Building a Modular MOC – Planning your MOC

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Police Station Corner V1
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Police Station Corner V1

In this second post in my Building a Modular MOC, I am going to explain how I plan my models; please check my post entitled “Where do I start?” to understand some of the standards I use.

The temptation to jump in a begin to build may be logical and very tempting. After all, if it is wrong, bring it down and start again, right? That is one way to go about it, and I have done that in the past but trust me that planning just a little will save you time and a lot of frustrations.

Picking the model to build

I looked at my little village and got frustrated that it was missing essential buildings and LEGO does not have them in their Creator Expert series.

I was missing the following:

  • A clinic or hospital, I started one which will get my attention next.
  • A police station
  • A hotel

At this point, I had three solutions, buy some instructions or create my own.

If you are looking for a classic police station, here are some The Old Police Station by Pablo Jiménez (also known as Bricky Bricks and Paoko Sánchez), Brick Town Police Station by Bricked1980 and Police Department by Stefano Mapelli. Of these, the two first are on Lego Ideas and have no instructions available. The last one does, but I do not like it. In fact, I did not feel that any of these designs suited my vision.

That meant I had to create an original design.

Free build​

Once I picked the police station, I started with a few concepts; I wanted to create something imposing and modern but welcoming. Something with new ideas but recognisable as a police station.

First, I created the blinds; it was an element I wanted for the jail.
I  also wanted parking for two police vehicles, one of which would be a prisoner transport, a dedicated area for police bikes and a heliport.

Off I started to build, it was a disaster, by the time I got to the second floor, nothing aligned, the windows with blinds gave me a headache, it was not going to work out.

Two weeks in the process, I posted the image above with “Rejected” stamped on it.

This was not the first time I threw a model away; I guess that my profession taught me that there is nothing wrong with going back to the drawing board if your gut says it is not going to work.

Don’t think that I threw everything away, I re-used concepts and kept elements.

How to get from mediocre to good?

After my dismal failure to achieve the semblance of good design and well thought out model, I hopped onto Google and started looking at police stations from around the world, some I liked but far from practical to build in LEGO.

Tip: Architecturally, you need to pick something the can be created using LEGO pieces that does not exceed a 48×48 baseplate. Anything is possible with LEGO bricks but size matters.

That evening I nearly gave up, I was on my tablet surfing the rabbit hole that is Pinterest when I stumbled on a graphic from Dreamstime, link on the image.

I looked for more but kept coming back to this image, I could use it as inspiration, and it has a nice looking facade. I could build something that looks similar and keep its design language as I expanded on it, you will see the resemblance very quickly.

Starting with a drawing or photograph is one thing but realising it in three dimensions is another, this is where the second phase of planning comes.

Laying it out

I knew from my previous attempt that a 32×32 plate was not going to work, so I started with a 48×32 surface, which as I found out later was not going to work and I ended up using a 48×48 baseplate.

I assembled the police cruiser from LEGO City Police Patrol Car (Set 60239) and LEGO Prisoner Transporter (Set 60043) to ensure that the police station would be usable with existing sets, this was important to me.

I started to lay one by something plates to create a foundation where the walls would come. You will notice I  placed the vehicles where I want them upfront so I would not have to worry about these in the future, they have swopped sides since but remained in the model at all times.

Some tips about foundations

One, when placing the Technic Bricks 1×2 with Hole, put a 1×2 plate on top, this will allow for the foundation 1x something plates to be fitted without worries of inconsistent heights.

Two, when placing the foundation 1x something plates ensure that opposite walls overlap in the same way, so you achieve an even number of studs in every direction. This is very important, as explained in my previous post.

Three, it may sound odd but place your doors on the same plane as your foundation plates and not on top. Why?

That brings me to four, the door is six bricks high, so why offset it down by a plate, or a third of a brick? There are two reasons, firstly, the bottom of the door will align with the tiles without a step and you should tile inside and outside; I think it looks better that way. Two, you can fit a 1×2 bracket or a 2×4 plate to mount a sign or grill on top of the door, for example.

We are now well on the way to creating a solid and good looking MOC, as of the next instalment, my tutorials will probably be in video format using Bricklink Studio.

Happy building and until next time.

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