In my last article I tracked the origins of Public BRICKstory (PBS) via the VirtuaLUG Odyssey collab, and how a friend and I subsequently founded PBS. A direct premise and first milestone was the acquisition of our first project: We were very lucky to find this project and partner with the Museum ‚Villa Urbana‘ in the South German town of Heitersheim – showcasing the ruins of the eponymous building. To Roman times, a Villa Urbana is primary a lordly countryside residence and can be understood in contrast to its counterpart, the Villa Rustica, which was primarily orientated towards producing financial gain through agricultural enterprise.
Right from the beginning of this project is was clear that rebuilding the Villa would be a huge investment, both in terms of money and time. In early October 2016 we agreed with the Museum on that cooperation and that it would entail the reconstruction of the Roman building through LEGO©. After some initial meetings with the representatives of the Museum and the town itself, we finalized what we knew would be a pretty tough schedule: Each year in early December the city of Heitersheim held an annual fundraiser-event for a project of the city. In 2016 our project was chosen to be presented to the fundraiser, to support the financial effort of this undertaking. For this event we had to promote PBS and the Villa project to the sponsors of our undertaking: The Museum, the town and third-party investors. This meant that we only had from Mid-October to Early December to work out a concept and to prepare key parts of the model and to produce these visually via computer-aided design.
Footprint of the Villa, displayed in the museum [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Model of the Villa and its surrounding environment, displayed in the museum [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Kevin of PBS measuring the model of the Villa
[Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
We had chosen to plan and build the LEGO© Villa after a model displayed in the museum, which we used as a general reference. Aside from the fact that there isn’t much information about how the villa looked like – except for the footprint and an old archeological reconstruction, which was out to date at that time already – this was our best visual option and something which was immediately recognizable to the visitors of the museum. Luckily, we were able to talk with the artist responsible for the design of this initial model, and were given exclusive access to the reconstruction. This gave us the opportunity to fully measure and comprehend how the Villa looked like during the second century AD, granting us the necessary information needed to start the planning and building of the actual model.
Color-scheme and defining type of parts
[Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Early work-in-progress picture, screenshot of the CAD
[Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
First, I started to define a color scheme for the model, which required intense research on the availability and prices for the required parts on the online LEGO© marketplace Bricklink. Then I used the footprint of the Villa and a minifigure to define a scale, using a doorframe in the villa as referential size. Initially, I mis-conceptualized the villa, due to the fact that a Lego minifigure is obviously wider than a normal person. It occurred to me than more than ever that such LEGO© modelling makes it necessary to not only calculate scale but to individually customize architecture as it needs to reflect real-life scenarios within a LEGO© environment. It was thus incredibly helpful to have built this first project with PBS, because I learned vital details in the context of breaking realities down into the ‘distorted’ dimensions of LEGO©.
I built the whole model virtually with a LEGO© open source CAD from LDraw.org. Today, I use the much more intuitive design software stud.io from Bricklink, but back then we had to make do with the former. Building digitally was done with the intent to get an exact list of the parts required for the model. However, creating the digital model had the advantage of providing us with a very basic instruction for the later building process.
Render: Villa front 2/3 [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Render: Villa back 2/3 [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Render: Bath [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Render: Water basin [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
Render: Pavillon [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]
In an extreme marathon of hard work, including some nightshifts, I was able to finish the whole model until late November. A very useful effect of building digitally is the possibility to copy and paste, which allows to replicate similar parts of the model within minutes, such as basic walls and roofs, which could be modified afterwards. We managed to get in contact with our friend Michael Klein from Renderbricks who kind was enough to render some cleaner pictures of the digital model. We used this visual material to print some flyers of our mission, the model and the concept behind it for the fundraiser presentation. I believe that this contributed hugely to our success at this event. We were able to raise 1.111€ for our project. The city of Heitersheim gave another 1.000€, while the local Historical Society provided an extra 300€. Together with some donations from external parties we acquired around 3.000€ to work with. This meant that in early 2017 we were good to go, once we had ordered all the parts necessary for our endeavor. The actual building process started in February.
More on this in my last issue of “Origins of Public BRICKstory”
Render: Villa front [Photo: Kevin J. Walter]