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LEGO Techniques - Commission #2

Soon on the heels of my first commission request, I received a second one as well.  I was hoping this would be the beginning of a long string of playing with LEGO on other peoples' money but I guess I'm lucky I got my 15 minutes of fame.  The owner of a downtown firm contacted me to create his world headquarters (here in Portland) out of LEGO brick.  I chuckled at "world" headquarters, sort of like the MLB has their "world" series by virtue of a couple of Canadian teams.  But sure enough, he's got offices in at least a dozen countries and three continents.  World seems legit.

We started at a particular scale.  The building has lettering at the top.  In Portland, marquees and other outdoor signage has stiff restrictions.  Getting the signage took some doing and he was rather proud of his accomplishment.  So he wanted it to look right on the model.  I can't argue with that.  I used the letter tiles form the business card set which were a perfect match, silver letters on black tiles.  Since nine letters fit over a single bank of windows, we'd go from there.

Except for a small problem.

The building, I thought, was square.  Turns out that it's 90' x 100', slightly off.  Also, the window banks are different on each face.  On the 100' side are 6 banks of 2 windows each.  On the 90' side are 4 banks of 3 windows plus a 5th bank of 2 windows.  All these windows are the same size.  So it's something like 12x = 90 while 14x = 100.  The problem is that TLG does not make windows that would fit so I started looking at a brick built solution.  Big price.


But I put the quote together anyway as well as the issues with the windows (no glass).  I also mocked up a digital model at about 80% the size.  This time, off the shelf windows worked well but the lettered marquee would be a little long.  Since 80%^3 = 51%, the volume and therefore price should be cut in half with this small reduction.  I offered both bids and the client took the slightly smaller one.

Then he contacted me a few days later and asked about a price for the two smaller neighboring buildings on the block face.  I gave a quote and he bit.  I'll talk about those shortly.

As far as building techniques go, there's not much that's unique on this one.  But it is the first project where I used HUNDREDS of a single piece.  Much like the previous commission, there was brickwork that I wanted to grab the essence of.  Thankfully 1x2 and 2x2 plates in white are easier to grab in mass quantity than dark red.  At least at the price point I was at on this project.  I also ended up with something like 6 PaB cups of white 2x4 brick for the back walls, 300 or so windows with glass and an insatiable amount of 1x1 light bley tile for the sidewalks.  I lost count at some point but there are well north of 6000 pieces in all three buildings.

A couple small orders

Also about 600 1x1 plates in trans-black.  The building has a somewhat marbled appearance on the ground floor.  I wasn't sure how to capture it but somebody suggested trans with something behind it.  I tried a few combos and decided that the trans black with most anything behind it worked fine.  I used reddish brown since I had some and just in case that color would help the black brown out a little.  It's not a perfect match but it's good.


At some point early on the client asked for floors.  I asked why (thinking structural concerns) but he was more interested in being able to build out desks and cubicles at some point in the future.  So I had to conjure up a way to floor out a 36x39 building with insets, AND make each floor removable.  Enter about 400 white 1x2 tile.  I kept the brickwork of 1x2 and 2x2 going but interrupted with the tiles at each floor.  This allowed me to build each floor separately and remove them.  The strength of the structure is compromised a little, but this isn't a child's toy either.  The walls are 2 studs thick which allowed me to create a recess for the floor above to nestle into.  Once a floor is locked into place, the walls below are much happier.



The client was also rather proud of the roof deck he had had installed.  I was strongly encouraged to visit it so that I could add it to the model.  It's always hard to resist a highrise rooftop visit, even if it's only a 6 story building.  At 100' in the air I was treated to a completely different Portland.  Most of the street noise was gone and it was a rather peaceful sunny setting.  I didn't really consider how I was going to build the deck until the very end.  I figured I'd slap a bunch of reddish brown plates together and use brackets on the roof deck.  That didn't pan out very well.  Instead, I used the pony ear technique with some 1x2 slide plates.  That gave me a perfect amount of rise off of the roof deck to match the stepped walkway.


As for the other two buildings, they are in the funkier part of the block.  Downtown Portland's grid runs at about a 20° angle from true north.  When you get near Burnside St, everything straightens back out.  In LEGO bricks this translates to not pretty.  I resigned myself to trimming a 48x48 baseplate to capture this angle correctly.  I also used hinge bricks to get the building angle right.  The entire wall on the 20° angled side is built straight and then attached to the baseplate at a few points where the studs line up with anti-studs.  It's only a few.  But with some other tie-ins, the wall is pretty sturdy.  Again, it's not a toy, it's a display.


I tried to capture a bunch of the sidewalk decor but there wasn't much and I wasn't willing to add a doped out transient (captured in one of my photos).  I did put in a few planters, a fire hydrant, and some street lights.  I'm pretty thrilled with the streetlights at this scale.  I also built a little car and model of my client so he could work off of those to create other figs at the right scale.


Oh yeah, scale.  11.25" = 90' works out to about 1:96.  This was very helpful in that each 1x1 plate was 2.5' x 2.5' x 1' tall.  I could easily work in this scale again given how rounded out the 1x1 plate dimensions end up.  Even though it's like ten times larger than my downtown Portland.