Monday, January 28, 2013

New Police Station Complex

A new Bricksburgh is coming soon and coming with it will be a new police station complex.  As much as we love our classic-vintage styled police station, it was simply not big enough for a growing police force.  Read on to see what we've built and how we tried to stay true to the classic Lego style while more than doubling the facility.
 
Read on to see what we've built and how we tried to stay true to the classic Lego style while more than doubling the facility.
The main police station was actually the VERY FIRST set that I acquired as a child.  It was a Christmas gift from my parents around 1982.  The original set that I have was Lego Set 381 but is was also re-released as Lego Set 588-- but they are identical sets.  The police station featured in our earlier videos is my original 381 set from 1982, which you can see in this video from 2011:  
As I wrote of earlier this month, one of my recent eBay scores was a 588 set, which would make expanding the police station a lot easier as we have some of the specialty pieces necessary to keep the look of the building unified as it grew.  We wanted to make sure the new police station would STRONGLY retain the original look of those sets.  There is a sense of architectural history in Lego buildings and we tried to be sensitive to that.  The new police station would be larger, of course, but I also felt that just making it larger by bashing two sets together wasn't ideal.  I wanted the final station to look like it had been lightly updated, or modernized, as part of its expansion-- just like you'd expect a real structure to evolve as a city grows. 
The modern pieces would be coming from a combination of TWO sets I had purchased to make the Condo Building in town, which you can see in this video:  
Most of that structure (especially all the windows and balcony railings) were from the pair of Lego Set 6398 that I bought several years ago now.  This police station update provided the perfect opportunity to use the specialty police doors, jail bar windows, and other pieces that had been sitting unused in bins ever since the Condos were made.
I started the project by "unfolding" the original jail cell onto another road plate.  Since the jail bar windows (from 6398) were going to be used for the actual jail cell(s) this time, I decided the yellow fence pieces would become part of a courtyard wall.  Having a central courtyard that could be closed off from the street would be ideal for securing prisoners when transferring them from the jail vans to the cells.  It would also give the police department better security for their weapons and, of course, for the mayor's office.
We had a short set of roll-up garage door pieces that came in a garage sale grab bag.  The door is actually missing quite a few pieces so they are not high enough to drive a police car through but they are high enough for the motorcycles.  Since they are clear and black it seemed natural to include them in the police station when we rebuilt it.  However, the limitations of the short height posed a number of problems. 
The first complication was the structure of the door itself.  In addition to being too low for cars/vans to use, the door requires and a large overhead frame to support it when open and another set of columns to hold up the other end of that frame.  By the time a roof were added to cover all those door frame pieces, it would be too deep and dark to get under the original helipad and the added columns would make it hard for anything to drive and park in there, even motorcycles.
 Despite the internal problems of the door and its framing, I really liked the way it looked from the street.  I could see the side entrance being a very cool place for police motorcycles to come rolling out as part of a motorcade or emergency response.  Unfortunately, they'd be rolling out alone as nothing else could drive under the low door!  The framing of the door was also so large and deep into the center of the plate that there would be no usable courtyard and I couldn't figure out where the jail cells would go.

So we had to abandon the motorcycle garage idea-- at least in regards to the roll-up doors.  Those doors will get used somewhere else.... sometime later.  In the meantime, I did a couple modern upgrades to the original set.  The first one is subtle and was one that had been done on our original police station (the project was started using the newly acquired 588 set as its foundation because our 381 set was still packed away somewhere).  I took the "POLICE" sign and moved it back INTO the wall instead of sitting out on supports in front of the wall.  After doing that I replaced the black floor/roof divide between the upper and lower floors of the tower and made it white.  That greatly "cleaned up" the look of the building without really changing the vintage feel of it.  Next I replaced the yellow "house" type front door with a more modern glass door from the 6398 set.
 After doing that I replaced the black floor/roof divide between the upper and lower floors of the tower and made it white.  That greatly "cleaned up" the look of the building without really changing the vintage feel of it.  Next I replaced the yellow "house" type front door with a more modern glass door from the 6398 set.  The original building was oriented so access to the inside was only made from behind.  That limited how deep the building could be, so that was going to have to change.
One of the goals of the project was more office space, so I then "stretched out" the front of the building and used the modern full-height windows from 6398 on the lower level.  To maintain access to the inside of the building, the side wall was removed and the windows from that wall were used on the upper level to maintain some architectural consistency.  The helipad door was also updated to a modern glass door from 6398.
From this picture you can see where the wall was opened up and how much deeper the building became by extending it out.  There is already-- easily-- 3x more office space.  In the quest to go even bigger, however, I was going to need to find our original police station...  and strip it for parts.
Found it!  It was packed away with the bus stop bench and parking space markings still attached!  Before dismantling it I set it up next to the new building so you could see the changes more clearly.  The cleanup entrance facade, the doors, and the extended front offices.  You'll also note that the garages are actually sitting on the road plate BEHIND the crosswalk-- whereas in the original set the garages are located directly over the crosswalk.  In the end, the new police station's structure will straddle 3 plates instead of 1.
Again, you can see how the structure has changed.  In the end I decided the facade of the new building looked TOO CLEAN and would add back some black overhangs that would pay homage to the way the original station's upper and lower levels were divided, but without changing the interior structure of the the building (white floors are better!)
Here you can see how the jail cell was "unfolded" into that open garage area.  What the new station still lacks, at this point, is any kind of jail cells.  It's also lacking in character... so that was something I was trying to figure out how to add back in.
Compare the office space of the original set-- just two rooms-- with the new station, which isn't even complete yet!   Much more space.  Time to set up a coffee maker and donut table!
Using the newly freed pieces I started finishing the outside walls of the courtyard.  The yellow fence pieces look really good inside the wall, especially with the yellow pieces on the roof.  At this point I still wasn't sure how the roof was going to go together but was pretty sure the jail cells would be on their own corner away from all the other offices.
You can see some of the original police station still standing on its plate in the background as I tried to figure out how to integrate the second set of garages.  It made sense to put them on the other side of the courtyard so vehicles could drive straight through without turning around.  We anticipate that the station will sit on an outside edge of the new tables, so the remaining roadway will eventually be blocked off in some way-- access to the courtyard will be through the garage doors only.
In an attempt to gain more office space without increasing the building height-- and also trying to reduce the awkwardness of the HUGE expanses of black roof-- I wrapped around some additional office space above the original garages.  That meant the helipad would have to relocate to another corner.  Since felons and jailbirds don't get to complain about the noise, I reasoned they could have the helicopter landing on their roof  instead of the poor office workers.
The "L" shaped offices were not working.  Not only was it very difficult to come up with a roof structure that was sturdy and made sense, but it left me with the corner by the new garages completely bare.  I could not figure out how I could attach a structure there without it being a complete mess.  Also, the "L" offices were built on the old black roof pieces so their floors were black.... something I was trying to get away from (even though it was closer to the original upper floor).   
One thing I did like about this stage of the design was the addition of those smaller black overhang roof pieces over the front door and lower level windows.  The roof pieces gave the building a little less massive a look by breaking up all the white and they also matched the original design better, but without the clunkiness of wrapping a roof all the way around the front corner.
On a long, late night after work, I solved most of the remaining building problems.  I raised the helipad to separate it from the rest of the roof and that opened up the idea of have rooftop garden seating for the lunch break crowd.  I also mirrored the original set by building a matching tower on the far corner that attached to the main building by a modern walkway.  The rest of the original windows were used in the mayor's top level office where he enjoys a great view of the city from his private outdoor roof deck.  There was still one big flaw, however, which you'll see in the pictures below.
From the front entrance the station looks very similar to the original set.  It is clearly bigger, stretching deeply into a second plate and across to a third plate, but the general style is definitely in keeping with the character of the original set.  You also don't even notice the changes to the roof, doors, and lower level windows.
The increase in office space is DRAMATIC.  The footprint of the building in much bigger, of course, but it is also structured so that there are as few columns as possible.  The result is two sprawling levels with large open spaces.  Town offices are separated from the police department by a bridge that overlooks the station courtyard.  Do you see the flaw yet?
Worth noting here, if you look closely you'll see that the facade on the mayor's side is set back from the front wall.  That isn't the flaw I was referring too-- but was necessary to keep the spacing on the windows and doors of the second floor consistent.  It also turns out that spanning the roadway with the bridge would require a little more creativity with the mayor's tower so that his rooms would come together properly.  To do that, I had to "cheat" the building of one row of bricks in a way that wouldn't be obvious from the outside... and the short roof above the doorway was the place to do it.
Here's a closer look at the mayor's office.   I fully expect that Tyler will upgrade his office to include all manner of computer gear and such, but I wanted some furniture in there for the pictures.
The second level of the mayor's office shows off the big flaw quite clearly.  Find it yet?  Well, it's the height of the floor.  More importantly, it's the height of the ceiling on the lower level.  The lower level became very dark and dungeon-like as the building progressed.  It was built to the original set's height but when I added the upper level I made it taller because the original set also had that step up to the roof/helipad deck.  The result was a nice high ceiling with lots of bright light which made the lower level appear even darker and more depressing.  Shortly after these pictures were taken, I went back through and added a complete row of bricks (and changed a lot of the structure to stiffen it all back up).  In the last two pictures you can see what a difference that made, as the lower level has nice high ceilings and the upper level is now flat with the roof instead of being a step up.
Here's a weirdly crooked view of the courtyard, looking under the bridge.  The roadway here will not be accessible to the town.   It will either be on the edge of the table or-- at a minimum-- we'll add a security gate when/if the station is placed in town so that the road connects.  Most likely it'll just be walled off for parking spaces in the courtyard.
The other benefit I gained while raising the first floor ceiling height was that the bridge clearance became high enough to park the vans under the lower edge of it-- not just in the middle, like before.
Here's a good view of the mayor's tower side facade.  The "POLICE" sign here is also built into the wall and otherwise matches the police station side.  We don't have a "mayor's office" sign but I suppose we will make one.  Here you can also see the raised helipad and the jail cells.  The tower roof was set off to the side in this series of pictures, as was police station roof.  I centered them all in the final design.
The roof top gardens turned out to be a great way to break up all that black roof.  I'm sure they will evolve and get more plants (maybe even some trimmed trees on the non-helipad side).  You can also see how well the police vans can park out of the way of the main garages for whenever the mayor's limo is puling in.
Having the prisoners separated from the offices worked out great, but we still need a way to keep an eye on them.  Notice the security cameras mounted under the roof eaves.  One is right off the mayor's terrace and looks at the cell doors, the other keeps watch on the outside wall of the courtyard itself.
I'm sure the mayor and perhaps the police chief will give rousing speeches and tributes to the rest of the force from the mayor's terrace.  At the very least the mayor has a nice view of the helicopter's comings and goings.
The jail space in the new station is double what it was in the old police station.  The yellow doors were used here and there are two jail cells now.  A thick wall separates the cells so they are truly separated and the prisoners can't see each other at all.
Even with two police station sets providing pieces, there were not enough yellow railings to go all the way around the inside AND outside edge of the courtyard roof.  I added some brick wall sections, evenly spaced out, to cover the distance and to give it some architectural interest.  I expect we'll add some trimmed trees and maybe even some umbrella tables out there eventually.
Where the original jail cell was there is now garage space for the motorcycles, sidecars, and other equipment.
Another look here at the outside wall of the courtyard and the security camera there.
This is a nice angle on the raised helicopter pad.  It was important to me to stay true to the colors used in the original set but I also wanted to beef up the structure of the helipad.  Now the pad looks like it can take the weight of a helicopter and it has updated lights and markings too.
Another look at the mayor's tower facade, before I centered the upper roof.
These pictures were all taken before the lower level was raised another row.
Again, here you can see how the second level had to step up to the roof level-- which was changed and made flat when I raised the lower level's ceiling.
These are only sample furnishings in the police station to give a sense of scale.  Tyler is the master of installing high tech get and I'm sure he has plans for these rooms and also for the adding lots of communications gear on the roof.  My idea is that the lower level will be for walk-in offenses (like parking tickets and such) and maybe 911 dispatchers at the back.  The upper level could also end up being home to the 911 dispatchers but it is also better for detectives, major case squad, and the chief's office (perhaps on the other side of the bridge, directly below the mayor).
This is the final facade-- again, with the exception of the added row on the lower level.
When the lower level gained a row of bricks, it resulted in the roof overhangs becoming even with the garage roof sections.  It also raised the "POLICE" signs to be one row above the yellow railings-- all in all, a definite improvement over how it looks in this picture.
This is a quick picture of the raised lower level.  You can see how much more room there is to the lower level offices.  The bridge is higher and the doors open right out onto the roof without a step.
Finally, here's the police station with the original set box behind it for comparison's sake.  It now sits on a temporary table while we make our plans for the ACTUAL tables that we hope to start building very soon.  If you look closely at this picture you can see the added row for the lower level and you can also see the police helicopter on its pad for the first time.  As usual, there's also a video tour available:
Speaking of first times, who do you think gets ARRESTED first??


Thanks for visiting us here at www.bricksburgh.com and check out the videos on our YouTube channel at www.YouTube.com/MSIMMONS.

4 comments:

  1. Will you have a new lego tour soon i can't wait

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    1. We're hoping to pick up the lumber for the new tables this weekend. The weather has been too snowy to get it to the house. The tables will probably take a little while to build... but once we get the town set up we'll certainly do another tour. Of course, in the meantime we'll be posting updates here on the blog! Thanks for coming by!

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  2. really good police station

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