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Building a Lego City...Where to start?

RennyRenny Member Posts: 1,145
edited August 2012 in Building and Techniques
I've gotten to the point in which I have built all of the Star War UCS sets that have interested me and am now looking for another theme to capture my attention. I've seen some really captivating pictures and videos of some Lego cities and that really looks like a lot of fun to build and put together :) I own a few of the modular buildings (except CC and MS) but don't own anything from the "City" theme and was just wondering if anyone had any advice or tips in regards to a starting point. Do you map out the roads and plan out the city blocks first, do you focus on a residential area and then expand slowly with commerce zones, police stations, harbors, airports etc or is it more "by the seat of your pants" plunk a building down and just see where your budget takes you? Can you make a nice city without having to rely on mocs?

Thanks for any helpful advice :)


  • tdhbrtdhbr Member Posts: 188
    It's Lego - just jump right in. If you don't like it, you can move it, rebuild it, have a horde of orcs come through and destroy everything ...

    I tend to think too hard about some of my MOC's, and as a result not much gets done sometimes. Do it it the way kids do, just sit down, grab some pieces, and make something.
  • devilheaddevilhead Member Posts: 286
    edited August 2012
    A lot of building a LEGO city will depend on the amount of space you have to work with. How you do your streets (LEGO street plates, painting them on a table, etc.) will be crucial to setting your up your city. Adding trains also has a significant impact on your layout. As your city grows, it will be inevitable that you will want to move buildings. A detailed plan is not necessary, but you will need to think about it.

    I recently tried to set up my city, but due to a lack of space, I could ony get it partially done. One thing that became apparent was a lack of housing. This prompted me to actually go into LDD and partially plan my city. The city center is pretty much planned, but the out lying areas (farm, airport, harbor/marina...) are not yet done.

    And just throwing stuff down and seeing what sticks, so to speak, is a good way to begin.
  • AFFOL_Shellz_BellzAFFOL_Shellz_Bellz Member Posts: 1,263
    @Renny space to display is a major factor for most folks, so that is an early decision to make - how much space can you dedicate to the layout. If you look in these two threads at my posts you'll find pictures of our town, as well as some explanations of how we do streets, grass, etc

    Feel free to PM me if you have other questions.
  • maesterjaymaesterjay Member Posts: 71
    I suggest one of the first things you build is a farm. Without it all your minifigures will starve, and i feel they are skinny enough as it is. Plus, I 'm semi-working on a red barn for my future in-laws who farmed their whole lives. ps: lego cows aren't cheap.
  • CCCCCC Member Posts: 20,526
    tdhbr said:

    I tend to think too hard about some of my MOC's, and as a result not much gets done sometimes. Do it it the way kids do, just sit down, grab some pieces, and make something.

    Then go on to step 2. Take it apart, learn from your mistakes, and build it better next time. That is the point of Lego!
  • JasenJasen Member Posts: 283
    edited August 2012
    From an animators point of view - I change my layouts alot. Sometimes there's trains, sometimes it's got a park in the middle etc, just build and go.
    I dismantle alot of stuff and just keep on going.
    That's the joy of Lego.
    As @tdhbr said "It's Lego - just jump right in. If you don't like it, you can move it, rebuild it, have a horde of orcs come through and destroy everything ..."
    Except maybe the orcs bit haha as you're a SW person it would probably be Tauntauns :D

    Oh yeah - get vehicles for the roads :D
  • GothamConstructionCoGothamConstructionCo Member Posts: 801
    Start with the essentials for any town.

    Race track.
    Cool garage.
    Space port.
    And more train track than the people of you new town know what to do with.

  • mrseatlemrseatle Member Posts: 410
    No one ever features vagrants and squatters... Maybe a soup kitchen?
  • CCCCCC Member Posts: 20,526
    I'm still waiting for Lego to release a modular public toilet block.
  • GothamConstructionCoGothamConstructionCo Member Posts: 801
    ^^ AFOLS know how to run a town zero crime and nothing less than 100% employment, and all fun jobs I might add.
  • JasenJasen Member Posts: 283
    mrseatle said:

    No one ever features vagrants and squatters... Maybe a soup kitchen?

    You're obviously not including any Sienfeld fans who might include a "Soup Nazi" :P
  • The_Brick_BuilderThe_Brick_Builder Member Posts: 658
    I started my city out with paper and pen planning it out. Looking at other people's cities give great inspiration. My road layout were my first priority and then laying out the buildings was my next step. Simple things like placing tiles and trees on the sidewalk of the roads can make the city look very realistic. I try to keep my city realistic as possible so I tend to stay away from 4-stud wide cars and 60 with the 6-stud wide. Use common sense when placing the buildings and it should be all fine. ;)
  • RennyRenny Member Posts: 1,145
    Thank you for all the good advice! I currently only have about a 5x5 area I can use but that can expand when I move in about a year. I guess I'll just hope right in, bust open a few modulars and take it from there. I like the idea of rampaging Tauntauns though but I'll try to keep it realistic for now ;)
  • The_MackThe_Mack Member Posts: 239
    edited August 2012
    Like devilhead and Shellz_Bellz say, can be a main issue, you'll want some. If you don't have it now, that doesn't mean you shouldn't plan for the future though. Finding the sets you like, and storing them for an expanded layout, or a seasonal layout change. When you decide to start making a City/Town layout, some people like to add trains, and trains like to eat up your space.
  • AFFOL_Shellz_BellzAFFOL_Shellz_Bellz Member Posts: 1,263
    We keep our train tracks toward the edges of our layout to maximize usable space. Also our layout is not square/rectangular which gives it more interest.
  • CoolsplashCoolsplash Member Posts: 935
    I also am another victim of No space for the City Layout which is in my head for now. But it might change soon enough :P

    The last Layout I did was on the floor of my bedroom, used about 30 or so Road plates, some small gardens, a fountain or so, every mini figure I had that time and no modular buildings (speaking about 14-15 years ago) and obviously the photos are lost :P

    Now I have lots of City theme items plus 2 Modular buildings and adding more and more sets to my collection. But for a good layout space is really very important. Also have 2-3 trains and enough tracks to add in the City. So now just waiting to get the right space to create!
  • bigjsdbigjsd Member Posts: 62
    I don't have the adequate space to devote full time to a Lego City. Instead I have taken great joy in displaying the Winter Village along with the Holiday Train each year around the Christmas tree. This year along with the cottage I am adding some LED lighting to the display as well which should bring a whole new dimension to the fun. Aside from the WV sets I try to make some MOC's with a holiday theme to put in to the display as well.
  • Si_UKNZSi_UKNZ Member Posts: 4,179
    Id start with the train or monorail as that will define your space more than anything else - or not if u dont want one, but it does add movement which brings it alive. apart from that, just buy stuff you like.
  • bricksanbricksan Member Posts: 566
    With my City layout, it started with the Marina and now I am working inland, one building at a time.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Administrator Posts: 6,753
    edited October 2012
    I'm designing mine in LDD; it all started with an oval of track and I'm going from there. You can read about the design progress and see how far I've got starting at the URL below. I've not posted an update in a while but will eventually get round to it....

  • bricksanbricksan Member Posts: 566
    Wow DrDave you have given me plenty food for thought about my layout.
  • drdavewatforddrdavewatford Administrator Posts: 6,753
    I started out with the intention of just organising it around a few modulars and road plates, not too dissimilar to what you've done, Rich. As you can see, however, things have snowballed somewhat..... The sheer volume of pieces required is one consequence of this - literally thousands used so far and I've barely scraped the surface....
  • bricksanbricksan Member Posts: 566
    I don't own a train set but I have a very strong urge to change that now. I can't wait to see progress on yours.
  • mr_bennmr_benn Member Posts: 941
    Also check out Bluebrick - - a nice way to plan road/building/rail layouts
  • Brick_ObsessionBrick_Obsession Member Posts: 656
    I see a lot of people wanting to know where to start when building there city or how to do a train set layout. Well, I have your answer. Albeit not Lego, it sure will give you an abundance of ideas of what to do.

    Ha ha!
  • samiam391samiam391 Member Posts: 4,484
    ^Now THERE... is a Bricklink project. Any takers?
  • BuriedinBricksBuriedinBricks Member Posts: 1,367
    Wow, that's awesome.
  • CapnRex101CapnRex101 Administrator Posts: 2,364
    ^^ Does anybody know any extremely generous millionaires?
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