About Benjamin Stenlund

Benjamin started building he was three, when his father gave him a small Futuron set (6810), and has not stopped since then. Castle and space are nearest and dearest to his heart, but other themes occasionally get built, too; there are quite a few super heroes and Star Wars sets in his collection, at least. He builds as Henjin_Quilones on Flickr, and under the same name is the leader of one of the guilds on Eurobrick's Guilds of Historica role building game. When he is not building, he is busy being a stay-at-home dad to three kids and househusband to one wife.

Posts by Benjamin Stenlund

Fight the power! Protest tyranny! Remember the fallen.

Two hundred years ago on August 16, 1819, eighteen persons lost their lives when British yeomanry hacked through a crowd of protesters with their sabers. The event was named the Peterloo Massacre, which Dan Harris has built in lovely LEGO form for our edification on its 200th anniversary. The crowd had gathered to protest the Corn Laws, tariffs on agricultural products that helped powerful British landowners by keeping prices high but hurt common British folks who bought food by…keeping prices high. As an American, I appreciate the sign that says “Taxation without representation is unjust and tyrannical,” as that sentiment was instrumental in our own protest movement against the Crown several decades prior. But unlike the British subjects in the American colonies, the poor folks of Manchester (where the protest happened) did not get to see an increase in liberty; ironically, the massacre of innocent civilians by out-of-line cavalry resulted in more crackdowns on reform (until 1832, when reform laws were passed that finally gave them representation in parliament).

The Peterloo Massacre

Nothing needs to be changed in Dan’s build, however. The most striking thing about it is the excellent minifigure posing, coupled with an abundance of angry and scared flesh-toned faces. The layering of the figures and the angle of the shot give the impression of a large crowd as well as the panic engendered by a charge of horses and sabers against unarmed civilians. The man laying down in the middle of the front of the build seems to be breaking the fourth wall and entreating the viewer for help, too. As far as the LEGO build goes, the buildings in the back look great with their cheese slope roofs and nicely textured walls. The best part, though? That has to be the Star Wars helmets used backwards for the women’s bonnets; it looks perfect, almost as though it was designed for that purpose rather than for an Imperial pilot. It is perhaps slightly ironic that the women wearing the Imperial helmets are the ones being attacked by uniformed soldiers of the Empire, a reminder to all of us to stand up to those in power in defense of what is right and just.

This epic recreation of Deep Space Nine is so huge, I can practically fit inside!

Ok, so not quite, but it is approximately eight feet in diameter, and I am only a little over six feet tall, so it is bigger than I am. And if I curled up around the central core between the docking pylons, I could probably fit. Thus, the title is not entirely hyperbolic. But I could wax hyperbolic about the eponymous space station from the Star Trek series Deep Space Nine, built by Adrian Drake from over 75,000 pieces, including an absurd amount of dark bluish grey. It took over two years to build, and I can see why.

DS9_00

Read more about this massive Star Trek build.

A New York high rise to help your rise to the high life

There is something glitzy and glamorous about New York City, shown in countless movies and TV shows and books and magazines and every other form of media through the years, including LEGO sets. Fame and fortune, celebrity status, larger-than-life personalities, all are connected to the Big Apple. Importantly, New York is home to Wall Street, epicenter to the world’s largest financial market, and fortunes are made and lost in moments with bold or rash deals by brokers. If things go well, and a broker gets rich, perhaps starts managing a hedge fund, or otherwise gets a heap of money large enough to make Scrooge McDuck jealous, then he (or she) can afford to buy a condo in 15 Central Park West, built here in 1/650th scale by Spencer_R, the builder of many famous skyscrapers.

Fifteen Central Park West, New York

The property was purchased for $401 million, and the total cost of development, including the land, was $950 million, but when they sold the 202 units in the two buildings they went for over $2 billion; that’s about $10 million per condo, for those of you without easy access to calculators or who struggle with mental math (like me). It is one of the most successful real estate ventures in history due to the over billion dollars in profit. It probably helps that it borders Broadway on one side and Central Park on the other. Notable residents, besides those Wall Street hotshots, have included Alex Rodriguez, Robert DiNiro, Sting, and Denzel Washington. Now that is fancy living!

I’m sure Spencer’s version did not quite cost $950 million to make, but he must have spent a bunch of money on tan headlight bricks, since the build features quite a few. The hollow square base and back of that part make for some excellent windows. The stacked 1×2 transparent plates alternating with tan is simple but highly effective at this scale, too. The courtyard is simply constructed, making good use of inset 1×2 grille tiles for the gates and some transparent light blue elements for the glass-bottomed fountain (the pool is underground, lit by the light shining through the fountain, by the way – though Spencer did not build the pool, I don’t think).

Fifteen Central Park West, New York

If you love this building and want more, we have previously featured Spencer’s Transamerica Pyramid and a NYC skyline build, as well as the World Trade Center site. We also featured another New York City building, the Hearst Tower, earlier this week, albeit by a different builder.

Repetition is the key to memorization, and to good architecture

The best architecture, oftentimes, like the best LEGO builds, is not terribly original; instead, it repeats the same forms over and over again, but in arrangements that show precision and careful thought. Within that repetition, there is room for extreme creativity (which is how we get such diverse LEGO builds, despite everyone using the same basic parts). In fact, Gothic architecture includes subtle differences even in areas that are “matching,” like the columns going down a medieval church; look carefully and you’ll see that not one of them is exactly like the others. And yet they are still matching and repetitive. This library entrance by Brother Steven illustrates this nicely. Similar to the Cathedral of Notre Dame, one of the crown jewels of Gothic architecture, the towers are of different heights.

White Gold and War

Looking at the towers and the walls, there is something beautiful in the repetition of the shapes, something that ties it all together into a cohesive whole far better than anything novel could have. The 1×1 round bricks is the most obvious example, but the use of a studs-out strip beneath them heightens the repetition. The arches in the walls also match, with some having the Nexo shields and others having small statues. From there, subtle variations (like modified plates on one tower, and a small gap between the 1×1 round bricks and the studs-out strip on the other) add visual interest in a Gothic way. Gold accents, like the floral hinges on the doors and the unicorn horns on the battlements, set things off, and the white tree and verdant vegetation give the primarily-tan build the color it needs to pop. And pop it does!

Fire trucks so cool, you could say they’re on fire

As a parent, there are some things I don’t want my kids to see. Most of them are things like violence, sex, or drugs on TV, or scary and frightening scenes. Yet there are other things, too, but for different reasons; in this latter category I count this amazing collection of custom-made fire trucks by Steven Asbury. I can already hear the clamoring and whining, “Daddy, I want ALL of those fire trucks! Build them!” But I can’t. For one, I don’t have enough red pieces to build all those trucks, and for another, I don’t posses Steven’s vehicle-building skills. The scaling between trucks and alongside minifigures looks amazing, with details surpassing the LEGO Group’s official fire trucks. This particular grouping of trucks makes up Fire Task Force 3, modeled after Los Angeles’ Task Force concept. From ladder and search & rescue trucks to ambulances, there is pretty much everything you would need to respond to just about any emergency in your city.

Lego Fire Task Force 3

Click to see more details of Fire Task Force 3

A wearable LEGO Atom suit, though it won’t shrink anything but your wallet

While most people would agree that the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as a whole, is vastly superior to the competing DC product, the same cannot be said of the television properties, where the CW’s “Arrowverse” shows have been both successful and watchable. A minor character first introduced in Arrow, Atom (a.k.a. Ray Palmer), gets more screen time in the spin-off Legends of Tomorrow, and his shrinking suit is built in wearable (by a normal-sized human) scale LEGO by Brickatecture moc industries. Like the MCU’s Ant-Man, Atom can vary his size by using highly advanced technology contained in his suit, giving him the ability to get into tiny spaces or to grow huge, though it should be noted that Atom was first published in the comics in 1961 and Ant-Man didn’t debut until…1962. The suit in Legends of Tomorrow also allows Ray to fly and shoot energy bolts from his hands, and probably other things as well, so it ends up being something of a cross between Ant-Man and Iron Man.

LEGO A.T.O.M. Suit Armor

Now, I won’t pretend to be able to identify the technical parts of the suit, but it looks great with its dark blue and red color scheme, and the connectors formed of pin connectors and Mixel joints give the thing a splash of contrast and flexibility to be worn. I don’t know how sturdy it is, but it definitely looks like it would be fun to wear around at a convention for a while, at least until you wanted to sit down. This is not the first bit of wearable LEGO superhero swag that Brickatecture moc industries has built; check out his Infinity Gauntlet, Star-Lord mask, and Venom mask here!

LEGO A.T.O.M. Suit Armor

A Middle-Eastern microscale masterpiece

Some builders just wow me time after time with stellar parts usages, not to mention their rapid-fire building. Pieces are used in ways that make me mentally file them away for a future build, or add to an imaginary Bricklink wishlist. One such builder is the highly skilled Simon NH, who after just visiting Hades in an awesome creation we highlighted earlier today, brings us a microscale build set somewhere in the Middle East. The building on the left is particularly rich with clever construction, but the whole thing bears closer examination. In fact, I’m pretty sure Simon looked over his white pieces and tried to find the strangest ones, and then worked out how to make them all fit together in some sort of mad-scientist LEGO lair.

Khalif's Summer Stay

The building closest to us in the forced perspective contains a basketball net as a rose window, which works because of the angle of the shot. Moving to the left (since Arabic and other Semitic languages are read right to left, and after all, this is a Middle Eastern-inspired build), the dark tan-domed tower is comprised mostly of stretchers and spinner bases. The tan archway uses a pre-fabricated piece, but at microscale it looks better than it does at minifigure scale, quite frankly. But then we come to the mother lode of exotic white parts in the leftmost building. Who even has a window with shutters last produced in 1975? (I might, actually, since I inherited my dad’s old collection of Samsonite sets from the 60s, but still…) Then there are the Aquanaut helmets turned upside down, and the Blacktron II jet pack for an archway, as well as, well, some 2×4 wheel wells for other arches. There’s more, too, but all of these parts from my childhood are making me nostalgic, and so I need to go find my own childhood LEGO sets, as well as my dad’s, and get the cool pieces to use in future builds of my own.

Welcome to hell...I mean, Hades

If you want to get the god of the underworld to do you a favor, you had best rosin up your bow and get ready to fiddle for your soul. Oh wait, wrong story. Music is still the key, though, and I’d wager a fiddle made of gold that the Ancient Greek hero Orpheus could even beat Johnny from Georgia; at very least he played his lyre so beautifully that it moved the cold heart of Hades to compassion, granting him his desire to take the shade of his beloved wife Eurydice back to the surface (with some provisos, admittedly). Simon NH has built the scene of the hero before the god, and it captures the feeling of the underworld perfectly.

Hades' Favour

The god is fittingly large in relation to the mortal, and his face is cold and foreboding. His crown is made from sais is nice and spiky, and chains hanging everywhere give it all the feel of a dungeon. My favorite bits are the green flames made from jagged-edged swords, just for the splash of color it gives to an otherwise dreary-toned build. But what really sets this build apart is the dramatic lighting. Everything is in shadows except the figures and the bit of path separating them, setting the stage for the dramatic performance of Orpheus. Despite being, in my mind, the Hawkeye of the Greek heroes (Jason: “What’s your superpower?” Orpheus: “I play the lyre.”), Orpheus ends up being one of the most impressive of them all.

A perfect castle destination for that end-of-summer family vacation

When I think of all the activities and amenities I want in the perfect vacation locale, the first things that come to mind are: disease-filled swamps; crocodile-infested waters; dark, damp, and uncomfortable rooms; seminars on torture; unnecessary violence; and a complimentary continental breakfast. Fortunately for me, Patrick Massey has built exactly such a place! The dark green waters around Stormholme Castle tempt me with their malaria, West Nile, or dengue-carrying mosquitoes, and the lushness of the vegetation makes me certain that the humidity level is probably about as close to the carrying capacity of air as it can get; I love sweating profusely while being bitten by bugs, don’t you? The dark gray castle itself looks appropriately foreboding, given its swampy setting, and is, shockingly enough, Patrick’s first actual castle (he has specialized in the medieval fantasy genre for at least six years, yet never built a castle; a few towers, and small fortresses, but no castles). The wait has been worth it.

Stormholme Castle

Click to see more of this incredible castle

A story in bricks: Ladyhawke comes to life in a family affair

Often, art ends up being a family business. How many Bachs and Strausses and Brueghels are there, to name a few? In the LEGO world, there are few notable families, too, one of which is the Durand clan. They boast such talents as Geneva (formerly known as KaiNRG), Isaiah (also known as Robert4168/Garmadon), Josiah (also known as W. Navarre), Sarah (also known as 24 Cupcakes), and Anna. All but Isaiah contributed to the collaborative build category of this year’s Summer Joust (put on by another famous LEGO family, Isaac and John Snyder), and the resulting story told in bricks is breathtaking. They opted for a full-frame, all-LEGO format for their presentation, which is exactly my cup of tea. They are telling, in four builds, the story of Ladyhawke, a 1985 medieval fantasy movie starring Matthew Broderick and Michelle Pfeiffer. The story begins in Aquila, built in technicolor by Josiah.

Entering Aquila

Click to see the other builds in the collaboration

A palace fit for the sun

In the realm of LEGO castle builds, most of what we see is based off the European stereotype of grey fortresses, but thankfully this year’s Summer Joust building competition has a category for Middle Eastern creations. Instead of boring old grey, we get intricate tan! Talented castle builder Classical Bricks brings us the gates to a palace called Qasr Alshams, beautifully decorated with a touch of teal to complement its earth tones.

Qasr Alshams

What draws my eye in the build is the amount of depth alluded to by having the different levels climbing higher and higher; what we see is just a small segment of what is undoubtedly a sprawling palace complex, complete with baths, a harem, dining rooms, administrative offices, and everything else that I have read about in the Arabian Nights, but it seems much larger. The battle droid legs make for an excellent railing above the gates, and the heads of the same droids make a nice detail beneath the battlements on the left. My favorite piece usage, though, is the pickaxes for door pulls on the gates. After a long ride on my camel through the desert, across the hot sand—I don’t like sand, since it is coarse and rough and irritating and gets everywhere—this looks to be a welcome place to stop and rest. That’s assuming I make it past the guards, of course.

This epic LEGO coal mining shovel is nearly as tall as its builder

If this 1:28.5 scale model of the Marion 5760 Mountaineer stripping shovel doesn’t make your jaw hit the floor, then I suggest you take a closer look. Personally, I am glad that it is equipped with robust power functions to lift mine back up. Beat Felber, also known as Engineering with ABS, has created an absolutely stunning model of this monster of a machine used to scrape off the top layers of earth from seams of coal in Ohio. The Mountaineer was in operation from 1956 until 1979, and considering how massive the LEGO model of it is, I can only imagine how enormous the real thing was. It must have moved a lot of dirt. I almost said “a ton of dirt”, but I’d bet the shovel could lift a lot more than a ton of rock and dirt in every scoop. (It was closer to 60 tons per scoop! – Ed.)

Marion 5760 The Mountaineer

Click here to dig deeper into this build