QA The man behind the amazing LEGO Lord of the Rings tower

first_imgWe’ve seen some pretty awesome LEGO creations in our time. The LEGO Star Wars Sandcrawler that took 9 months and over 10,000 pieces to make wowed us last month, but we recently came across an equally impressive and nerdy LEGO creation from one of our favorite movie and book series: Lord of the Rings. Kevin Walter recreated the Barad-Dûr tower that features the terrifying Eye of Sauron for Brickworld 2011.We didn’t know much about the LEGO tower other than what we could decipher from Walter’s Flikr photos. We knew it was about 6 feet tall, but so many other questions lingered with us and tugged at our thoughts, almost like the ring does to Frodo. Okay, it might not have been that intense, but we wondered how many pieces it took, how long it took to make, why he decided to build it, and so much more. Thankfully, Walter was nice enough to answer all of our questions, which you can read in the Q&A below.Can you tell us a little bit about the project?Kevin Walter: Well, Barad-dûr (BD) was a part for a collaboration of15 people from 5 different countries – all from a website called It’s a site where people can share their LEGO models with the community. We called the collaboration “The journey of the fellowship” for Brickworld 2011. Our goal was to set up Middle Earth, and everyone did an important part on Middle Earth. I chose BD.I liked the tower ever since I saw Lord of the Rings the first time and it was an instant point on my “to do list” for the future. Our collaboration gave me the chance to build it earlier, bigger (as I would have built it for my own), and set it into a greater context. It was an important part of the collaboration and hundreds of people had the chance to see it in real life. You can only appreciate it if you stand right in front of it. Nothing compares to the pictures.How long did it take to build?The construction time itself was about 2.5 months — from March2011 to mid-May — but there was a “pre-construction-time” that started in early November of 2010. The pre-construction was for making plans, concepts, and for early tries on the first elements of the tower, like the wall and the base-plate. So, in total, it took six months from the planning to the finished build.What kind of pieces did you use? Any special ones?That’s quite a difficult question to answer. The LEGO company produced a ton of new parts over the last few years and they are all special in their own way. If you mean the old classic parts (2×4 bricks, etc.), I used a lot of them for the construction underneath and as “filler” for the gaps in the rockwork because the rest of the tower is constructed with many details and greebles without “flat” walls. Most of the rest of the tower consists of “special-parts”: Curved slopes, door-rail-plates, round bricks and plates, arches (in every variation). A good example to show is the picture below. If you look closely you won’t see many of the “old” standard bricks, just the parts I counted.How many pieces did you use?I can’t exactly tell you how many parts are in the model (I didn’t count them). I ordered about 25,000 pieces and for sure the same amount of parts came from my own stock. My final guess is about 50,000+.How long have you been building LEGO models?I’ve been building LEGO models since the age of three. In my early childhood, my models were simple and built for playability. In 2007, I joined, and from there I built my models as ‘models’, for showing them. Over the last few years my ‘skills’ improved quite a lot. If I compare Barad-dûr to my first model on Mocpages, I have to laugh about myself. It’s a difference between day and night.How many times have you been to Brickworld?Actually, this year was my first Brickworld, and I’m glad I could make it. Meeting all my friends from the community and meeting new people and friends was just awesome!What was the biggest challenge in building the Barad-dûr model?The first challenge was to figure out the scale of it. As you maybe can guess, there wasn’t a lot of reference material (neither in the movies, nor on the Internet), but I found a bunch of pictures from a Weta collectible of Barad-dûr (Weta is the company who designed the models, etc., for LoTR). I took those pictures and chose one aspect of the tower (the outer wall with its characteristic riffle-pattern, and started on those wall elements. Once I got the first element I set them in scale to the rest of the tower.I continued with taking one aspect, and one single element of the tower one after another. Because there aren’t existing blueprints or anything like that, the complete construction of the tower was done by eye. I tried to capture as many details of it as possible, under the conditions of parts, form, and size. I’m quite confident with the result. I think I captured nearly 80 percent of the necessary and characteristic details of Barad-dûr.The most challenging parts of the tower was, at first, building the baseplate out of wedge-plates to get the right angles for the circular base of BD and the right proportions. That was followed by the rockwork, which is about 33% of the tower and took me the most time in relation to the rest of the model. It was quite dificult to create a floating look.The whole upper tower was also a challenge. It consists of eight different panels (each unique) and the Eye of Sauron. Creating the lidless shape of it was also very difficult. But the ultimate challenge was just a small part of the tower: the two small towers on the corners of BD with their hexagonal shape. I needed over two weeks of continuous tries and fails before I got the final solution for it.Have you built any other LOTR models?No, Barad-dûr was my “debut” to LotR. Normally, my favorite subject is building space creations or building space-creations after concepts. For example, my digital Klingon Bird of Prey or the rendition of the Keldabe-class batlleship from a Star Wars PC-game, shown below. But, like I already said, BD was on my “to-do” list and I’m very happy with the result.What will you do with the model now?What to do with the model?! I don’t know what I’ll do with the model. I’ll probably dismantle it, sort out the parts, and build something new out of them. The problem is, the model eats up all my stock, I don’t have any parts anymore for building something new, or the money for buying new parts. On the other hand, it depends on its status when it arrives back in Germany. I had to ship it from the U.S., and last time, when I shipped it from Germany to the U.S. for Brickworld ’11 it was a disaster: The complete upper tower was crunched to parts, no one bigger than a few centimeters. It took me two days and two nights in a row, to reconstruct it. It was a real pain, but finally I was able to rebuild it and I got the reward for it. I won the judges award on BW ’11 for it (and my cuckoo clock: a “double-award”).Check out Walter’s Flickr page to see even more photos of the amazing Barad-Dûr LEGO tower.last_img read more