One of my favorite things about San Francisco is its architecture. Though shops have closed and the streets are nearly empty, some of the city’s most vibrant buildings still stand. Just off Market Street, you’ll find the Castro Theatre, whose majesty has been translated into LEGO by Jonathan Lopes. Since 1922, the Castro Theatre has hosted everything from queer cinema to silent film festivals at the center of San Francisco’s vibrant arts scene and historic LGBTQ+ district. Like in Jonathan’s model, you can’t miss its iconic neon signage and stunning Spanish-Baroque facade.
Free from light pollution and smog, this observation deck would be perfect for spotting a planetary conjunction. But there’s certainly a greater spectacle in this vibrant LEGO creation. The Galaxy Cliff Lighthouse by Pete Strege offers an incredible, up-close view of a spiraling galaxy. This Ferris-wheel-like galaxy is motorized, which is quite an engineering feat for its unique shape and scale. Its free-standing tail overarches the entire model, making this build an event of a lifetime.
As we head onwards into the new year, let’s wrap up the highlights of 2020. This year, the world entered lockdown and many LEGO builders found time on their hands to create. Here at The Brothers Brick, we’ve witnessed the wildest dioramas, passion projects, and engineering feats finally come to fruition. Now it’s time to look back at the custom creations that were most popular with you, our readers, throughout this past year.
In addition to this retrospective, don’t forget to check out the Top 10 most popular LEGO set reviews and The Brothers Brick’s final selections for the 2020 Builder of the Year and 2020 Creation of the Year. And without further delay, let’s begin with number 10 and work our way to the most popular LEGO model of 2020.
Building a convincing minifig-scale snowman is a challenge, even for the pros. We’ve seen a few odd ones in previous LEGO Advent Calendars, that’s for sure. But once we go to a more medium-scale, Tiago Catarino shows us that it only takes a few common pieces to build a snowman perfect as a seasonal decoration, ornament, or something to keep around all year long.
This past spring was pretty memorable, to say the least, but here’s to a more hopeful beginning. So what better way to celebrate the incoming season than a floral LEGO build that won’t cause a fit of pollen allergies? There’s much to love about the House of Flowers Konoyaro, from its striking dark red brickwork to its smaller details, like the Unikitty lupines. And aside from the Tudor-esque jettied and structural walls, the house is virtually void of 1x bricks. Instead, Konoyaro has opted for a variety of plate techniques, most notably stacked at the corners for a meticulous brick texture effect. You can also find more plates staggered at the base of the small bay window and surprisingly, in the loosely sculpted trees upfront. But my favorite detail by far is the brick-built front door. It’s a classy alternative to prefabricated doors that I’ll be taking note of for future inspiration.
We’re no stranger to Konoyaro’s vibrant and textural brick building style. Dive into our archives to find their Little Mermaid build we’ve featured this past September!
Sometimes a simple two-toned LEGO castle can go a long way. In this diorama, Mark of Siloam brings us Huntington Castle, his largest build to date measuring at 20″ by 45″. I’m not sure how much that is converted into studs, but it sure looks grand within this lively diorama. With its solid sand green and gray brickwork, the Huntington Castle is well-fortified with guards peering out into the land. When the castle’s functioning portcullis is lifted, the drawbridge can be lowered to access the main dirt path. A neat windmill sits just across the river, next to an open field for cattle to graze. The overall composition is rich in detail, and I’m still picking out the subtle changes in landscaping throughout the build and spotting new animals in every corner.
Here’s to more castle dioramas, Mark! And as we’re heading forward, why not drop in our archives for a look at one of Mark’s past builds from 2016.
The Walnut Villa is the latest modern microscale home by Sarah Beyer. Only comprised of a few brick, tile, and plate pieces, this LEGO villa showcases the strength in simplicity. On the facade, the minimalistic colonnade harmonizes with the alternating profile grill bricks. Small textural details contrast with the smooth streamline surfaces like the micro green wall and the poolside masonry bricks transformed tiles. When you look through the panoramic windows, you can spot a single white pillar standing inside the home. It’s remarkable how Sarah captures the same grandeur of her minifigure scale homes in this microscale vignette. Surrounded by brilliant greenery and bamboo-palm trees, the Walnut Villa looks like a dwelling in paradise.
Start off the day by taking a stroll through the colonnade, grab a croissant and magazine from the newspaper stand, then head down to the underground metro. Now I could spend an endless amount of time imagining that I’m walking around in this LEGO modular row by Jean Macou. This delightful set of buildings is like Parisian Restaurant meets Assembly Square, but with an unlimited budget. Each building is more decked out than the next. Some of my favorite details include the gold and nougat color palette on the pub and small restaurant at the front. I’ve also been eyeing that sand green masonry brick building to the right and its gorgeous white trim and tan ground floor.
Remove the floors to peek into the detailed interiors of the build. Here’s an inside look of the pub– its layout and color scheme achieve a next-level realism for architectural builds.
Sarah Beyer is back with another stunning LEGO modern home. For me, one of the joys of browsing my Flickr feed is seeing Sarah’s process shots. By documenting her builds as she constructs them, Sarah is able to get amazing interior views of all her creations. Upfront, the Greyplate House features an outdoor pool and seating area and some incredible exterior features. There’s amazing repetition in colors and textures going on, all working in harmony throughout its architecture. The tan, olive green, and black brick walls frame the entrance and cut through the center of the house. Using black 1×4 sliding bricks as wall cladding is an uncommon usage, but here they echo the brown awnings and horizontal black panels in the upper portion of the house for a groovy look.
A moment of American history is frozen in time in James Pegrum‘s LEGO recreation of the Mayflower, the English ship that transported the first Pilgrims to New England. The story goes that indentured servant John Howland was swept overboard during a storm and held on until the crew hauled him back to safety. That splash is represented at the center of the build, carefully crafted out of rows of dark blue bricks and white curved slopes among the turbulent waves. The Mayflower flaunts some brick-built masts and beautiful blue accents on her sides. Plus, the rigging is all string and no prefabs — a solid choice for this level of realism.
Barthezz Bricks has a repertoire of highly detailed LEGO dioramas combining land and sea. His latest build is no different, focusing on the historical accuracy of the 15th century Mediterranean tartan ship as a part of a larger ongoing project on 1486 Venice. Let’s dive into some of the techniques used in this build.
The composition captures the rhythmic movement of ocean waves with varying shades of blue underneath translucent cheese slopes and 1×1 tiles. A net technique is used to render the waves, a subtle addition that goes a long way. The hull of the ship features a clever use of two-stud 1×4 plates for just the right amount of texture. Other details include a ragged flag made of 1×1 clips, debris caught in the currents and above all, the magnificent sail of the fishing boat. I don’t know what kind of bar-clip magic is happening behind that sail, but it’s certainly holding together for this photo! Using triangle road signs, Barthezz Bricks has pieced together a wonderful tessellated surface for the sail. Overall, there’s splendid dynamism in this diorama– the movement of the ocean, the flag, the fishermen pulling up their crab traps. Now I can’t help but think that some movement in the sail would have been nice to see, but that might be a greater challenge for another day…
There are very few LEGO builders whose creations give me the chills, but Bart De Dobbelaer is definitely one of them. Intruder Alert is where we see all of Bart’s photography, editing, and building skills combine into one work of art and the result is haunting… and gorgeous. My eye is immediately drawn to the silhouettes of the unidentified intruders, poised and ready. The walls are decked out with greebles and ominous neon lights have been cast to really set the atmosphere. The ribbed hoses running across the length of the floor, several of which are slightly bent, add to the realism of this scene. According to Bart, we’re looking at his entire light bluish gray collection greebled on the walls of this passageway. The spikes on the armed intruders, the textures on the floor and walls, and the curvature of the entrance all work in harmony.
Got your favorite sci-fi soundtrack playing in your head? Then you’re ready to check out some more of Bart’s creations.