEGO guys. Apparently they’re somewhat tasty, although my personal opinion is that she chews them off the little LEGO-guy bodies just to irritate her brothers and me.)

Anyway, when the LEGO Store project came along, I was (temporarily, I’m sure) elevated to some sort of hero status for my kids and their friends. Here comes Jack’s dad! He’s the guy that’s building the LEGOs at the Mall! Yay, Jack’s dad! At least that’s how it goes in my head. And even if that’s not quite accurate, I know my kids thought it was pretty cool that I was working on the LEGO Store.

And you know what? It was cool. Sure, there are always challenges and stresses and complications … after all, we were dealing with a 20,000-pound giant LEGO robot in addition to several other LEGO models and a completely redesigned store. But at the end of the day, the simple fact was that I was getting to work on the LEGO Imagination Center! With giant robots! And LEGO helicopters hanging from the ceiling!

(And, for those of you wondering, yes, those models are really made out of actual LEGOs… but they have a steel frame underneath. And, yes, they are a lot heavier than the models that had been there.)

I know the day is coming when my kids will no longer think I’m cool. And when the LEGO-strewn basement will be too clean and quiet. So, I’m going to enjoy this time, and be grateful for my family, and for a job that occasionally lets me be a kid all over again.

Now, has anyone seen the head for my LEGO knight?

About Matt Van Hoof, PE

Matt graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1997 with a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering and has been practicing structural engineering ever since. Matt joined the firm in 2001 after working in Chicago for four years.   What do you enjoy most about working at KOMA? I enjoy the people I work […]

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