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How do you expert builders begin to design and build a modular building?

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I have purchased the Pet Shop, Parisian Restaurant and detectives office and am looking at adding some buildings in between but cannot begin…in a rut on how and what to build.

So…

How do you expert builders begin to design and build a modular building?

Are there specific tools you use?

Do you build from the ground up?

I appreciate all your expertise in advance!

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Don't really consider myself an expert yet, but I've designed all my MOCs in LDD before building them irl.

Usually, I have a principal idea in my head what the building should look like, including some design elements I'd like to use. Then I start with the ground floor and work my way up (though with my newest building I started with an upper floor - but the whole building evolved around a new technique for building the front facade I came up with and wanted to try out).
I often change my plans as I go along, especially when I find that something doen't work (either visually or technically). I've also taken up building prototypes of smaller sections to check wether what I designed in LDD works and is stable enough in real life.

I also usually lay low on colors (not too many in one build, as the result usually looks cluttered), and try to use repeating patterns (window placement, variations of similar design elements) on all floors.

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Posted (edited)

I start by looking at photos of buildings or walking around a city with interesting buildings on Google Earth looking for inspiration. When I see something unique, I'll add the photo to a bin on my desktop. Then sometimes I scroll through the photos and think about how something might be accomplished with lego pieces and start trying out ideas with actual bricks. So, I have buildings in the works now that are like this:

33805396421_d61cbc7163.jpg

This is an office building that I want to build, but right now it's just a window unit.

33805603661_a018959067.jpg

Here is a storefront idea that I'm noodling with. It's just a "sketch" right now and there is a lot to work out if it's going to become a proper building.

I usually have several projects that are in various states of build like this. Sometimes bits sit for months before I know if they are going anywhere. Sometimes an idea will come from a lego piece. I did a crowbar fence in my most recent modular, but I had the idea ages ago. 

I guess I'm a very non-linear builder because I will build up or down from wherever the idea started. 

 

Edited by eliza

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Posted (edited)

I build with LDD first and I always start with the windows and window decoration on the first floor followed by the complete facade of the first floor.

From there I usually build the second floor facade, especially when it looks the same like with my last builds. Afterwards I either build the ground floor facade or the backside facade. So at one point my buildings look like a hollywood fake backdrop city where nothing besides the facade exists. ;-)

In the end I fill up the build with the interior.

Edited by peedeejay

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I can't speak for all builders, and I certainly can't pretend to speak as an expert builder, but for me there's a few steps to going from nothing to a Lego Digital Designer plan, to eventually a finished modular.

Step 1: Inspiration. Think about what kind of building you want to make. What style is it? What purpose does it serve? This is a great time to investigate some architecture styles and real life buildings that take your fancy. You can either copy a building directly, or take visual cues from multiple. Just don't mix architectural styles as it can leave your building looking confused.

Step 2: Conceptualising: Fitting your building into a single baseplate (or more if you choose) can be tricky and is more restrictive than you may think. Especially if you're making a corner building as that limits further the width you're allowed. Fitting it onto a baseplate often requires "selective compression" - the careful consideration and omission of unnecessary or extraneous details without losing the essence of the design. Select the elements that are important to you for retaining the aesthetic. Also be sure to compare your colour palate in real bricks to get an idea how well they go together - some colours really clash, especially the bright hues, make sure you select neutral tones to tone down any garish colours if necessary. It's not always possible to see this in LDD or LDraw.

Step 3: Designing. I personally build from the ground up in Lego Digital Designer, carefully laying out the structural elements that I require. For example, I'd lay out on the baseplate the position of the door, windows and other major details to get the spacing right. If you want details in between, make sure you've left enough room for them. As for vertical height, I go by eye as I find it easier to balance. You may find it easier to design an particular elements of the design first (bay window, motif, etc) to ensure you have enough space for them. Some simple guidelines to go by:

  • The ground floor should have a higher ceiling height than those above it.
  • Horizontals should where possible line up. If a door frame goes to 6 bricks high, line up the top of the window frames to the same height.
  • Likewise for verticals. Windows look incredibly off putting if they don't line up with the ones below.
  • Weight - while it's tempting to put plate glass across the whole ground floor, consider where the weight of the building above would be resting on. Give it some supports, that line up with building weight above.

They're guidelines, not rules, but the more you break the harder it will be to pull off. Remember that the viewer has certain expectations about a subject, even if they're unfounded: sometimes it's better to look correct than be correct.

Step 4: Verification. Make sure the parts you've used in your design exist! It can be hard, especially as a new designer, but look over the plans to see any issues that may arise when you're building it. Did you delete the only attachment point for that assembly? Some redesign may be necessary.

Step 5: Order and build!

 

This turned into a rambling post but I hope someone gets something useful out of this. My flickr feed.

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6 hours ago, eliza said:

I start by looking at photos of buildings or walking around a city with interesting buildings on Google Earth looking for inspiration. When I see something unique, I'll add the photo to a bin on my desktop. Then sometimes I scroll through the photos and think about how something might be accomplished with lego pieces and start trying out ideas with actual bricks.

I usually have several projects that are in various states of build like this. Sometimes bits sit for months before I know if they are going anywhere. Sometimes an idea will come from a lego piece. I did a crowbar fence in my most recent modular, but I had the idea ages ago. 

I guess I'm a very non-linear builder because I will build up or down from wherever the idea started. 

 

Keeping a "Lego Inspiration" photo album on your phone/computer is indeed a great way to keep those ideas in one place. I even screenshot websites or videos if I see something that strikes my eye. Before you know it, you've got a wealth of inspiration to start tinkering with the implementation. Personally, I've never used LDD for my MOCs (just haven't taken the time to really get good at it); I like the physical process of putting the bricks together and changing them out.

One suggestion I would add is if you're getting stuck on a color palette (I often have this problem), try to build your "sample" area with bricks of the same color (like all tan or white or whatever you have the most of). Then when you have a design you like, you can go back and replace the "generic" color with the actual colors.

Hope this helps! 

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I am anything but an expert, and instead of pure MOCs, most my creations are some sort of MODs of Lego-designed buildings, Creator, Friends or even City. Sometimes, I stay very true to the original, mostly adding back walls. Then again sometimes I just use the bricks and build something completely new. My advise would be that as a rookie, simply try to copy what professional Lego designers have done. For instance, look at this

where I MODded two Park Street Townhouses to fit a 32x32 baseplate as a modular row of houses. Should fit reasonably well next to the Pet Shop. Then, whenever you feel like it, move on to true MOCcing.

When I desing a MOC, I usually start with the second floor window design. I decide what colour and size the windows should be, how I will place them and what details I will build around them. This might give me an LDD element the size of eg. 1x6x5 and then I play around LDD, placing those elements next to each other, sometimes with gaps that I then fill with something else/plain bricks etc. Since the second floor is basically a row of windows, it's easily completed. Then I move on to the first=ground floor, using bigger window elements and trying to align them with the second floor.

This is an example of how I start. Some days ago I realised that the spring yellowish green 1x2 bricks are available from PAB and the colour is really special, so I wanted to use it for something. I also have some spare earth green windows and many bright green 16x16 plates, so that was my starting point: use those bricks, build a house... So far, after one LDD session, I've come up with this:

800x198.jpg

I'm testing several different alternatives, playing around with the grey columns to see if they look better with some white added (they don't!) etc. The roof is from another project and I haven't even started on the ground floor yet.

I have done some MOCs without LDD, just by building, but they usually end up a lot bulkier and not that nice. Learning to use LDD is easy and you'll most likely benefit from it.

Happy building!

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Posted (edited)

The hardest part are the architectural elements That will define the front of your building. Concentrate on those, build one floor, than the next, then refine them so they have a cohesive design. Building the rest of the building is easy.

I always keep the building out where I am for a month or so because all that time spent looking at it will make you adjust the design as you get new ideas for parts usage.

Edited by gotoAndLego

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I love building modulars. They can be very time and parts consuming though.

I currently have 3 or 4 WIPs, which is standard, because things always end up taking the front seat.

However, there is a lot of good information above me that has been written by a lot of great builders. Stick to the TOWN forum and you will come up with a lot of goodies.

Certainly, I would agree that you want to look at some neat architectural details in real life and see if you want to try to incorporate that into LEGO form. Another thing I like doing, look on EB, pinterest, flickr or just a random google search and see what other builders have done. You can come up with some neat techniques that you might not have thought of originally. I don't like stealing other people's ideas, but if I can incorporate it into a build and put my own spin on it, then it can help make you a better builder. Other times, of course, just give credit for where you saw it. Sometimes you can't improve upon perfection.

I never use LDD. I haven't in years. I don't have the time. A lot of great planners can use it and are quite proficient with it. Not this guy. I tend to either draw it out on paper and then when I do have time, I try to build certain sections to see how it looks in real life considering my drawings are not to scale. Or I just go with the thought in my head and try to build from that. I tend not to have a lot of time to actually build, so I sometimes will have a lot of planning done and other times I will have no planning done.

Don't be afraid to destroy. I always have a hard time taking something apart to change it if I come up with something different later. But don't be afraid to do that. Yes, it can be frustrating and time intensive, but if you are unwilling to take something apart, then things just sit in WIP or you forget about them. I've tossed aside too many MOCs because I got frustrated and just quit working on it.

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Thank you all.

I must write that you are all extremely humble.  The inspiration and ideas you have fed this coco is amazing...to the point that my brain has become too big for my skull!  What a group!  What a forum!  

Again thanks for the words!!!

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I usually build the base of the house first so that I can know how big I want it to be. Than I pick what color I want the walls to be. If you have those two sets I would go for dark gray so it can make a downtown kind of feel, but it's up to you. Once you are done with that, decide what the building will be for (for example, a donut shop, a market, an antique store, etc). Put furniture in there, as much as you can put (no, not 4 couches in every room). The roof is the tricky part. What I do for this kind of building is getting flat bricks, and than adding railings to the top of the building. Oh, and remember to add a door. 

Hope this helped! :pir_tong2:

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Now I'm no expert, but once again, I start building in LDD. I usually start with the 2 axle holes so that it lines up and connects with other modulars. The hardest part for me is the furniture and spacing. Color is what I look for, and you want to base colors on what is near the building so it fits in.

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I start with an idea I might get from a real building or something from a movie. Sometimes I just start with some interesting pieces I find in my collection.

Here, in my latest MOC, I wanted to achieve a run down look. I saw a building in The Wire that I really liked:

33838710124_b8174b8d3a.jpg

[MOC] Worn down building by Nybohov Creation Ltd., on Flickr

This hotel started with an idea of making fire escape stairs:

34146231004_84799acae4.jpg

[MOC] NYC Fire Escape by Nybohov Creation Ltd., on Flickr

In this case, it was the 1 x 4 brick with groove that made me think of a ware house of sorts:

25727707885_30c06af788.jpg

Tailor at the Warehouse by Nybohov Creation Ltd., on Flickr

This gas station was an attempt to build something with round shapes, art deco-style:

34720006842_b4ffb235a4.jpg

[MOC] Gas station by Nybohov Creation Ltd., on Flickr

I never build in LDD, trial and error with bricks is my way of doing it.

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Posted (edited)

Designed a handful of buildings, the most helpful thing I can suggest is to first establish the "scale".

How tall do you want the ceilings to be? How many floors? What space are you trying to fit it in? etc.

Once you figure out the perimeter/footprint/shape of the building the job becomes easier because now you have a tangible goal. Setting up "limits" or "borders" like this is a great way to keep from getting overwhelmed, otherwise your brain will just wander forever trying to come up with something.

Once you have the shell of the building worked-out, adding details is a lot easier too. Now you're simply tweaking here and there, adding windows, damage, replacing a few bricks, etc.

Edited by Henchmen4Hire

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I haven't posted in a while (nor have I built in a while, sadly) but here is how I go about it.

Sometimes I start with the thought of a building type I want to do, and sometimes I start with an architectural style I want to do. For example, I knew I wanted to make an Art Deco building and for me the logical function was to make a movie theater.

6899068033_6bfef78266.jpg

On the flip side, I wanted to make a courthouse and that made me study Neo Classical for the architectural style.

6902059205_03cdee3195.jpg

Very often I modify existing sets to make them into modulars - Medieval Market Village, The Burrow, Bike Shop and Cafe - so the style is determined but I want to give them a new function. For example, my bike shop and cafe became a jewelry store and pizzeria with apartments above.

15263989427_c38282d1f9.jpg

Once I have the basic idea of the building in mind, I then decide the size. I don't like to be limited to just 32-studs or 16-studs, so sometimes I go over that (my courthouse is 64-studs and my theater is 40-studs) and occasionally I go under (my bike shop and cafe mods are 14-studs each). I also think about the number of floors, either two tall floors or three standard floors for me as I try to design buildings that look at home with the official ones. A few other things I always keep in mind:

1) Look at real-world examples. Many people in this topic already talked about this, and I agree completely. Take pictures of buildings in your neighborhood you are inspired by and do searched online, maybe saving pictures to a folder. I don't like to copy one singular building too literally, so I try and take bits and pieces from many while still having it look like a cohesive package.

2) It's all about the details. Modular buildings are essentially rectangular boxes, so the goal to to make them look like something more. Don't be afraid to use depth in your facades - mine can be three-studs deep at times - and look for other ways to break things up (roof lines, setbacks, balconies, etc). I've seen just as many builds that have too much detail as too little, so finding the balance it key and it isn't just about tacking things onto a wall that don't make sense architecturally.

3) Don't force it. Sometimes you need to walk away for inspiration to hit and other times you need to just tear the thing down and start over. For example, my courthouse was originally going to be 32-studs wide and I had a whole front facade for it constructed before I hated the way it looked and tore it down to make it wider. You might have and idea that sounds good in your head but it just doesn't translate in real life.

One last note: I always build in bricks and don't use LDD at all. This is purely my preference and I have a lot of respect for anyone that can create a digital model first and then order the parts to make it real. For me, I can more quickly prototype things in real bricks (I initially just build in any color I have and then go back later and get the bricks in the final color scheme) but I also have a large collection now to pull from. LDD is definitely the cheaper way to go, especially if you don't have the largest collection.

Good luck!

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On Thursday, July 27, 2017 at 5:02 PM, Henchmen4Hire said:

Designed a handful of buildings, the most helpful thing I can suggest is to first establish the "scale".

How tall do you want the ceilings to be? How many floors? What space are you trying to fit it in? etc.

Once you figure out the perimeter/footprint/shape of the building the job becomes easier because now you have a tangible goal. Setting up "limits" or "borders" like this is a great way to keep from getting overwhelmed, otherwise your brain will just wander forever trying to come up with something.

Once you have the shell of the building worked-out, adding details is a lot easier too. Now you're simply tweaking here and there, adding windows, damage, replacing a few bricks, etc.

Since this thread is relatively fresh, I thought I'd chime in.

I usually work from real-life buildings (see the architecture models in my signature!) and at the moment I'm working on something more to the City / minifigure scale. What I find tremendously helpful is getting out a paper and pen and sketching the building, getting a feel for the ratios of the volumes of the building, etc. What is the usual "floor plan" size for a City building of this kind? What does the floor plan of my model demand? Then work out how everything fits into that scheme.

My current project (should it ever be built) started as a 40-studs principal volume with an overlapping 26-stud annex, but I discovered that my doors would have to be 5 bricks high, which is fairly small! So although I do like intimate scales, I have felt forced to expand a little bit. We'll see how it goes, but the key is, as Henmen4Hire said, to work out a length scale for the façade and how the real-life (or imaginary) building goes according to that.

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my ideas come from watching tv and talking to people and also look at pictures on the net

and then i start to free-build, i just take a lot of bricks and start building,

mostly i start with making windows roof and entrance,

i use the door-frame for measurements

- and for the use of the right colors i ask my women-friends to help out

hope this helps a bit

Goodluck!!!

Greetings

 

 

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Good question!

Hmmm... It's a bit lazy to say, but every building begins differently. I always design on LDD though, I'm poor to make actually anything...

For instace, my first, Magic Shop was inspired by a trip to Germany that I went to. I saw something great and I knew I had to give it my twist without a doubt. For my second, I based it off an H0 model that I had at home of an Italian Villa, and only changed the roof of it

Resultado de imagen de lego magic shop

Magic Shop & Italian Villa!

For my third modular, I based it off a building in a nearby theme park called PortAventura, it was a restaurant in the Western area... So I guess you could say it has a Mississippi look to it. Inspiration can come from anywhere, that's my point. And add unexpected, weird details throughout, I love that too.

Resultado de imagen de lego the iron horse

The Iron Horse, that spire is amazing, btw

My fourth is called Old Ben's Gallery, it's based on two houses in Barcelona (Casa Amatller and Casa Batlló), but I think it didn't turn out well. Some people say they love it, others say they hate it...

Resultado de imagen de lego old ben's gallery

Old Ben's Gallery. Bizarre but cool!

For my fifth building, I wanted something absolutely crazy. No boundaries, zero limits. I pitched this idea of a corner building with a huuuuge 45-degree side. Originally I were to put Venice's Palazzo Ducale on the right building, but after much rebuilding (I think I did about four versions of the building, I settled on the last). Again, don't fear changing!

Resultado de imagen de lego sweets & co

Sweets & Co. has a Willy Wonka theming to it. The whole building looks like a birthday cake.

Some people up there have commented about not mixing too many colours together. It's nonsense honsetly. Don't place pink and dark blue together, but with a bit of white or grey in between you shoul totally be fine

 

For my sixth building, I wanted to make the Palazzo Ducale that I couldn't fit in the last one. Furthermore, I went on a trip to Venice a week after starting on LDD, meaning all the deatails are as authentic as I could make them! Authenticity is key.

Resultado de imagen de lego piazza san marco

This next one is a double modular featuring the world-famous buildings of Piazza San Marco

And finally my sixth building... I've never shown this and I've only done one rendering and it's not even well edited... but... here it goes. Casa Vicens is a recreation of one of the least known buildings by Gaudí. I wanted to enchance the bizarre beauty of this peculiar building. I think I succeeded!

36336069306_af6b434f76_b.jpg

Keys:

1. Make it something you relate to - VERY IMPORTANT!!

2. Think a bit about the structure, but don't worry too much about it (make it proportional and all)

3. Go bananas with the colours - who is going to look at a grey building when it can be red!

4. Go absolutely crazy with the details. Look I even placed on Casa Vicens painter palettes as fences!

5. Push boundaries: make something nobody has seen before. Have I copied any building? They are trully unique!

6. And MOST IMPORTANT: Have fun with it!

 

PD: I have an addiction to crazy buildings, I know, but my severe is my addiction to insane rooftop detailing. I can't stop it, it's my favourite part to design...!

Hope it helps!

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The tools I use for building a modular house : LDD and google images.

At first I set myself a particular objective, for exemple a house in a certain style. Then I search for pictures of buildings which looks like most what I want to realize.

Then, I build on LDD and test some combination with real pieces, just to know if it's doable.

 

One thing is for sure, your building will go through many changes in the process of construction. It's not rare that my building is copy/paste a dozen times to test some combination.

The challenge in building with lego is to create something with a limited number of pieces. Something every MOCer is experiencing.

 

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