Big Builders

Welcome to BigBuilders.dk.

This site is about a Group of LEGO entusiasts Building models of architecture by Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG).

The initiative for this project was taken by Helgi Toftegaard at Skærbæk Fan Weekend 2016.

A group of LEGO enthusiasts from Denmark, the United States, Canada, China, Taiwan joined forces to build LEGO models of buildings from Denmark, Sweden, the Faroe Islands, Bahamas, Taiwan, China and the United States.

The first exhibition of selected buildings will be in LEGO House from April 20 – May 13, 2018

FORMGIVING

FORMGIVING – A giant exhibition in the Danish Architecture Center, with 71 BIG projects as glimpses of and gifts to our future. In the “Golden Gallery” 25 BIG-designed buildings are recreated in LEGO bricks by LEGO master builders from all over the world. The LEGO-show is on view until October 20, 2019. 

COCO – Grove at Grand Bay

My second build for FORMGIVING is the Grove at Grand Bay. Two winding 20-story towers with luxury condos, cleverly twisting as they rise to provide both towers with great views of the harbour. The towers are surrounded by a lush green landscape providing the residents with comfort and shade.

Grove at Grand Bay – Photo by © Rasmus Hjorthøy
Pool area landscape – Photo by © Rasmus Hjorthøy

There were three main challenges with recreating this exciting piece of architecture in LEGO form.

  • The twist in the towers – luckily unlike my other build Kistefos Museum the twist is around the vertical access, which means I wouldn’t have to worry about stability since each floor rests on the previous
  • The flowing lines of the landscapes are difficult to approximate with LEGO bricks. I realised early that some compromises would have to be made.
  • The final challenge is a more practical one; I wanted to add some interior lights to the buildings, but two 20-story buildings requires a lot of lights!

Before I write more about these challenges, let me show you the (almost) completed model. It was definitely tricky to photograph such a large build at home, so please excuse the somewhat cheesy gradient background that was put in to hide some of shortcomings in my photo setup.

The construction of the floors are very simple with no exciting techniques. Notice the hole in the floor which is for the cabling for the lights.

To simplify setup and get the angles correct, each floor has a small angled contraption in it’s center which allows me to stack the floors like pancakes. Two 2×4 bricks on the underside of each floor slots into the contraption to keep it in place.

The lights were custom made by my friend Sigurd Refvik, and consist of:

  • 2 USB connector cables, each having 5 female plugs to attach the lights
  • 10 USB cables with 4 diodes attach to a regular 1×2 LEGO plate. The cables are very thin and easy to incorporate into the build.

No small task indeed, with 40 LED’s to solder in addition to all the USB plugs, so huge thanks to Sigurd for his efforts! Each tower has one of the USB connector cables stretching through the floors, with a light cable attached every 4th floor.

Part of the landscape around the towers

To create the landscape around the towers, I used mostly a combination of curved bricks and the relatively new curved tiles, and a lot of bamboo leaves for the greenery. The layout is not 100% accurate, but I tried to keep as many as the key elements as possible.

One thing you may have noticed about the lights are the yellowish lights that bleeds through into the areas that don’t have LEDs. This is is due to the white plates being somewhat translucent, and giving the white light a yellowish hue. After taking the photos I have tried to alleviate this problem somewhat by adding an extra layer of plates to the affected areas, so hopefully the model will look a bit better on display at the exhibition.

That’s all for now, thank you for reading (if you got this far) and hope you enjoyed it!

KIS – Kistefos Museum

When I was invited to build something for the FORMGIVING exhibition, one of the buildings that fascinated me was the new Kistefos Museum in Jevnaker, Norway. Serving as both infrastructure, architecture and a sculpture, this new museum will truly transform the way guests experience their visit. I recommend checking out the BIG homepage for to get the full story and idea behind KIS: https://big.dk/#projects-kis

When trying to recreate this building as a LEGO model, the biggest challenge is as you may have guessed the twist. I also wanted to avoid adding any support pillars to the bridge which I felt would ruin the look.

The image above shows what I ended up with. Basically the twist consists of a series of 2 studs wide elements connected with Technic pins. The rotation of each element is kept in place with some bricks (not shown) limiting how far it can rotate. The only way to make sure the construction was strong enough was to actually build it, and then let it sit on my shelf to see if it would keep in place or start to sag. After a test period of 4-5 months with no problems I gave it the green light.

Here is the finished model, with interior LED lights. The lights are custom made by my friend Sigurd Refvik who also did the lighting for my second build for FORMGIVNING – namely COCO – Grove at Grand Bay. I will write a bit more detailed about the lights in an upcoming blog post about COCO.

Hope you enjoyed reading, and if you are in Copenhagen be sure to check out the exhibition! https://dac.dk/udstillinger/formgiving-big/

PAN – Panda House

The Panda House is the home of the Copenhagen Zoo’s two new pandas. In a collaboration between the Zoo and the Copenhagen LEGO Store I was asked to build a model of this, to be exhibited in the LEGO Store.

The building have almost no straight lines anywhere, and the shape is representation of the yin and yang with the curved separation between the two enclosures. The build also features a lot of greenery to portray the kind of lush environment of pandas natural habitat.

The trickiest feature to make was the round walkway going all the way around the build, with lots of experimentation at the start to get the right diameter of the ring but still keep it reasonably sturdy.

When it comes to scale the build had to be a bit skewed, with slightly different scale for the different elements of the build. This was due to the desire to incorporate LEGO minifigures, while still being able to fit the build into a display case of a certain size. One consequence of this is that the area for the panda looks smaller in the build than in real life.

Due to all the rounded shapes many very bit intensive techniques had to be used, pushing the number of pieces used quite high, to around 10,000. This is a very rough number though, as the method used for organic building is very iterative and keeping track of usage is not easy.

All in all it has been a fun challenge to build, and I’m really happy with how it turned out!

TSP – The Spiral

The model has now been fully designed in LEGO Digital Designer!

Overall, the model will consist of nearly 5,500 pieces and will feature a façade made up of transparent LEGO plates, with medium blue plates behind. The spiral pattern was surprisingly tricky to account for as it winds its way up the tower, and resulted in numerous half-stud offsets along the broad faces of the building. The windows directly behind each spiral step will feature tan highlights in an effort to differentiate these sections of façade from the rest of the glass. The balconies will also be covered in plenty of greenery and plants in the spirit of the overall design concept of continuing New York City’s Highline into the Skyline!

This image highlights much of the internal structure of the model. It is made up of four stacked modules which are connected with a central 2×2 technic beam. I chose to use pink during much of the design process as transparent elements can be difficult to see in LEGO Digital Designer. This decision also helped with the program’s performance overall.

[Rocco]

MTN – Reaching the summit

I have built Mount Everest in LEGO! Well, just a mosaic but still…

I am quite satisfied with the result. Compared to the instructions from the mosaic maker program, I have substituted about half of the very light grey 1×1 plates with transparent 1×1 plates. This was done partly because of limited supply, partly to reflect the partial transparency of the real-life wall due to the raster effect described in the previous blog post. Also, the dark bluish grey plates representing the sky have been replaced by dark transparent plates and tiles since this part is in fact the area with the highest level of transparency.

As with all mosaics, the result looks better from a distance as seen on the picture below.

During the construction, I followed the instructions meticulously using a ruler, a pencil and temporary tiles to indicate each 10 studs. Where possible, I used larger plates and bricks to keep the wall together. It is not sturdy, but not too fragile either.

I have now moved on to the final touches including the surrounding street and canal environments.

DONG – Building instructions

How is a building instruction made?

The process of creating a building instruction is done in several steps and contains some different challanges.

I often get a quick respond that that has to be easy for a software to make automaticly – but when you look at the details it is not that easy.

  • Not to many different bricks at the same time
  • Some steps are more critical than other, so not just the same amount of bricks per step. This can be noted in the offcial LEGO building instructions. It might look strange in some steps to only place one brick, but often there is a reason to prepare the builder in the coming steps, to speed up or down the builder.
  • To get the right brick in the right order, some step is not that critical as others.
  • Bricks can not be “built in the air”, so the building instruction steps need to prepare some building steps before putting them into the model, especially SNOT building technique.

Following are some examples of the steps to make an instruction.

STEP 1 – Making a Digital Model in Lego Digital Designer (LDD)

Using the LDD in expert mode makes it easy to locate most of the buidling bricks, but if the model is to be built in real life, the bricks must also be availabe in the color you need – that is not allways obvious.

LEGO DIGITAL DESIGNER – LDD
FINAL MODEL

STEP 2 – Breaking down the model into building steps

First screendump and last step of the front window instruction.
The bricks to the left of the model is the bricks needed for this step. piece by piece.
NOTE that the 1×1 stup on the side brick is not correct, that brick is not in LDD yet.

Some of the steps – screendumps from LDD that is later used in photoshop

The LDD screendump (transparent PNG) and manually (with some magic) fixed the “missing” bricks in photoshop
…the SNOTed panel…
…two bricks on the top…
…three bricks but only two types of bricks to be placed on the top…
…some windows…
…and so on…
last screendump and first step of building.

STEP 3 – Creating the pages

Using Adobe Photoshop Elements and working in layers, the pages are built up step by step and page by page.

STEP 4 – Merging pages into a final document

As pages are created in Photoshop the disc is filled with individual pages that need to be merged into a document. This is done using Adobe Acrobat.

BACKGROUND

The above work and blog article is made by me, Anders Horvath. A LEGO fan since birth and an active Swebrick AFOL since 2012. Back in 1987 after engineering collegue I started at a company working as a technical illustrator making spare parts lists/3D illustrations (in 1987 3D illustrations was made by hand, not computers).

Today I am a marketing communication manager for a big corporation so the LDD and 3D modelleling is a fun work on the side in combination with the LEGO building hobby, bringing some “good old days” back into my life.

TSP – The Spiral

A LEGO model of The Spiral will be build by Rocco Buttliere.

Every new piece starts with a sketch.  As a trained architect, plan and section drawings always help me better visualize the dimensions and massing of the overall building.  The next step is to start designing the model, which will likely be made up of numerous stacks of floor plates, each with different dimensions as the spiral pattern slowly diminishes the overall footprint.  Stay tuned!

In the description of the building, BIG states:

Located at the intersection of the High Line and the newly developed Hudson Boulevard Park on Manhattan’s new western frontier, THE SPIRAL extends the green space of the former train tracks in a spiraling motion towards the sky – from High Line to the skyline. The 1,005 ft high-rise is a unique hybrid that intertwines a continuous green pathway with workspaces on every level. The chain of amenity spaces and terraces originates at THE SPIRAL’s main entrance on 34th street and Hudson Boulevard. The spiral wraps around the tower, which becomes gradually slimmer towards the top. This creates unique floor configurations that will cater to a diverse community of tenants making the building a lively place for businesses of different scales – giving tenants a stake in the buildings iconic skyline presence.

Inside, every terrace becomes a double height atrium with impressive views over Manhattan, offering a more informal setting for meetings, events and recreational activities. These spaces connect multiple levels in the building, offering an alternative to elevators to encourage physical activity and interaction amongst colleagues. THE SPIRAL sets a new standard for the contemporary workplace, where nature becomes an integrated part of the work environment while spatial features are continuously adaptable to the changing needs of the tenants and their organizations.

The stepping form of THE SPIRAL echoes the architecture of New York City’s classic stepped setback skyscrapers and is the natural evolutionary step in the Tishman Speyer portfolio. The silhouette of THE SPIRAL resonates with the iconic architecture of Rockefeller Center while its modern materials and detailing place it at the forefront of contemporary high-rise design on a path to become a future classic on the Manhattan skyline.

MTN – Preparing to build Mount Everest

All the apartments are now completed except for props (tables, plants etc.) on the terraces which will be added at the end. So when you look at the model from a very specific angle (south-east corner), it looks finished.

But I have yet to build the back side of the building, the large image of Mount Everest wrapping around the parking lot under the apartments. From the images below it would appear that the image is painted on somewhat transparent panels.

However, when you come up close it turns out that all the panels are in fact the same grey/silver color and the image appears due to the raster effect of holes in various sizes!

The image below was kindly provided by the architect and is the original image of Mount Everest used to create the panels.

How do you recreate this in LEGO? I considered many different options, including using Technic bricks with holes to mimic the actual construction. But I settled for a classic, studs-up mosaic and used a LEGO mosaic maker tool to create the image below which will serve as the building instruction. The mosaic alone contains roughly 10.000 1×1 plates!

I have chosen the colors white, very light grey (from the LEGO Mosaic sets), light bluish grey and dark bluish grey as well as transparent and dark transparent which I hope will give a little of the see-through effect of the actual wall. The plates are ligned up below, color by color.

The model has been turned 180 degrees on my table. Now it is time to start building a giant mosaic!

XPO – EXPO 2010 Danish Pavilion

A LEGO model of The Danish Pavilion in Shanghai, China will be build by Helgi Toftegaard.

In the description of the building, BIG states:

The Danish Pavilion was designed to not only exhibit Danish virtues, but, through interaction, to give the visitor an experience of some of the best attractions in Copenhagen: the city bike, the harbor bath, the nature playground and an ecological picnic. The bike is a vernacular means of transportation and a national symbol common to Denmark and China. With the pavilion we relaunched the bike in Shanghai as a symbol of modern lifestyle and sustainable urban development. The pavilion’s 1500 city bikes were offered for general use to the visitors during EXPO 2010.

In the heart of the pavilion was a harbor bath, which is filled up with seawater from Copenhagen harbor. The visitors could swim in the bath and not only hear about the clean water, but actually feel and taste it. The Little Mermaid was transported to Shanghai to sit in the waterline of the pavilion’s harbor bath exactly as she is in Copenhagen harbor.

The first step for the model building was to build some tests:

How to build curved
Floor and roof
Facade surface
The bikes are essential in this LEGO model

… and then to the challenging part: getting the model to turn around itself