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10K CLUB INTERVIEW: GJC15344, The Creator of Minas Tirith

Congratulations to GJC15344 from the Netherlands and his first 10K Club creation Minas Tirith! His project is based on Peter Jackson's interpretation of the white city from Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy of which he is a huge fan.     


 

ABOUT YOURSELF

  1. Who are you?
    In LEGO Ideas community known as GJC15344.
     
  2. Where are you from?
    I am from Amsterdam in The Netherlands.
     
  3. How old are you?
    I am currently 22 years old.
     
  4. What do you study or do for a living?
    As of this year, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Ancient History. In the next study year, I will start with my Master’s program which is called Heritage Studies.
     
  5. What hobbies do you have?
    I love to play the Piano, and then specifically movie soundtracks. Such as the soundtrack from Gladiator or The Lord of the Rings. Furthermore, from time to time I like to design historic buildings and cities in Minecraft. And, with the same pleasure, I design buildings with LEGO. Unfortunately, I do not have enough real LEGO to construct big projects like my Minas Tirith project, so I mostly design with LEGO using apps such as LEGO Digital Designer (LDD).
     
  6. How and when did your interest in LEGO come about?
    I have been playing with LEGO ever since I was a kid. I would spend days in my room building one castle after the other, and orchestrating battlefields. I also loved LEGO Star Wars. At some point I briefly lost my passion for LEGO, which resulted in my – now much regretted – the decision to sell most of my LEGO. However, I do not seem to have outgrown my passion for LEGO after all. I started picking up designing with LEGO on my computer. One of the first builds that I did, was a version of Minas Tirith. Just after I had stopped playing with LEGO, the Lord of the Rings LEGO-themed sets were introduced. As a huge Lord of the Rings fan, I felt that the fact that there was no Minas Tirith set was a great miss. From that moment, which is over 7 years ago now I think, I have designed multiple versions of Minas Tirith. My LEGO Ideas submission is the latest and last one. Also, since two years now I have started buying LEGO sets again, and it really feels like coming home.
     
  7. What is LEGO for you? What does it mean for you? How does it fit in your life? E.g. build, display, meetups, play the games or 'just' watch the cartoons.
    LEGO is a great way for me to relax and enjoy myself, and a way to get lost in my imagination again. When you grow older as a person, I feel like you tend to lose the ability to lose yourself in your imagination. LEGO helps me keep this ability alive. I have a shelf in my student room on which I have some of my favourite LEGO sets on display and that makes me happy. The best part of getting a new LEGO set is the opening of the box, and then start building it together with my boyfriend. We love it.
     
  8. What is your favourite LEGO theme (current or past)? Why? And has any theme inspired your building style or preference in any particular way?
    My favourite theme definitely is The Lord of The Rings. This should not be a surprise, since my LEGO Ideas submission is a new addition to this theme. I am a huge fan of The Lord of the Rings. I have read the books, and they are magnificent. Also, the movie trilogy by Peter Jackson (which I consider as just one long movie) is the best cinematic adaptation ever, If you would ask me. The LEGO Lord of the Rings Theme brought some of my beloved characters to a minifigure scale. The sets from this theme, together with many other sets, have been my inspiration and point of reference designing Minas Tirith. I often watch speed-build videos on YouTube. These are videos that show people building a variety of LEGO sets in a short amount of time. Analyzing these videos helps me discover and master building techniques.
     
  9. What is your favourite official LEGO set? Why?
    Right now, that would be the LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle Set (71043). This set is on top of my LEGO wishlist for sure. I remember being on holiday in Denmark. When I and my family were visiting the LEGO store in Copenhagen I saw this set on display for the first time. I could not believe how perfect this set was. It bears such a good resemblance to the actual Hogwarts Castle. Also, the building process is complex and takes hours, which should be everybody’s dream!
     
  10. What is your favourite LEGO element? Why?
    My favourite, yet unobtained LEGO element would be the One Ring, from the LEGO Lord of the Rings theme. Though very small, this element would be of great symbolic meaning for me. It combines two of my favourite themes in one object: LEGO and the Lord of the Rings.

     

ABOUT YOUR PROJECT

  1. Where did your interest in this particular model come from?
    As I already briefly stated above, I really felt like the LEGO Lord of the Rings theme needed a version of Minas Tirith. Peter Jackson’s Minas Tirith is the epitome of what a fantasy castle should look like to me. It is a vast and high-rising city at the slopes of a mountain. The design of the city is based on the island monastery of Le Mont Saint Michel in France. I have been to this place, and Minas Tirith neatly captures the awe-inspiring presence of this real-life structure. Also, because they are somewhat similar, Minas Tirith really feels like a real place that could physically exist in our own world.
     
  2. How long was the process of making the project did, and what did you have to research as well. What kind of prep, research and design phases did you go through to produce your creation?
    I designed the first version of Minas Tirith I think some 7 years ago using LDD. My first version was built on large base plates. This made the design over-complicated. After I abandoned the build for some time, I took up designing after I had found some new inspiration. I started all over again. Limiting the designing to only three of the seven levels of the city would make the entire thing more workable. I have done some quite extensive research into Minas Tirith to get the looks and details right. I have drawn the city several times by hand for instance. Also looking at other LEGO Minas Tirith builds online helped me find new angles to look from.


     
  3. What special challenges did you face creating the model? What was the most difficult part to recreate?
    Minas Tirith poses several complications when designing the city in LEGO. First of all, the city is way to big to fit in a single set. I thought about creating multiple sets that would fit together as one, thus creating Minas Tirith in its entirety. Ultimately I went for a smaller version which combined micro scale and minifigure scale into one set.
    Secondly, the curved walls and the high elevation of the upper walls put me up for a challenge. This has just been a process of trial and error for me. I have experimented with lots of different kinds of ways to align straight wall-sections to form a curved wall. My ultimate design works really well I think, since it shows minimal gaps between each wall section.
    Thirdly, the throne room, fitted in the Citadel build section, was a really difficult part to design. The curved walls had to be combined with some kind of structure that would reinforce the microscale citadel on top of the throne room, while still leaving enough space for a minifigure scale throne room at the back. Also here, after a lot of trial and error and experimenting with several technical structures, I think I have found a good looking and pretty strong compromise.
    Lastly, the thing that is very important when designing Minas Tirith, especially when combining micro scale and minifigure scale, is to get the overall proportions right. When looking online for MOCs of Minas Tirith I found that this aspect is most often overlooked or ignored too much. When I look at the real Minas Tirith, I see that its entire form when looked at from the front almost resembles a perfect triangle pointing upwards. This means that the upper sections of the building cannot be made into minifigure scale. If I were to design these sections in minifigure scale, it would mean that these builds would get bigger in order to fit minifigures into them, and this would compromise the proportionality of the triangular shape of the entire building. Like so:


     
  4. If you could talk to yourself before you started on this project, what would you tell him/her? What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
    I did not know that designing Minas Tirith would take so much effort and time. I have been very frustrated with the complexity of it many moments, and that has led me to give up designing it several times. If I could go back now, I would tell myself to be more patient with the building process and help myself understand that I should experiment more with building techniques before rushing into the building. It is a complex process of trial and error. If a certain aspect is overlooked from the beginning, altering it much later in the process is very difficult.


     
  5. How long did it take to complete the model? Did you finish it fairly quickly, or did it take a long time? And how did the build time compare to the time you spent promoting your Product Idea to reach 10,000 supporters?
    Over all this has been a process of years, but I spend much of these years ignoring the project. I think I put in some 300 hours in total. This includes researching, designing, revisiting, etc. I have spent way less time promoting it. The promoting I mostly did via Instagram by approaching LEGO themes accounts and asking them to promote my design. I have also approached some Lord of the Rings fan sites, asking them to post promotion of my build as well.
     
  6. How did it feel when you reached the magic 10,000 votes and how long did it take?
    It was really very exciting! It took almost one-and-a-half years to reach the 10.000 thresholds. I have been logging in to LEGO Ideas almost every single day to review my progress. At some point, votes got to an all-time low, and then I briefly lost hope. But, when I started promoting it again, it got more and more attention and ultimately I have made it. For which I am really thankful.
     
  7. Approximately how many LEGO bricks did you use to create your model?
    The build has got some 4400 bricks. I know this exceeds the guidelines, but after so much experimenting with this build, I do not think it can be realized with much less. Also, there are a lot of smaller pieces, which maybe could be replaced with bigger ones.
     
  8. What is your favourite building technique or part/section that you’ve incorporated into your Product Idea?
    The second level of the build is my favourite part I think. This is where micro and minifigure scale come together, and it works really well. Also the towers and stepped crenelations really give this Minas Tirith feel. These aspects are a very recognizable aspects of Minas Tirith and Gondorian/Numenorian (this refers to the cultures that inhabit Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings) architecture.


     
  9. If you built your model digitally, what software did you use to build and render your model?
    I build my design in LEGO Digital Designer (LDD) and I made my renders with Stud.io.

     

ABOUT LEGO IDEAS

  1. Do you have any useful advice about creating a successful LEGO Ideas project?
    Preparation is the key. Make sure that you really understand your theme and know all the intricate details that you want to put into your design. Make a sketch and do not settle for anything less than what you have inside of your head. Make it happen!
     
  2. What (if any) methods did you use to advertise and attract support to your Product Idea? 
    It is useful to approach accounts that post LEGO designs on Instagram and ask them to promote your design. Make sure that you also reach the specific group of people that would be interested in supporting your Idea. If you make something Disney-related for instance, find Disney fans in general.
     
  3. What is your favourite LEGO Ideas Product Idea (besides your own of course)? Are there any Product Ideas you think have been overlooked?
    I really liked the Krusty Krab by ExeSandbox. This idea was very detailed and really good-looking. I think it is a shame that it was not chosen. Another one that I really like is the Central Perk set, which was actually released. I own this set and it is very detailed and a really fun build.
     
  4. What is it about the platform that attracts you? What tips would you give to anyone who is thinking about uploading an idea?
    I think LEGO Ideas is a magnificent way of genuine interaction between LEGO as a corporation and the fans. Who does not dream about being a real LEGO designer, working for LEGO? This platform enabled passionate fans to show their skills and ideas to the entire community. Also, it shows that LEGO is committed to its fans and takes them and their ideas seriously.
     
  5. Do you have plans to submit any other Product Ideas in the future? If yes, can you give us a hint of what that might be?
    At this moment I have no specific idea for a new submission, but I will definitely not exclude the possibility of entering a new submission in the future.
  • 10k club
  • 10k club interview
  • 10k
  • product idea
  • movie
  • lotr
  • castle
  • gandalf
  • gondor
  • lord of the rings
  • minas tirith
  • tolkien
  • fantasy
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