Thursday, March 22, 2012

City Planning Commission

I'm often asked where we get the road plates for our town.  The real question is, once you've got them, how do you make them into a usable town?  Below is the "winning" plan for our first floor-based town.  Let me show you how we put it all together...

Laying out a city using the Lego road plates has some big limitations.  The largest limitation, obviously, is how much ROOM you have to put the town in and whether or not it can all be in one place or on one level.  These pictures were all taken during the planning stages of the original floor-based town (not the table version we have now).  The second biggest limitation is WHAT plates you have.  We have a wide array of plates from the "glory" years of Lego's town theme but they can still be hard to assemble into a useful town.  It isn't enough to just connect the street ends, you want the town to have some logical flow to it and have main streets and side streets.
The Lego plates are perfectly square so you could just use a computer program or even graph paper and draw various ideas out.  Unfortunately, both of those approaches are too cumbersome because making maximum use of your available plates is a surprisingly complex task.  To make it easier, I found some square labels and made those into a set of pieces that exactly matched the plates and other major base pieces that I had for the town.   Moving those pieces around kept me "honest" about what plates I had and how many of each and was simple and easy to do quickly.  A digital camera provided the best way to document the versions so good ones could be recreated in Lego.
The red barriers represent gates or obstructed streets.  The ones in this plan separate the airport property from the rest of town.  The police and fire departments' plates are also marked because they can't be used as thru-streets.  Plates with green lugs are noted so they are used for runways and neighborhood areas.
This plan has a nice downtown area with two matching 3 plate blocks.  Getting a lot of abutting building space is critical if you want to have buildings that are larger and more complex--  you can "steal" building space from the adjoining plates (not to mention parking areas).
This plan has a major flaw in that the building spaces are too small except for the one large loop.
Two gates are in this plan.  The one on the left keeps the dock area secure and the one on the right is for the airport property.  The major flaw here was the combination of all those curve in one place-- the center area was too small for anything to be built on.
There is a lot of building space in this plan.  The curve pieces combined with adjoining straight plates to make for large construction projects.  The only real flaw here is that the emergency services are all clustered over by the airport so that a single accident could isolate the town.
I just didn't like this plan.  The street between the police and fire departments is just lost space as is the random street by the neighborhood entrance.

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  1. How did you manage to have only 4 crossroads when you have a bunch of straight roads? I am wondering because I wish you could only get straights and not always buy a straight and a crossroad. Wrote an article about the necessity of Lego Road Plates where I write that even though they are a bit too expensive they're a necessity as they revolutionize your kid's play.

  2. We have many more crossroad plates, but we tend to use them under buildings (like the police station and harbor complex) when possible. The goal for us it to create the largest chunks of "buildable land" possible-- and that comes from using curves and straight plates together to get big chunks of real estate. Most buildings straddle plate seams-- very few are only on ONE plate. See our more recent posts (on the tables) to see this plan in use.


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