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The Roman Forum - 1:180,000
To build a 1:180,000 model of a pile of 2000 year old rocks: 20 days, 96 hours, 15 BrickLink orders, 3 large PAB cups, and one very exhausted high school senior.
About this creation
Usually I don't really introduce my builds.
I'll make an exception for this one, though. At 5 feet long and over 6000 parts, this is easily my largest creation to date in every respect (except height). Given the amount of time effort, blood (yes, blood), sweat, and tears poured into this project, I want to provide some quick, not long-winded at all background before getting to the good stuff.

Or you can skip right to the good stuff. It's cool either way.

Background

I've always loved history, and especially Greco-Roman culture, mythology, architecture...I just loved those guys. Three years of Latin in high school with the one and only Dr. Nelson just made me admire them even more.

On top of that, I've always loved art and LEGO - anything creative. I love hands-on work and solving albeit basic engineering problems and design issues. So when senior projects came around in May, it just made sense to me to firstly create something, and secondly incorporate an homage to those cultures I so loved in that creation.

The Senior Project

I don't know how many schools still do these. At mine, the seniors take their finals and get off school three weeks early. In those three extra weeks, though, they are expected to spend between 6-7 hours a day on their projects. Ha no.

Anyway, I was planning on submitting a model of St. Peter's in Rome as my proposed senior project, but for some reason I still don't know I ended up submitting the Roman Forum. It was approved more or less with no changes, and that launched me into the planning phase from March into the first weeks of May.

Planning

The March-May period I spent studying and focusing on classwork, since I was taking relatively hard and work-intensive courses (i.e., AP Physics and Multivariable Calculus). That meant I didn't plan nearly as much for this project as I could have. I did list all the buildings I would include, which at first also included the Colosseum. We weren't supposed to get a head start on our projects without special permission. Still, I wanted to get some "pre-building" done before the three project weeks officially started. All that ended up being was the 4 16x16 baseplates, the technic connectors between them, and the black border around the model.

For each building, I researched its purpose (although at this scale, it wasn't possible to really create details that showed purpose), its dimensions, and its historical description. From there I used reference photos and artists' recreations to create a sense of what each building should look like. Some buildings were harder due to lack of information, while others were much easier, especially the ones that were still standing and that I had seen in person last February.

Technical Stuff

I had a map on hand very early on which diagrammed and labeled a large section of the Roman Forum, including every building I planned on recreating. Every inch on the map equaled 200 meters in real life. That meant the whole section I wanted to build was 650 meters in real life, or 3.25 inches. I initially miscalculated the region, hence why I was able to include the Colosseum. In reality, the Colosseum would require at least a 1:5 width to length ratio, which was obviously impossible given I had 4 equally sized baseplates. Anyway, my baseplates combined to be 192 studs long, which meant that 1 stud equaled 3.5 meters in real life. Thus, I had a double conversion of 1 inch = 200 meters = 57 studs. Using a tape measure, I could then precisely measure each building. I never really thought about it, but I guess that does mean this is a scale model.

The Project Weeks

At this point I should give a huge shoutout to Isaac Snyder. I'll link to his Flickr page later, but we all know who that is, right? Every senior was required to have a designated subject expert in their field - for example, one of my friends who made an EP (a very, very good EP) for their senior project had an expert musician helping them. I figured since so many builders in the LEGO community could be considered "subject experts" even without being professionals or having real credentials, I would find someone with relevant experience in what I was building.

So I scrolled through my Flickr feed and clicked on everyone with more than a thousand followers to see if they would be interested to help.

Just kidding! It just so happened that Isaac had just created several beautiful mini models, and was in the process of building trophys for the Summer Joust, which were also beautiful mini models. I contacted him, and he was honestly instrumental in the creation of this build. Even if he hadn't given me any advice, just having someone like that behind me all the way really kept me motivated and going head-to-head with serious challenges instead of backing down. Isaac gave me some excellent starting pointers for how to create a good mini model. He gave specific advice, too, based on the WIP photos I sent him. I'll talk about his contributions more when they show up in the photos further down.

Thanks a ton Isaac! I promise I wasn't just trying to get your address. There really is something on the way! Now, If I can just make and print out instructions...

I will be posting a timelapse of the build later on Flickr. My mild ADD becomes pretty obvious there, because I can't seem to just build one part at a time. But the build process as a whole is more or less predictable - build as much as I can, figure out what I don't have, order parts as needed, repeat...

The rainbow base layer of bricks hidden beneath the build was actually sort of stressful. I was trying hard to stay within my self-assigned budget of $500, and even buying bricks in bulk quantities was stretching the limits. I think you all know where this is going. Yes, there are about 500 clone brand bricks hidden inside there. But what you can see is all genuine LEGO. That's what really matters, right?

Trivia

The Temple of Saturn is built mostly upside down to accommodate its roof design.
There are over 100 pin connectors on the Temple of Venus and Rome alone, representing columns. They are used as columns throughout the build.
There are over 1600 1x1 light bley tiles in this model, almost all used as pavement. It was worth it, though. The much more economical 2x2 tiles wouldn't have looked nearly as awesome.
There are 300+ 1x2 dark bley plates to represent roads going through the Forum. There wouldn't have been so stark a contrast between them and the surrounding pavement, but I made them stand out intentionally.
There are jumper plates literally everywhere. I could not have finished this model without them.
The Basilica Aemilia fell off the table once while I was working on it. That sucked.
I bought two sets just for this build: 31048 Lakeside Lodge for red slopes, and 10693 Creative Supplement for the base layer.

Conclusion

I've probably bored you all enough already, so I won't bother with details of the actual presentation - when I brought my model in and talked about it to be graded by the faculty. It was over 30 minutes long (the presentation was), so I think I'll just keep that to myself. For now. Needless to say, I joined the millions of Americans at risk of a heart attack when I was breaking my beloved model into four pieces , stuffing it in my bubble-wrapped trunk, driving it to school, re-assembling it, and then repeating the process to go back home. Everything made it with barely even minor breakage, so that was good. I am free from heart attack for the foreseeable future.

So, without further ado, the Roman Forum! In all five feet of its glory. Thanks to Isaac, Dr. Nelson and Ms. Peterson for teaching Latin and chaperoning the trip to Rome last February, my faculty advisor Mr. Pettit (teacher equivalent of a subject expert), and everyone else who made this possible.



Here's the lettering up front. Forvm Romanvm, or, as you can probably guess, The Roman Forum. Adjectives come second in Latin.



Blurry bird's eye view. Not gonna lie - this picture and the main one looked a lot better on my camera. The build measures a perfect 60"x15". Shoutout to LEGO for making 48x48 baseplates exactly 15"x15".



Here's the left side, or as I like to call it, the West Wing. It really is on the western side in real life. The three temples of the West Wing, from nearest to furthest, are the Temple of Saturn, the Temple of Vespasian, and the Temple of Concord. The latter is one of the few temples in ancient Rome wider than it is long, due to its cramped position against the Capitoline Hill. This was one of the first parts to be finished. I included a bit of the hill to provide geographic context, but unfortunately it looks pretty ugly from the back. Just don't look at the back.



This open area is the Roman Forum proper. Technically only this half of the build is actually the Forum. But hey, that would've been tiny. At the bottom of the picture here is the Arch of Septimius Severus, I think the largest arch in the Forum, and the Rostra. The Rostra was a platform that people gave speeches from, hence why it faces the Forum. It gets its name from the plural of rostrum, rostri, the word for a ship's prow. The sides of the Rostra were decorated with ship's prows, rostra, that the Romans had taken as trophies from naval battles. You can see them here as brown cheese slopes. The remaining buildings are the Curia, in front of the arch, the Basilica Aemilia, next to the Curia, and the Basilica Iulia, next to the Rostra. Basilicas were among the biggest buildings in ancient Rome.



The eastern end of the Forum. The Temple of the Deified Julius, with the circular cutout in front, marks the end of the Forum. The gold 1x1 circular tile in the cutout is an altar to Julius Caesar, which is still there today. To the left is, once again, the Basilica Aemilia. In the bottom right is the Temple of Castor and Pollux, which was the first building I built and my template for all the other temples. Between these two temples is the Arch of Augustus. The circular building in the back is the Temple of Vesta. It's known as the building housing the fire that was never allowed to go out.



Just behind the Temple of the Deified Julius is the Regia, the home of the ancient high priest. This was one of the less accurate buildings I made, since none of the reference photos I used seemed to agree on what it looked like. To the right of the Regia is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. The curved roof of the Regia is undoubtedly inaccurate, but I had to remove its old one to get red plates for other buildings. I used almost every single one of my red slopes, plates, and even bricks for roofs in this build.



My personal favorite building - the Temple of the Sacred City. Its Latin name, Templum Sacrae Urbis, is way cooler though. This was a weird one since technically it was part of another, much larger building which formed the bottom right corner of another forum. It took me almost a whole day just to figure out what this was supposed to be, since my map and reference photos were all over the place on what this looked like, even though the building still exists. Eventually I just went for it, and it turned out so much better than I expected.



The Basilica Maxentius. This thing was massive. You can still see three of its internal arches standing in the Forum today, rising 50 feet over the surrounding ruins. I used inverted 6x5 wall panels on the sides to save bricks. Eventually I'll replace them with something that looks way nicer.



The crown jewel of my build: the Temple of Venus and Rome. Forget what I said before about stuff being huge. THIS temple, was huge. It has an entire 48x48 baseplate pretty much to itself. Just compare it to the other buildings in the Forum. Funny thing is, the Colosseum was even bigger...



The other side. The temple was built with a back-to-back design, actually housing two separate temples in the same building. The side facing the Forum is Rome, represented by a statue with a spear. The side facing the Colosseum is Venus, represented by a statue with open arms. Near, far, wherever you are...



The Arch of Titus and an aqueduct. Fun fact: the Arch of Titus is 50 feet tall in real life. It's tiny here. Just goes to show how incredible the Romans were at building stuff. Another fun fact: the aqueduct is angled slightly downwards, just like real ones.



I went for an immersive shot here. I have kind of an obsession with immersion and all LEGO pictures, so this was a no-brainer for me. The Column of Phocas is in focus (ha) here.



Okay, so the Curia wouldn't fit in my build without sticking out substantially, so I made a cutaway instead. You can see the Roman senate chamber on the left and a courtyard with ice cream - I mean, a tree, on the right.



Here's some shots of each baseplate. This is the one on the very left. So yeah, if this is a scale model, the ratio comes out to 1:180,000+, model area:real life area. It's a big place.



The second one. The dark bley grills in the mid right of this photo are stairs to the Palatine Hill. Really happy with how this part turned out. I'm absolutely not the best builder out there, or even close, but give me a wonky angle to recreate in LEGO and I will make sure it happens. The building surrounding the circular Temple of Vesta, by the way, is the House of the Vestal Virgins. They get the whole thing to themselves. Who said abstinence isn't worth it...



Third one. The buildings directly across from the Basilica Maxentius had no label on any map I could find, so I improvised. I know, they're fugly. I'll order some parts to make them nicer. Eventually.



And the last one. The structure in the top right is the Meta Sudans, a monument that was also thought to be a fountain.



One more immersive shot, looking west. It was a crazy three weeks spent on this thing, but wow, so worth it. If I ever get a chance (and the funds), I'll seriously consider building St. Peter's, just like I planned at first. I do want to add the Colosseum to the current build in the near future.

If you made it this far, congrats, and thanks for putting up with my long-windedness. One more shoutout to my mom and sister for holding my background up while I was taking photos. Thanks for looking, and don't forget to c&c!

-Justin



Comments

 I like it 
  August 15, 2017
I know i already commented on this, but congrats on making it to the "across" section Justin! This build certainly deserves that :-)
 I made it 
  August 10, 2017
Quoting Subic Vedran Great to combine school ang Lego. And what an outcome! Relay glad to read all and see.
Thank you! If there was school for Lego that would be the best. ;)
 I like it 
  August 9, 2017
Great to combine school ang Lego. And what an outcome! Relay glad to read all and see.
 I made it 
  August 9, 2017
Quoting Fell Skyhawk Brilliant work. Amazing job. Love the detail.
Thank you!
Quoting Classical Bricks Spectacular! I visited the forum 2 years ago, so I can really appreciate the accuracy of this MOC. Great project!
Thanks man! Yeah, it's pretty awesome there, isn't it?
 I like it 
  August 7, 2017
Brilliant work. Amazing job. Love the detail.
 I like it 
  August 6, 2017
Spectacular! I visited the forum 2 years ago, so I can really appreciate the accuracy of this MOC. Great project!
 I made it 
  August 5, 2017
Quoting Oliver Becker That's instantly recocnizeable, Justin! I visited Rome at the age of 9 what is 48 years ago and you should be sure nothing changed in this time there... LOL I like the old roman stuff, without this we won't be there where we are now... So "Salve" to you! ;)
Hahaha, well that's good to know! They're doing a good job keeping the Forum in shape then. :) Thanks for the comment!
 I like it 
  August 5, 2017
That's instantly recocnizeable, Justin! I visited Rome at the age of 9 what is 48 years ago and you should be sure nothing changed in this time there... LOL I like the old roman stuff, without this we won't be there where we are now... So "Salve" to you! ;)
 I made it 
  August 5, 2017
Quoting City Creator Yes I have, but I don't remember seeing that much red...
Dark red or dark orange would have been much more accurate, since the Romans generally used clay tiles for their roofs. Those colors would have made for a lot more BL orders, though.
 I made it 
  August 5, 2017
Quoting Doug Hughes Ehr meh gehrd! Dude, well done on all fronts. I just love this incredible build! As others have mentioned, Rome is also my favorite historical period so I'm super happy to see this done and done extremely well at that. You really nailed one of the most iconic and complex Roman architectural achievements. To see the whole forum in one place is such a treat, and I love that you spent so much time researching and staying true to the source. Simply fantastic :)
Thanks so much man! I think you (and others) have really inspired me to move forward with more Greco-Roman builds.
 I like it 
  August 5, 2017
Yes I have, but I don't remember seeing that much red...
 I like it 
  August 4, 2017
Ehr meh gehrd! Dude, well done on all fronts. I just love this incredible build! As others have mentioned, Rome is also my favorite historical period so I'm super happy to see this done and done extremely well at that. You really nailed one of the most iconic and complex Roman architectural achievements. To see the whole forum in one place is such a treat, and I love that you spent so much time researching and staying true to the source. Simply fantastic :)
 I made it 
  August 4, 2017
Quoting Paul Wellington Great recreation of the Roman Forum! Blogged on ArchBrick https://archbrick.com/2017/08/04/roman-forum/
Wow, I'm flattered! I've never been blogged before. Thank you so much! I'm honored to have a place on your blog.
 I made it 
  August 4, 2017
Quoting Builder Allan Wow! My favorite period in history is the Roman era, so this is a really nice build to see. Great work on the various buildings, and realizing the scale really boggles the mind. That it actually takes a massive micro-scale layout as this to represent it just boggles the mind even more. Brilliant work Justin, and great to read about the buildings and your work on them too :-)
Rome is my favorite too! The LEGO community definitely needs more builds in that era. I am amazed as well at how huge this place is - even having been there last year it didn't really dawn on me until I had to start building. Thanks so much for your comment!
Quoting Per Bonde Speechless. Nothing to add.
Thank you so much Per!
 I made it 
  August 4, 2017
Quoting Isaac Snyder You did an amazing job with this, Justin. I'm honored to have helped with it at all, not that I did much :D I can't recall seeing such a massive micro before, and the historical accuracy is incredible. Some of the things I like most: the detailing for the various buildings' cornices and pediments, the multitude of different columns, the various statues/arches, and the angled steps to Palatine Hill.
Thank you so much Isaac! And you did do much! I'll edit the post right now, actually. I just realized I neglected to mention you at all really on places where you specifically helped. The emails you sent before I started really helped set me in the right direction. Your models, too, were a huge source of inspiration. It's also my fault that I didn't communicate more during the actual project weeks. Thanks again for commenting! I'm also very happy with the steps to the Palatine Hill.
 I made it 
  August 4, 2017
Quoting Seaman SPb Wow! Excellent work!
Thank you!
Quoting Roanoke Handybuck Wow! This is really great Justin! Although, you can't achieve very much detail, when it is 1:180,000 scale, it is still great, and gives a wonderful roman looking feel! I really like this one, and it looks like a really nice senior project! :D Keep it up! :D
Thanks man! You always leave such awesome comments.
Quoting Lolimon The Wise Mind=Blown. I'm a big history buff and as such I just 'bout died when I saw this. This is more than I could achieve, and it is well built. Good job.:)
Haha, this is one for all us history buffs for sure. You should go for a Roman build, even a small one! The world needs more Roman era LEGO builds, especially accurate ones. :)
Quoting P. Voranc Amazing work, I love the scale and your ability to bring out the details. The atmosphere of the build is equally enchanting and I am looking forward to your potential new creations employing similar concept!
Thank you! I will definitely be revisiting this soon. First order of business is tidying up some parts that were rushed.
Quoting High Emerpor Duckie That is so cool! Amazing job, the detail is so well done! So, literal sweat blood and tears went into this? xD
Thank you! Don't ask about the blood. :>
Quoting Werewolff . Incredible work mate! You can really see both the time and effort that went into building and researching the history of the landmark! Very nice!
Thank you! Historical accuracy was one of my objectives.
Quoting Lobo ~ You know I love micro architecture, great stuff here Justin. My Latin's a little rusty from taking the summer off but the least I can add is bene factum!
Thanks man! Means a lot coming from you. I may or may not have studied a couple of your builds in the process of making this one. :) Ita, bene factum! ;)
Quoting VAkkron Brilliant! You did a fantastic job, and it was great reading about your inspiration and building process. Thanks for inspiring me, I would love to tackle a micro layout like this sometime. Where are you heading for college? And is history (or architecture) your current goal?
Thanks so much man! I'm heading over to Whitworth in Spokane. I'm not planning on studying history (even though I love it - I'm a bit of an information sponge) though. I'll leave that to smarter people than myself. :)
Quoting Julian Collins Man, this looks amazing! As far as I know, not too many people use LEGO for school projects (at least in my school-- I have a few friends who use LEGO but don't use it for school) and I think it's a great way to incorporate your hobbies into your school experience. This past year I made a small mosaic for my History Class, but this just far surpasses what I envisioned for any future LEGO school projects! Awesome job man!
Haha, thanks! I'm the only TFOL/AFOL in my school. Or I was, I guess. I checked your page - have you posted any pics of the mosaic? I would love to see it!
Quoting Jonathan Demers Amazing work Justin! Good for you getting it all to scale!
Thanks man!
Quoting James Y. Fabulous micro design work!
Thank you!
Quoting City Creator Oh, I remember this place. Very accurate indeed!
Thank you! Have you been there?
 I like it 
  August 4, 2017
Speechless. Nothing to add.
 I like it 
  August 4, 2017
Great recreation of the Roman Forum! Blogged on ArchBrick https://archbrick.com/2017/08/04/roman-forum/
 I like it 
  August 4, 2017
Wow! My favorite period in history is the Roman era, so this is a really nice build to see. Great work on the various buildings, and realizing the scale really boggles the mind. That it actually takes a massive micro-scale layout as this to represent it just boggles the mind even more. Brilliant work Justin, and great to read about the buildings and your work on them too :-)
 I like it 
  August 4, 2017
You did an amazing job with this, Justin. I'm honored to have helped with it at all, not that I did much :D I can't recall seeing such a massive micro before, and the historical accuracy is incredible. Some of the things I like most: the detailing for the various buildings' cornices and pediments, the multitude of different columns, the various statues/arches, and the angled steps to Palatine Hill.
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Oh, I remember this place. Very accurate indeed!
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Fabulous micro design work!
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Amazing work Justin! Good for you getting it all to scale!
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Man, this looks amazing! As far as I know, not too many people use LEGO for school projects (at least in my school-- I have a few friends who use LEGO but don't use it for school) and I think it's a great way to incorporate your hobbies into your school experience. This past year I made a small mosaic for my History Class, but this just far surpasses what I envisioned for any future LEGO school projects! Awesome job man!
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Brilliant! You did a fantastic job, and it was great reading about your inspiration and building process. Thanks for inspiring me, I would love to tackle a micro layout like this sometime. Where are you heading for college? And is history (or architecture) your current goal?
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
You know I love micro architecture, great stuff here Justin. My Latin's a little rusty from taking the summer off but the least I can add is bene factum!
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Incredible work mate! You can really see both the time and effort that went into building and researching the history of the landmark! Very nice!
 I made it 
  August 3, 2017
Quoting BATOH rossi Quae in vita facimus, in ut aedificare 'aeternitatis
Quae facta populis Romanibus, stabunt aeternitatem, sed LEGO non stabunt. ;)
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Quae in vita facimus, in ut aedificare 'aeternitatis
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
That is so cool! Amazing job, the detail is so well done! So, literal sweat blood and tears went into this? xD
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Amazing work, I love the scale and your ability to bring out the details. The atmosphere of the build is equally enchanting and I am looking forward to your potential new creations employing similar concept!
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Mind=Blown. I'm a big history buff and as such I just 'bout died when I saw this. This is more than I could achieve, and it is well built. Good job.:)
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Wow! This is really great Justin! Although, you can't achieve very much detail, when it is 1:180,000 scale, it is still great, and gives a wonderful roman looking feel! I really like this one, and it looks like a really nice senior project! :D Keep it up! :D
 I like it 
  August 3, 2017
Wow! Excellent work!
 
By Justin Li
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