I have a friend who used to live near a big naval base, and by virtue of having a view of the sea, he became something of an expert on all the various ships that would sail past. Fast-forward a couple hundred years, and with a space-side apartment, he might have seen ships like Ryan Olsen‘s LEGO frigate fly past instead. Ryan has given this ship a detailed backstory befitting its enormous size. It’s purportedly part of a Space Navy, and it’s easy to see the inspiration behind this behemoth. The grey, angular paneling and bridge surrounded by masts and sensor arrays are nice nods to the navies we know now. But for me, the giveaway was the big numbers on the side. It’s a great detail that makes this spaceship that little bit more believable.
Ryan Olsen went meta for SHIPtember by building a ship that builds ships. The 128-stud long Hiigaran Support Cruiser is a beauty to behold, thanks in large part to its recessed bay, designed to act as a build and repair area for smaller ships.
Ryan executed a number of crafty angles to bring the Support Cruiser to life. The individual panels tend to be flat, without a lot of complicated greebling, but the sheer amount of brick-built striping and other details still create plenty of visual interest. One of my favorite details is the minifigure tools rising up as antenna from the ship’s hull – a clever reminder of the larger craft’s ultimate purpose.
Some spaceship builders take their inspiration from science fiction movies or video games, while others use real-world inspiration, like NASA. But some of the most interesting sources, in my opinion, are naval vessels. Maybe it’s because I remember watching Starblazers (Space Battleship Yamato) when I was twelve. Battleships, fighter jets, and submarines in space? Count me in. From the looks of this amazing space destroyer, Ryan Olsen agrees. His original SHIP (built for SHIPtember) looks like a combination of a submarine and a battleship, with a symmetrical central fuselage bristling with an array of railguns, cannons, missile launchers, and even a few Modulex parts, is full of great details. One detail I love are several hardpoints or small docking ports along the center of each side where smaller ships could dock.
Another naval inspiration is the complex bridge and conning tower, which is covered in sensors, targeting scanners, and communication relays.
A fun fact about Ryan’s SHIP building process is that he often starts his models in a digital format using only parts that exist in real life, in currently available colors for added authenticity, and to explore many details quickly in order to perfect his designs. With his digital design complete, he created a fun info-graphic to point out the many points of interest on his space battleship.
If you are planning to respond to a garbled distress call involving aliens of unknown intent, it is wise to bring as much firepower as possible, as spaceship builder Ryan Olsen knows full well. Building a fleet that is recognizable as being part of a larger faction comes down to using certain design elements that can be repeated at different sizes to fit the design of ships with unique purposes, and Ryan pulls this off beautifully. Take the very back of each ship, which includes a blue stripe in the middle of a larger white stripe.
Repetition is another key building technique, and you can see several examples of a simple curved shape, or part, like the ski part used in several ships, and even re-created in brick form for the larger ship. In this close-up of one of the ships, you can also see how a simple part like the dark gray storage container (used as a thruster cowl), can add just the right amount of texture and visual interest.
The challenges of building LEGO spaceships is getting the different parts to work together to create something aesthetically pleasing, quasi-functional, and just plain cool. This difficulty is magnified with larger ships, especially when you enter the realm of a SHIP (Significantly Huge Investment in Parts, a LEGO spaceship 100+ studs in length). Sometimes one spaceship isn’t enough; you need to build a whole fleet, and that is what Ryan Olsen did. Ryan shared with TBB that his fleet has been slowly growing for eight years, with the mid-size one with the prominent white stripe (roughly in the middle of the formation) being his first. He also drew inspiration from Pierre E. Fieschi for the color scheme and the video game Homeworld.
The studs-not-on-top (SNOT) approach to the spaceship in the foreground makes for a sleek design, and the white stripes, including diagonals, are expertly integrated into the hull. The asymmetrical design works wonderfully, too, with the long appendages coming off the side from near the large reactor core. Hinge bricks do a great job of making a smoothly angled bridge. Everything fits so well, and nothing seems out of place. This fleet is cruising the stars in style!
It’s still the largest single-storey building ever constructed, so what better tribute could there be to NASA’s Vehicle Assembly Building than a teeny-tiny microscale LEGO version? The level of detail packed into Ryan Olsen‘s small model is impressive — the grille bricks providing texture on the sides, the machinery on the roof, and the massive shutter doors. Don’t miss the Saturn V rocket on its way to the launch-pad atop the crawler-transporter, or the perfect shaping of the Launch Control Centre with its sloped windows, jutting at an angle away from the main structure. The only thing I’d challenge on this model is using 1×1 plates for cars — unfortunately they don’t quite fit the scale. The rest of it is bang-on though, making me want to head back to Florida and get a refresher boost to my space-geekery.