Epic LEGO Forbidden City uses over 80,000 bricks and took over 700 hours to design & build!

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.

Forbidden City - 紫禁城 - Beijing

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.

The Jaws of the Dragon - 龙颚

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.

Hall of Supreme Harmony - 太和殿

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.

Corner Tower - 角楼

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.

Eastern External Annexes - 东外部附件

3 comments on “Epic LEGO Forbidden City uses over 80,000 bricks and took over 700 hours to design & build!

  1. Fred Fredson

    Holy camoley this is incredible. The write-up for each photo in Rocco’s Flickr album is superb too–I wonder if this was part of the builder’s brief in the commission as well as designing the city. Can anyone reply to tell me: what are the stone grey pieces with circular holes, forming what looks like fences everywhere–you see them prominently in the third photo on this article. They are narrower than one stud’s width and they have a row of aligned circular holes running vertically in this model. He must have used thousands and thousands of them in the whole city!

  2. Rocco Buttliere

    @ Fred: The write-up is an extension of everything I researched myself during the design process. I like to immerse myself in the cultural context, so while it wasn’t a requisite project deliverable, it was certainly worthwhile in terms of presenting it to an audience who, for the most part, haven’t done quite the same amount of research. Also, those elements you’re wondering about are the Technic treads mentioned and linked to in the above description.

  3. Fred Fredson

    Rocco, thank you for replying, you are a real inspiration. The Technic treads: wow, the invisible work also included hiding the handle on the side of every single one of thiose pieces.

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