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30,000 pc neighborhood with moving LEGO people
This model is 4 feet by 8 feet; one building is 5 feet tall, another is 4 feet wide. Little LEGO people walk around via hidden magnets. This model took 350 man-hours to build. On display this week at the Dallas Convention Center. Commissioned by Healthvision, Inc.
About this creation
I was commissioned by Healthvision to build a large LEGO neighborhood that would represent their business model.... Healthvision's builds "Connected Healthcare Communities", so they thought that LEGO made a good metaphor.

The model was installed at the HiMSS convention in Dallas, TX, February 13-17, 2005. Healthvision plans on using it at future trade shows, and has indicated they may also install it in their corporate office.

The model

- Over 30,000 pieces (actually closer to 33,500).

- 4 feet wide, 8 feet long

- The tallest building is 5 feet tall

- 10 mini-figure LEGO people walk around, pulled by underground magnets

- It took about 350 hours to design, build and glue.

- Each building can be lifted up for packing and transport, and the two larger buildings separate into sections, and the base (containing the machinery) splits into four large sections.


For the model, I created buildings that represent the various parties that a patient encounters on a regular basis -- A highrise for the insurance company, a hospital, a local doctor's office, a medical lab, a pharmacy, and a patient's home. I "connected" the community by having LEGO mini-figures walk from location to location, while lights strung between the buildings represented the data transfer that Healthvision's product enables.




Motion

The biggest challenge for me on this project was enabling the LEGO people to walk around. It took at least 30% of the total time of the project, and still could have used a bit more work.

I hooked magnets up to underground motors that pulled the people along, but the friction encountered often proved too much and the people would tend to fall over or get stuck. All in all it worked pretty well at the event, but it was VERY hard to get it working.


- Watch the people move [500KB, animated GIF]

- Watch a 12 minute video of motion tests [18.5MB Quicktime] (Some people found it amusing, shrug.)





Architecture

I wanted each building to be immediately recognized as the "community member" that it represented. This was easy for some of the buildings - like a single family home. Other buildings proved more challenging.

For example, what does a doctor's office look like? Some doctors work out of rebuilt homes. Others are in strip-malls. Others are in big hospital looking buildings. It was a real challenge coming up with designs for some of these more ambiguous buildings, while still making sure that the buildings didn't look too similar to each other or to adjacent buildings. I think the end result worked well.


There were 6 buildings in all:


High-rise

The insurance company is a large international-style glass-and-steel high-rise, loosely modeled after 130 Liberty Street, a New York City office building partially destroyed by the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

I usually build model buildings hollow, but since the clear windows would allow you to see straight through the building, I added floors in between each story. This allows you to see straight through whichever floor you are eye-level with, but not up-diagonally or down-diagonally through the building. It has a very realistic effect as you walk towards the model and your viewing angle changes.

But favorite feature of this model is the random pattern of open-and-closed window shades spattered across the windows. Adding them make the model looked even more realistic.




Patient's home

This was the most straight-forward model in the project. I looked through house-floorplan web sites until I found a nice cute single-family home that I through would render well in LEGO. This model is almost a literal transcription of a home I found on coolplans.com.

My favorite details are the front door, the TV antennae, and the mailbox.




Doctor's office

As I mentioned above, coming up with this design was pretty challenging. After tossing out a lot of ideas, I finally decided to build the doctor's office to look like it belongs in a relatively new medium-cost suburban professional park.

(Funny side note: I came up with an imaginary mental image for this. Two days later my fiancee, who was away on a business trip and hadn't seen what I built, e-mailed me two JPGs of doctors offices that looked EXACTLY like my model. Weird!)




Hospital

For the hospital, I wanted to create a model of a real hospital, but I had a specific look in mind: a building that is rather tall, that has had a ton of additions tacked onto it over time, as the hospital grew.

I spent a lot of time researching different hospitals, but I couldn't find photographs of any that met my criteria. Either they were too modern looking (and looked, architecturally, too similar to the highrise) or they were so old that they were national historic buildings that hadn't changed much over the years. (Such as Columbia Medical Center.)

Furthermore, urban hospitals were too tall & narrow, and suburban hospitals were too sprawling. I didn't have enough space to create sprawl, and contractually, I'd agreed to create a hospital that was 3 feet tall.

So, I decided to make up a hospital, and a made-up history to go with it. My imaginary hospital was built in the 1950s, originally a large, plain monolithic white tower, built on a budget. In the 1970s, an ugly brick-and-concrete addition was tacked onto the side of the building, with no attempt at matching the architectural style. Later,in the late 1990s, a glass and steel atrium was added to join the two sections and to expand the first floor (ER?) capacity.




Medical lab

I flat-out had no idea what a medical lab looked like. I only ever went to get a blood test once, and it was in a downtown city-center location. After a lot of research and a lot of back-and-forth discussion with the client, we deduced that "labs" usually are tacked onto the side of a hospital, or built quickly, or even as afterthoughts.

So for this model, I decided to make it look like it was made with corrugated steel, and that it belonged in an industrial park.




Pharmacy

This one was easy, since corporate-chain pharmacies are all over the U.S. I orignally wanted to build a Rite-Aid because I thought that they were more interesting looking buildings from a modelling point of view... but I don't think Rite-Aid is located anywhere other than the North Eastern US. My primary goal was for these buildings to "read" instantly as a particular type of place, so I opted to go with a nationwide chain. CVS buildings are too generic looking, and Eckards are just plain ugly, so Walgreens it was. I replicated a Walgreens and created a logo that says "Pharmacy" in Walgreens-esqe lettering.





Building the model

Here are a few photographs of me working on the model. I was on a VERY tight schedule -- I worked 7 days a week, 12 to 16 hours a day, for a month. Coffee was my friend.




Comments

 I like it 
  September 23, 2010
amazing! i had thoughts about this concept,it s very cool that you did it! i read as comments it s been done with cars also? wow! i really think motioning some pieces on a show, is the next step! you can bet dollars for cookies that i ll try that one day,seeing you in action is very cool,just can t get enough! and i can safely say,that i m as enthusiastic for this as you are! [no small feat,i m 41!] i just never tire of my brain storming creative ideas,it s addictive! i guess you feel the same! if i had a wish,i d like to do the same you do,even better,with you as a team! i just love your art-work! a great admirer of yours!
 I like it 
  February 16, 2010
Awesome buildings and houses.
Sean Kenney
 I like it 
comander wolfgang
  October 30, 2009
where did u get the transparent blue picses
 I like it 
  April 28, 2009
this is so awesome.... wonderful job.... i especially like the way you made the people move..... I know that the people who you made this for were simply amazed ( like i am right know)....
 I like it 
  December 24, 2008
amazing, thats the only word i have for it, simply amazing. you never cease to stun me with what you can do wiht the simple little bricks i've been clicking together since i was three. keep working man, you've got the best job on the planet.
 I like it 
  October 4, 2008
This is so amazing! The best Lego creation I've ever saw!
 I like it 
  September 30, 2008
I have to say, this is the most incredible model I have seen on MOCpages. The lighting is a nice touch. I have actually thought about a job as a designer at Lego. I wanted to create a model of the CDC after going on a field trip there with my homeschool group, but I don't have enough Lego pieces.
 I like it 
  January 17, 2008
its great! maybe if uve stuck a video of it one you-tube you should say!
 I like it 
  April 20, 2006
where do you get all these lego pieces??? how do you get the time do this??? if possible, i would give this a 100/100. but, i cant. i give you a 5/5. im looking at it again.
 I like it 
  October 14, 2005
Very Impressive and realistic ! Congratulations !
 I like it 
  February 16, 2005
Nice Sean. Hi rise & haus aside, I think the hospital looks a lot like Brack in Austin. I can understand why the Walgreens-esque-ness, CVS is bland, Eckerds are huge boxes. ALthough, CVS bought Eckerds...
 I like it 
  February 16, 2005
Sweet neighborhood! Great work. You might want to make the roads dark gray instead, though. Still amazing. The houses to the skyscrapers... Well done. -Josh
 I like it 
  February 16, 2005
Wow! Way to go, Sean! I hope this was a highly profitable gig for you, it looks like you REALLY earned your money. Awesome job on the fig motion. The magnet based system has been done before but always for vehicles. Getting it to work for figs? Amazing.
 I like it 
  February 16, 2005
Absolutely awesome! Love the system you used to move the minifigs.
 I like it 
  February 16, 2005
Woah. I think that sums it up.
 
By Sean Kenney
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LEGO models my own creation MOCpages toys shop 30,000 pc neighborhood with moving LEGO peopleCities


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