Absolutely Bricking It! Dublin designer puts his childhood toys to good use

– “This pub is small, but that one is far away…” Micro-Grogan’s next to its namesake. Photo credit: Gianni Clifford 

Dublin has never seemed so small, not since Gianni Clifford began rebuilding the city brick by brick… with Lego! 

The product designer and Lego-head caught attention online at the beginning of the year when he uploaded pictures to Instagram (@DublinBricks) of an uncannily realistic Grogan’s Castle Lounge, made out of real Lego.  

It didn’t stop with the exterior. The interior was replicated down to the “nitty gritty” details, even the legendary cheese-toasties dished out by Grogan’s to keep mid-session hunger pangs at bay.  

Clifford has since shared Lego replicas of several other famous Dublin pubs, including the Lord Edward, The Long Hall, The Bernard Shaw and Anseo, with the same remarkable attention to detail. 

“I’m from Dublin, I love Dublin and a good Dublin pub. The pubs I’ve built so far, are places I really love. I look at the project as an opportunity to spread some cheer and celebrate how deadly Dublin is,” said Clifford. 

Working professionally as a product designer for software company, Zendesk, Clifford has had a keen eye for design from a young age. Lego was perhaps the catalyst for this life-long interest in creating and building. 

“It’s always something I’ve been into. Lego ticks a lot of boxes in a child’s brain. When they’re building, on top of creativity, there’s a sense of engineering and figuring things out, its essentially a three-dimensional jigsaw,” he explained. 

– The original Bernard Shaw, immortalised in plastic. Photo credit: Gianni Clifford 

As attention has grown online, so too has the demand for people wanting to buy “Dublin Bricks” sets of their own. Although this demand has come as a welcome surprise to the Dublin-proud designer, it was never an intention.  

“I want to get people to connect with ‘playing’ again and tell people it’s okay for an adult to play with Lego in the evening and get some separation from everything else that’s going on in the world. It’s not going to be a big money-maker,” explained Clifford.  

Selling sets to build complete replicas of Clifford’s work would be a colossal undertaking. The number of pieces would be overwhelming both to package and to assemble for the casual Lego fan. His replica of the Lord Edward, for example, contains roughly 2,500 pieces.  

– Lord above! The Lord Edward, Dublin 8. Photo credit: Gianni Clifford 

Clifford has made limited runs of smaller-scale versions of his work to sell, which still look the business, just with less of the “nitty gritty.” 

Via his @DublinBricks Instagram page, punters can pick up a “Micro-Grogan’s,” made up of 150 pieces, and a Dublin Centenary Crest with 29 pieces.  

While pubs were the first Dublin landmarks he tackled, they are not the only chapter in Clifford’s plastic love letter to his hometown. The unmistakable green, white and yellow of famous takeaway, Leo Burdocks, including a detailed kitchen and shop front are among the highlights. As well as Lego-men versions of Irish music legends, The Dubliners. 

“I have a replica of the Natural History Museum in the works, which might take me a little while as it’s a big undertaking. I have also built The Lady on the Rock, or “The Lady on the Brick,” as I’m calling her. I want to build things that are recognisable and just remind people how great this city is,” said Clifford. 

The timeless joy of Lego is clear to see in Gianni Clifford’s work. As many toys lose their value and appeal, as trends and technologies change, the Lego system hasn’t changed. The Lego that kids played with decades ago is the same as it is today.  

“A kid can dismantle it, put it away and later take it back out and build something entirely different with it. You can even pass it on to your kids and they can add your collection to theirs. It will all still snap together. It keeps giving,” he said. 

While Lego is the vehicle chosen by Clifford, at his core is a desire to celebrate the city he loves, using the tools he knows and enjoys.  

If it helps to spread even a little happiness and escape for others too, surely that’s something worth building on? 

– No ‘Plastic Paddies’ here. Dublin’s Centenary Crest.  Photo credit: Gianni Clifford