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

Microscale BIG builds 02

PANDA-Panda House

Panda House is the home for giant pandas Mao Sun and Xing Er in Copenhagen Zoo. This is divided into two separate areas which appear as a yin and yang symbol, creating the freest and most naturalistic possible environment for the giant pandas.

The micro panda house is built with 540 lego bricks. I started with the round enclosure, to have an idea of the global scale of the model. When starting a new model, I always define the scale while building it, depensding on the dimension of the bricks I use; that’s why each model has its own scale. The challenging part here was to combine the circular shape with the rectangular base.

MTN-The Mountain

Mountain Dwellings is a building located in the Ørestad district of Copenhagen, consisting of apartments above a multi-story car park, merging the two functions into a symbiotic relationship.

I did two versions of the Mountain: the first one turned out too big, so I decided to start again with a smaller apartment module even if the final one is a bit less accurate, but I think pretty succesful in that scale.

Front view
Top view

8-8 Tallet

8 House is a large mixed-use development built in the southern perimeter of the new suburb of Ørestad in Copenhagen.

The 8 tallet was very challenging as well, as it’s really hard to get various angles using only lego bricks, but also due to the complexity of the existing build. Using the wall corner 1x1x1 lego element for the balconies is quite successful in this model.

Top view
Side view

LEGO World Copenhagen 2020

From February 13 to 16, a large number of the models in the Big Builders project are on display in the LEGO Architecture zone at LEGO World in Bella Center, Copenhagen.

The micro models presented in this post are on display for the first time.

Setting up Kistefos Museum
All containers stacked for the DONG model

Microscale BIG builds

Inspired by the lego FORMGIVING exhibition at DAC and since I work as a Design Assistant at BIG Copenhagen I got the idea of recreating some BIG builds in microscale. Being a big fan of micro lego builds this was a real pleasure to build them. So let me show you my first three lego recreations.

ARC-Amager Bakke

Waste-to-energy plant topped with a ski slope, hiking trail and climbing wall in Amager, Copenhagen.

This model has been created in a total of two days. I mostly work on Lego Digital Designer to design my models. This helps me to create fast lego models, whitout having any constraints. For the building technique I got inspired by the lego build of Helgi Toftegaard for the Danish Pavilion (Expo 2010), using the the 1×2 Liftarm lego element connected together.

W57-VIA 57 WEST

Via 57 West is a residential building, a hybrid between the European perimeter block and a traditional Manhattan highrise, combining compactness and efficiency.

This model was really challenging due to it’s complex shapes, difficult to reproduce with lego bricks. After different tests, I choose to split the surface into 9 slices which allows me to get an accurate shape while keeping the build small.

CON-Urban Rigger

Urban Rigger involves stacking shipping containers on a floating platform to create student housing, docked in the harbour of Copenhagen

This is probably one of my favorite build so far. The challenging part on this wasdue to its small size and the level of detail on the surface.

Exploded view-axonometric

REN – The real LEGO model

– here seen at Danish Architecture Center for the FORMGIVING exhibition:

I accepted the challenge of building the real world LEGO model based on a LEGO Digital Designer file from Shenghui Jiang. It required some small changes compared to the digital model, but mainly the model is as intended by Shenghui.

René Askham

DONG – The model at FORMGIVING exhibition

The initial prototypes for the DONG model are described in this blog post.

During the FORMGIVING exhibition in Danish Architecture Center from June to October 2019, the LEGO model of DONG was built by the audience on selected days, guided by pre-sorted bricks, building instructions and volunteers from BIG.

Bjarke Ingels explaining the concept during the opening reception of FORMGIVING
FORMGIVING press photo. Kids demonstrating how the model is put together, one container at a time.
An employee from BIG assisting the audience in building the container modules for the model.
There was an opportunity to build with a BIG employee every Saturday
All opening days, there was also the opportunity to build your own creation with LEGO bricks from the large LEGO pool – filled with bricks
Often, the audience placed alternative design of containers in the model
Helgi adjusting a few details on the almost finished model

The building process can be seen half way through the below video which shows all the models displayed at the FORMGIVING exhibition

More pictures of DONG in DAC:

The audience was very happy to be co-builders of the LEGO model of DONG
Here the audience is putting their finishing touches to the work
Here is the finished model from the back
The front of the finished model. Can you find the one apartment where the audience has chosen to turn the back out?

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. 

Proud Big Builders joined by Bjarke Ingels at the opening reception. In his opening address, Bjarke referred to our “super-human LEGO skills”
FORMGIVING press photo
FORMGIVING press photo. Kids building the DONG model
FORMGIVING press photo. Kids playing in the LEGO pool in the center of The Golden Gallery
Bjarke Ingels and the MTN model by Esben Kolind
FORMGIVING press photo from the main exhibition.

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]