In many fantasy tropes there’s that moment where the heroes gather to set off on their grand adventure. Maybe it’s in a tavern, maybe it’s the king’s audience chamber. Sometimes it’s in a mystic glade or just a chance encounter. If you’ve seen this scene once, you’ve seen them all. However, what you might not have noticed was the world happening around the heroes. There are common folk who exist outside of the main narrative, living their fantasy lives as best they can. ‘Sergeant Chipmunk’ brings us a LEGO moment in time that captures the momentous as well as the mundane.
It doesn’t matter how tall are the castle towers or how thick are its walls if the scenery is nowhere near impressive. Keeping this in mind Peter Ilmrud sets his Western Gate by the formidable Zamorah Valley. Thanks to forced perspective the composition of the build really makes it stand out. Although the towers are pretty much identical, differences in the designs of the rocky slopes give the diorama a rather natural look. Make sure to note excellent use of several types of wheels in the designs of the towers; this is something I would love to borrow for my own creations!
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.
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!
In the last few decades, two of the most popular themes for LEGO creations are Castle and Town. Sandro Damiano has built a scene that could fall into either. Usually, it’s pretty easy to categorize a creation as one or the other, but at what point does a castle creation become a town creation? Is it a town creation simply because it is clearly in the modern day? Couldn’t we have a medieval village and still call categorize it as Town? Is an abundance of grey, brown, or tan required to be called a castle? Or maybe a protective perimeter wall?
The name of this beautiful creation does call it a Bavarian Town, but I’d argue it could fit into either theme. Replace the town minifigures and details with castle characters and details and – ta da – you’d get an amazing medieval Bavarian Town.
Every journey comes to an end sometime, and for this weary traveler, his journey ends with a warm welcome from a loving father in this lovely scene by Carter Witz. One of the first details that caught my eye was the gently angled wall along the riverside.
The same style of stacked plates and tiles is carried through to the back yard, which also features simple but interesting trees and other vegetation.
Carter has included a fully detailed interior, which suggests, along with the letter in the father’s hand, that this homecoming was expected, and a yet another treasure of home is waiting. A good meal.
When I first saw this diorama titled Molly’s Castle, I actually thought it was microscale due to the overall silhouette. But then I spotted some minifigures high atop the turrets, and mounted knights wending their way through the forest. Built by Jon & Catherine Stead over just six days, this LEGO diorama features a rare tan castle in a verdant setting, with plenty of details to ogle. Measuring nearly 4 feet in length and 17 inches tall, you won’t lack for adventure here.
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.
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.
Builder Patrick Biggs strikes again with another super-technical creation: “The Brothers.” This two-headed, dual-tailed dragon is enough to strike even the bravest of knights full of fear. The way Patrick designed the dragon is equally awe-inspiring.
I find the way the builder united both Bionicle-esque pieces with normal studded parts on the legs and tail of the dragon to be truly innovative. Additionally, the crazy amount of joints across the entire dragon allow for an large amount of potential poses, allowing for stories to take flight. I could easily see one of the heads breathing fire across a village while the other roars, announcing doom across the land.
I love LEGO dragons, and the air dragon Bandea from this immersive (almost) fully LEGO scene by one of our contributors, Benjamin Stenlund, is one of my favourites from the past few months. The body is chunky and curvy like a “real” dragon is. What gives it the edge are not the Ninjago sword edges, but the awesome background it is presented on. The horizon is put on just the right point with the corresponding camera angle. What I love most are the realistic rocks, made of wedge slopes and polygonal panels fitted together to represent the cracks and angles of a real rock face.
The builder has quite a few elemental-themed dragons in his portfolio: Moto the Fire Dragon, Maji the Water Dragon, Hewa the Air dragon and Daera and Kijani, the Earth Dragons – the last one being my personal favourite so far.
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.
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.
A prolific LEGO builder who’s graced our pages before, Ted Andes has presented a creation I resonate with at the moment, Winter. I’m typing this from Victoria, Australia, where the frosts and bleak days have been many. This beautiful vignette, a small capture of a snowy morning on the edge of a siheyuan. I can almost feel the stillness in the air.
Andes’ parts use is always exceptional, though not just in obscure part usage. His harness on basic parts to get the maximum effect is outstanding. The bare tree is made from roughly thirteen different pieces, twisted into some outstanding, gnarled forms. See if you can spot them all — can you see any I’ve missed? The river and its edging is also another highlight for me. The 4L trans-light blue bars surrounding some fish is a nice touch, giving the impression of icy cold, rushing water. Having the land predominantly in two colours has also worked elegantly, while the simple touches of trans-clear near the edge of the river have brought it closer to the reality of the camping trips I’ve taken in winter.