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LEGO Top Tips: Modular Designing & Building 101

For some of us, designing a modular building can be daunting. Just seeing a blank base plate could be discouraging since we don’t know where and how to start the process. However, the basics for designing a MOC modular building is not actually that difficult when you break them down into manageable sections of the process. It is also like designing an actual building where you start with the layout of the main structure (stairs, bricks and walls), façade, interior, and so on. For inspirations, you may look at your house, your office or a commercial building you’ve visited.

Given a year of experience that I’ve had designing and building MOC modular buildings, I’ve written down some steps, tips and guides that will help you design and build your own modular building. For this post, I’ll be using 16×32 and 32×32 MOC buildings as samples. Most, if not all of the notes would be applicable to larger modular buildings.

Ground Floor

Starting off with a base plate, place the four pieces 1×2 technic bricks that will end up connecting the MOC to adjacent buildings. The bricks are to be placed on the 10th and 11th stud from the edge of the base plate. This might be a simple step but seeing these bricks on fixed positions on a baseplate may ease your mind that you have started something and may relieve your anxiety over the tasks ahead.

Place two pieces of 1×8 light bluish grey tiles on the edge of the base plate which will act as the front part of the building. Continue by adding 5-7 studs (in depth) of dark bluish grey tiles depending on how deep you want the building to be from the street. This depth may change as you develop the layout of the building but placing them will give you an idea on where to start the main structure of your building. Jumper plates may also be used which will help fix positions where you can place minifigs, but this can also be done on a later stage when you are finalizing the design.

Lay out the foundation of the building by placing bricks on the perimeter. As a basic structure, a 16×16 footprint would be ideal but you may increase or decrease the size depending on your overall design. While laying out the bricks, it is also advisable to plan for the position of the main door and back door (if applicable). The main door may be placed on the center or the side of a building. The back door is preferable to be placed on one side so as not to obstruct with the interior layout. If you imagine opening the door on one side near the wall, it would not eat up so much space.

Step1
MOC – Lego Store & Radio Station

 

As a framework, start placing bricks and panels around the perimeter, mainly the back and side walls. Depending on your style and resources, you may opt on using 1x2x5 bricks and/or 1x5x6 panels can easily raise your building and require less pieces or you may use normal bricks and add two-tone walls for greater aesthetic effects. As a guide on an average modular building height, the usual pattern for the number of brick height is 10-7-7 or 11-6-6 sometimes the ground floor is lower (i.e., 9 bricks high) but the overall idea is that the ground floor is 2-4 bricks higher than the upper levels.

Tip: if you don’t have enough bricks for a certain color, use 2-tone-colored walls. Split them with a plate or another colored brick. See La Locanda MOC image for an idea.

 

Place the stairs next to a wall. Unless the stairs are the centerpiece for the building, placing them next to the side or back wall will allow you to fully maximize the space of the building.

Notes: If possible, design a layout where all floors can have access to a single stair case. If not, plan it out to have a maximum of 2 stairs so that space is not wasted. Also, if space allows for it, especially for commercial buildings with different businesses, it also considerable to place the stairs outside so that minifigs do not need to go through lower levels to access to the upper levels. In limited spaces where stairs have to be placed inside the building, consider what businesses can afford to be passed through by minifigs without affecting the operation of the business.


As shown below on the MOC – Lego Store & Radio Station, the stairs are placed next to the back wall and with easy access to the back door (in case of emergency from DC or Marvel villains’ attacks). There is still enough space on the ground floor for furniture and appliances to be placed.

On another photo with the La Locanda MOC, 2 stairs are used due to the MOC having 2 separate buildings. One uses outdoor stairs, the other indoors. Both are placed where there is little to no obstruction caused.

Step2Step3

               

MOC – Lego Store & Radio Station                                   MOC – La Locanda

 

Considering you already have an idea of the interior; you may start the layout process. As an example, the La Locanda MOC has two separate businesses – a scooter rental shop and an Italian restaurant.

 

The scooter rental shop is a straight forward layout with a desk for the storekeeper and a cabinet for small supplies and helmet. As a laid-back establishment, minifigs can still pass through it going to the upper levels without causing too much problems for the storekeeper.

 For the Italian restaurant, upon entering through the door, minifigs are easily able to access the tables & chairs. The buffet table is placed on a corner near the kitchen so food can easily be replenished. Although the kitchen has interior walls, there are still wide openings where the waiters can easily deliver food to customers.


All the appliances in the kitchen are placed beside the walls to have a wide-open space in the middle which allows the chef and waiters to access everything with ease. The toilet is placed under the stairs to save space. Applying these tips can help maximize the use of spaces. Modular buildings can still pack a lot of details even without using all of the 32×32 base plate area.

 
Step4
 

Once a general layout has been made, you may work on the façade of the building. This is where you use different techniques like SNOT, SNIR, lettering, etc. to enhance the aesthetics of the building. A separate post on building a MOC with some of the techniques can be viewed in the link https://bellevebricks.com/blog/a-guide-to-lego-mocs-creating-your-own-is-easier-than-you-think/

 

Shown below is the image of the Old Town Grocer MOC which has 3 establishments on the ground floor. All three have different distinct facades representing their products & services. One is a wine tasting & pastry café; another is a farm produce grocer and another is a dairy product shop. Despite having a small area to showcase their façade, using different color patterns and some SNOT techniques distinguishes each one from the other and makes for a vibrant modular building.

 

Step5
 

You may go back and forth with the interior and façade. This would also be a good time to utilize the wall by using modified bricks with studs on the side. You may place cabinets, printed tiles, etc. to make sure that a wall is not left blank and dull. The idea is to fill the room with details but find a balance so as not to make it look cluttered and too messy.

The image below is from the ground floor of the Town Square Corner. Most of the wall has been filled with details like posts, mail boxes and packages. Rather than having a plain wall, using SNOT techniques improved the look of the interior without using too many special pieces.

 
Step6
 

Tip: If you are running out of bricks of a certain color for your wall, use modified bricks to put a wall art or cabinet to fill in the brick requirements. It will allow you to save some brick usage and at the same time, add details to the interior.

 

After finalizing the details of the façade, the walls and the interior, start placing tiles on whatever is left on the floor. You may use a certain patter but ensure that you have enough pieces for it to work. Also ensure that the color scheme is aligned with the interior as well as not looking too busy with certain tile patterns. For larger areas, it may also help break them down into sections by using tiles on certain areas.

 The Birch Art & Antique Corner has a large open space but is divided into 2 businesses. By using different styles on floor tiling and framing them with the white and light bluish grey colors, the large area is split into 2 distinct looks.

 
Step7
 

Tip: you may also use jumpers along with the tiles to allow for minifig placement.

 

After floor tiling is done. You may complete the ground floor by tiling the top brick walls and adding a few jumper plates or modified plates for connecting to the upper levels. Keep working and tweaking with the design until you are happy with the result.

I am by no means a master or an expert but I am willing to share what I know and how I do my designs. I hope it helps you and gives you some ideas on how to work on your own modular building. I will continue with the upper levels of the building on my next post. In the meantime, you may check out my MOCs at https://bellevebricks.com/vendors/lego-artisan-mocs/.

If you have queries about the post or about my MOCs, feel free to send me a message through bellevebricks.com or https://www.instagram.com/lego_artisan/

A Few Essentials and My Recommended DJ Equipment by DJ Ferdi Vol
With so much information on my site I wanted to bring it down to an all in one place where I list my updated personal recommendations for 2021 and popular items that people have used themselves with succes. You can check it all out below.
DJ Essentials
The absolute DJ essentials every beginner has to start with or any advanced DJ has used or is still using.
DJ Controllers
It can be overwhelming to choose the right controller as there are countless things to consider. Having the right experience is key to know what controller someone needs. It's the thing you will use most and you can find the right DJ Controller here.
Headphones
Better headphones results in better overal audio quality as well as easier beat-matching and comfort while using them on the fly. These best DJ Headphones for 2021 are tested first hand.
DJ Gifts
It can be hard to find the right gift to give a DJ but it's also nice to treat yourself with some DJ gifts that you didn't even know existed.
belleve bricks sig fig scaled
Written by Matthew Mitchell
I am an engineer by profession. Aside from an almost full time hobby of LEGO, I also listen to music, play the piano, do art sketches and watch movies. After about 27 years of my dark ages, I came back to LEGO in Feb 2020. I mainly collect and design modular buildings with a bit of Harry Potter, Ninjago and minifig-scale vehicles.  I started digital designing in August 2020 and have not stopped since. As inspired by one of my favorite youtubers, my usual design concepts focus on diversity and density. Creativity and resourcefulness go hand in hand with LEGO MOC design and creation. Always do what you can with what you have.
About Matthew Mitchell
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