This is a peek into the apiary’s building process. It really started with two things: a window construction that looked intriguing and a building technique for a roof that had been in my mind for several years already.

At the beginning of April 2014, I happened to just play around with some parts that still needed to be sorted. Not too many parts of the same kind, which makes you think out of the box to archive something aesthetic. So this is what happened:

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The next step was to create a doorway that matched the window. At this point I was still uncertain about what the building would end up to be (or, indeed, if it would end up being a part of the [Brick] Abyss at all):

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Now I needed to create a floor plan. All of the houses are usually furnished inside. This helps to create houses with realistic proportions with respect to the minifigures but it also makes the houses look more alive if one can see furnishings through the windows (and, occasionally, I might let people have a look inside). Creating a floor plan early on in the building process also helps to figure how many elements will be needed to complete the building:

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Usually, the rest of the building is determined by three things that come up by doing the floor plan: placement of stairs, placement of inner walls and – dependent on those two – the placement of windows. All houses on the [Brick] Abyss also have fire places and chimneys – a fourth factor to keep in mind.

In case of the apiary, the inner wall placement showed early on that only a very limited number of windows would be possible (for example just one in the wall in the very top). This had a great effect on the construction of the outer walls – I had to come up with a design that would not make them look too boring. Finally, I settled on placing a frame for rambler roses:

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Of course, other things have a big impact on building the walls as well: Will there be shelves and cupboards that might need to be fastened to the wall? What about curtains, pictures, taps, sinks and other items that might need to be attached to the wall? No matter how careful I plan, I will usually have to do several rebuilds but planning ahead keeps them fairly limited (hopefully).

Two things helped me settle on the purpose of the building. First of all the overall design with many round shapes and the natural clay color of the wall made me think of beehives – and I already knew I’d have rambler roses on the outside. It felt ‘right’ to turn the house into an apiary:

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At this point I decided to introduce the inhabitants. This will help with the further planning: How many bedrooms will I need? What about a study, a library, other rooms? How old are the people living inside? Which floors would they use most often? I decided to have an older couple, so getting to the master bedroom would most likely not require climbing too many stairs. This also meant that I needed fairly spacious rooms to be able to design furniture with a lot of ornaments.

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I also had the roof construction in mind that up until then had only exited in my head. I made a first trial version using sewing thread to see if it would be possible at all:

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LEGO string is a bit thicker and was used for the final roof sections (in the pictures below). It does not nearly come apart as easily as the trial version but it still has to be packed exceptionally carefully for transport. The roof pretty much falls apart as soon as one piece gets loose and rebuilding one of the larger roof sections takes approximately eight hours – no time for that right before an exhibition!

But: three cheers for tiles! I was really excited to find out that my original idea worked.

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So far, so good. The first level was completed. The original plan was to build just a cute little house from the parts that were there. Nothing new to buy and a quick build. However… Then happened…

April 26th: The apiary resists completion! This is one of the woes of LEGO building that seem to happen again and again. The entire ground floor will have to be redesigned because… it is just one single plate too high (and, in this case, taking out one layer of plates will significantly impact the placement of windows and doors in the building):

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Who was thinking again that certainly this time it would be ‘just a little cute house’ and a ‘quick build’? Back to redesigning the ground floor.

I now also started to think about the rock the house would sit on. I had something horseshoe-shaped in mind that would allow for the house to sit on one side and for trees and gardens on the other side. My friend was going to build the rock, so I sent him the floor plan of the house and the principal rock idea:

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(“entrance” – “stairs or landing platform” – “trees” – “trees & flower patches” – “hoisting crane”)

From now on I could not make any changes to the ground floor anymore as the rock is under construction.

Back to the apiary. This was the original plan: just a cute little house that would be a quick build.

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But then my long anticipated roof construction turned out to look just horrible from the side:

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May 3rd & 4th: after a massive building weekend the apiary is starting to look quite good again.

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And thus the house grew from a small nice little project into one of the major structures on the display.

I also felt that the two residents did not provide enough story potential yet. So I decided to introduce a third character – who would, of course, need a bedroom. Fortunately I had already decided to add a third floor. And thus the old people lost their attic.

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Finally: the third level is completed and once again proves the ultimate and final LEGO rule: no matter how many parts you’ve got – something will be missing. I usually continue building with other parts so I don’t have to halt the construction process completely. Still, I am off to BrickLink to buy the missing parts as soon as possible.

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May 16th: The missing parts have finally arrived. In the meantime we have had lots of conversations about the house, the rock and how we would make it fit with the rest of the [Brick] Abyss. We had already realized we needed a lot more agricultural structures and the whole thing still needed to be a bit more steampunkish. The original concept to have just one hoisting crane on the rock grew into the idea to have multiple flower and vegetable patches suspended on cranes over the edges of the rock. This also fit in nicely with the basic premise of the model (‘How would you live if your house was on a rock and you did not have much space?’)

And… Yeah, I thought the third level was completed but where have all the dark red 1×1 tiles gone?! I decided to add a sun terrace on the top instead of another roof. This also added greatly to the story potential.

June 08th: The apiary is finally completed. Just two weeks before the [Brick] Abyss needs to be packed for it’s premiere at the Fanabriques exhibition.

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A little more than two months total building time – this must be a personal record…