Yes, you read the title correctly. Rocco Buttliere has used around 84,000 LEGO bricks, to be more precise. In addition to 300+ hours of building to recreate the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, Rocco also spent 400+ hours designing it first. If that doesn’t blow your mind, it should. That is one giant build of one of the world’s most spectacular architectural sites. Like his earlier LEGO diorama of Ancient Rome, Rocco built this one for a commission for a museum, and boy, does it belong there. The overview picture hardly does it justice, as it all blends together into a blur of flame orange, dark red, and grey, but zoom in and there are as many marvels as in the real deal. Fancy a tour? It’s not forbidden to look at this one, even for a commoner like me.
Let’s start the tour at the Meridian Gate, where everyone enters the city. But check out Rocco’s roof, using dragon jaws and a snowboard, as well as numerous minifig hands and even party hats. I also love the use of dismantled hoses for the bridges and Technic treads as decorative walls. Those Technic tread links will be a common motif throughout, accomplishing organic curves along the river.
Moving on, we see the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the most dignified building in the whole complex. It’s the highest and largest of the halls in the city. Interestingly, Rocco tells us that this is the eighth hall built on the site, since the previous seven were all destroyed by fire, a common danger with wooden buildings. In fact, I think I saw it burn in Disney’s Mulan.
I’m not going to show every hall (the city has something like 9,999 rooms in it), and many of the buildings look very similar, so I’m going to skip to one of the corner towers, where guards would have watched for any threats to the emperor. But not in boring stone towers, all utilitarian and devoid of interest; no, these were lavishly decorated like the rest, featuring twenty-eight eaves, seventy-two ridges, and 230 animal gargoyles. Now that’s fancy! I love how Rocco used crabs for the complicated roofline, and dark red clone trooper range finders as columns in that little building down by the water.
The last thing I’ll highlight (feel free to check out all the details yourself in Rocco’s album on Flickr) is the way those serpentine streams look from above, thanks to the Technic treads. Everything fits together perfectly, a masterpiece of sophisticated LEGO design and a superb representation of one of the most iconic Chinese sites. Rocco has set the bar high in the past, but this one raises it even higher.