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Further adventures in Lego architecture

Started: 2013-03-24 12:12:35

Submitted: 2013-03-24 13:08:29

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator delves deeper into Legos

In the six months since I last posted about Lego architecture, Calvin has embraced Legos and now plays with them more than his other building toys. (Kiesa also acquired a set of Quatros, the short-lived Lego building toy targeted at infants and very young toddlers, which are twice the size of Duplos in each dimension -- and Calvin plays with each set from time to time.)

Our plan to bring Legos for Calvin to play with on the plane to Hong Kong was not quite as successful as we'd hoped; when sitting in his car seat, Calvin can't reach the tray table (it's around the level of his ankles). When he travels without a car seat, though (as on our short trip to Walla Walla last fall) he can reach the tray table fine and it makes a great Lego play surface.

Calvin plays with Legos on the plane to Pasco
Calvin plays with Legos on the plane to Pasco

For his fourth birthday party, Calvin wanted to do something Lego-themed, so Kiesa worked on making Lego candy, and I wanted to build some version of the Mughal tomb I designed last fall as background decoration. The full version of the tomb required so many pieces that actually buying that many bulk Legos would be extravagantly expensive, so I designed a scaled-down version of the single-room palace that was my first inspiration; it didn't take me long to bang out a nice version in LeoCAD last weekend:

CAD model of a Mughal-inspired palace built out of Lego

I found, to my surprise, that Calvin had almost enough pieces to actually implement my scaled-back vision. I had to substitute for some of the red [sandstone] pieces, but I was missing enough white [marble] pieces to build the dome. It looked pretty good from the front...

Mughal palace built out of Legos
Mughal palace built out of Legos

But from the back it was clearly missing, but at least the back view gives a decent look into the internal structure of the dome, including the quartering arches I built around each corner to turn the square into an octagon, on top of which I could build the dome:

Partially-built Mughal palace built of Legos
Partially-built Mughal palace built of Legos
Interior of dome on Lego Mughal palace
Interior of dome on Lego Mughal palace

I made a list of the pieces I needed and headed to eBay, where I bought enough white 2x4 bricks to finish the dome. They arrived on Friday, and I completed the dome:

Completed Mughal palace built out of Legos
Completed Mughal palace built out of Legos

The completed dome, though, left me feeling vaguely unsatisfied. It didn't really capture the sense of grandeur I had intended, and it certainly wasn't a normal Mughal onion dome. So I found my best picture of the Taj Mahal:

The Taj Mahal
The Taj Mahal

Then I cropped the main dome itself and traced the outline:

The
main dome of the Taj Mahal, with the outline traced in black

Then I took the outline, superimposed a Lego-scale grid (8 mm horizontal, 9.6 mm vertical; I set the horizontal scale at 22 studs wide based on the current size of my palace's dome), and traced, in red, the closest slope I could easily represent in Legos:

Mughal onion
dome, traced in Legos

Then I went to LeoCAD and mocked up the design. (I had to make some substitutions for the angles according to the bricks I could actually find in LeoCAD; they didn't have any inverted 65° slope bricks so I substituted 75° slope bricks instead.)

CAD
model of a Mughal-inspired palace built out of Lego, with a proper
Mughal onion dome

I'm fairly pleased with the results. It's clearly a dome now, with a recognizable onion dome profile. Aside from complaints I have about the availability of a full set of the slope bricks I want (double concave and double convex versions of each angle, both inverted and non-inverted), the main problem I see is that the dome is simply huge compared to the structure it sits on -- given the size of the dome versus the structure, it reminds me more of the Qutb Shahi tombs in Hyderabad, rather than the refined elegance of the Mughal garden tomb.

One of the Qutb Shahi tombs
One of the Qutb Shahi tombs

This dome would certainly look much better on my earlier, full-scale tomb design, but I remain confident I can come up with something that'll look good on my palace.

It's probably a mistake to let filmmakers talk about their films.
- James Cameron, _The Abyss_ Special Edition