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Making a large building (part one)

Making a large multipart building is a little different than making a normal one for several different reasons. True it’s basically just a bigger version of smaller buildings, however because of its size it does have a few problems that aren’t usually encountered with smaller buildings. The most obvious of the problems is being able to store the thing when you aren’t using it. Making it modular helps, but that can cause its own problems in turn.

Any time you make something in multiple pieces that must fit together you will have seams. Seams don’t look good, and the larger the model is the more noticeable they become. Having a plan to deal with the inevitable seams ahead of time makes it a lot easier to make something large. There are several different methods that can be used to camouflage your seams, but we will only talk about the two that are easiest to use.

Whenever possible use perpendicular surfaces. A joint where two perpendicular surfaces meet makes a seam look like it belongs there and is therefore not very noticeable.

The building in this sketch is designed using this principle. All of the seams on this building are designed to be at perpendicular surfaces. This modular building is four separate pieces, but when assembled will look like one solid building. This design can be used as a single large building, as four small table edge buildings, or as two medium sized table edge buildings.

The next method is for dealing with parallel surface edges. This provides a visual distraction to make the seam less noticeable. In its simplest form this is just a piece of molding to cover the seam and add perpendicular surfaces. This molding can either run parallel to the edge, or overlap it. Having an overlapping joint is very helpful if your pieces don’t fit together perfectly, but requires a larger piece of molding and is therefore more noticeable.

In its extreme form you can intentionally use something large like a buttress to conceal the seam.

In this building one side of each piece has an overlapping molding attached to it. The parapet seam is still exposed, but it is a fairly minor problem, and would require a major amount of work to fix.

Placement of seams and your plan to deal with them needs to be a part of the design of your large structures. You probably won’t be able to make them all unnoticeable, but you can make your model look a lot better by dealing with the worst ones. In part two we will talk about actually making the model.

19 thoughts on “Making a large building (part one)

  1. Wow just wow mate!

    1. Thanks, I’m glad you enjoyed it! In the next one I will get into the nuts and bolts of making it and not just the theory behind it.

  2. Also wow! So these are 3d printed? I know you will get to it in future posts but I thought I’d just ask. 🙂

    1. No, the sketches were done on a computer using a program called SketchUp. The actual models are made mostly of MDF using conventional tools.. In the future we are planning to have some links to share the 3-D sketches, but haven’t gotten around to it yet.

  3. It totally kicks ass.

    One thing I was wondering about though, do you think having 6+ meter floors is detrimental to the realism ? or do the practical aspects far outweigh that concern ?

    Because right now, you could almost stack two devilfish at any level right ?

    Other than that, yay hurray for massive buildings (and your whole blog) and the feel they bring to the table.

    I was also wondering about adding inside detail, and just how complicated / annoying it would be.

    Either way, your stuff is amazing, keep up with the great content.

    1. That is a very good question and a very difficult one to answer. The entrance lobbies in large buildings are typically in that general size range and frequently even much larger. Every time I go into a Home Depot and look up it amazes me just how high up the roof supports are. Also in larger office buildings a false ceiling is typically installed to cover up all of the unsightly duct work. Larger buildings usually have higher ceilings than smaller buildings do, so no I don’t think that they are unrealistic. These are alien structures and who is to say what a normal Alien ceiling height is anyway? Besides it is a moot point since they are as small as possible already.

      I am not planning to do very much inside detail since I want the focus of the games to remain outside of the buildings and on the table. The game interaction should be between the buildings and not between the rooms of a building. Also fitting my hand and a paint brush between floors wasn’t easy, so I don’t want to do any more of it!

  4. It totally kicks ass.

    One thing I was wondering about though, do you think having 6+ meter floors is detrimental to the realism ? or do the practical aspects far outweigh that concern ?

    Because right now, you could almost stack two devilfish at any level right ?

    Other than that, yay hurray for massive buildings (and your whole blog) and the feel they bring to the table.

    I was also wondering about adding inside detail, and just how complicated / annoying it would be.

    Either way, your stuff is amazing, keep up with the great content.

    1. That is a very good question and a very difficult one to answer. The entrance lobbies in large buildings are typically in that general size range and frequently even much larger. Every time I go into a Home Depot and look up it amazes me just how high up the roof supports are. Also in larger office buildings a false ceiling is typically installed to cover up all of the unsightly duct work. Larger buildings usually have higher ceilings than smaller buildings do, so no I don’t think that they are unrealistic. These are alien structures and who is to say what a normal Alien ceiling height is anyway? Besides it is a moot point since they are as small as possible already.

      I am not planning to do very much inside detail since I want the focus of the games to remain outside of the buildings and on the table. The game interaction should be between the buildings and not between the rooms of a building. Also fitting my hand and a paint brush between floors wasn’t easy, so I don’t want to do any more of it!

      1. I see your point.

        I half-expected the buildings to be in multiple pieces, one per level, rather than the modular terrain approach you took, which looks much more important in the end.

  5. It totally kicks ass.

    One thing I was wondering about though, do you think having 6+ meter floors is detrimental to the realism ? or do the practical aspects far outweigh that concern ?

    Because right now, you could almost stack two devilfish at any level right ?

    Other than that, yay hurray for massive buildings (and your whole blog) and the feel they bring to the table.

    I was also wondering about adding inside detail, and just how complicated / annoying it would be.

    Either way, your stuff is amazing, keep up with the great content.

    1. That is a very good question and a very difficult one to answer. The entrance lobbies in large buildings are typically in that general size range and frequently even much larger. Every time I go into a Home Depot and look up it amazes me just how high up the roof supports are. Also in larger office buildings a false ceiling is typically installed to cover up all of the unsightly duct work. Larger buildings usually have higher ceilings than smaller buildings do, so no I don’t think that they are unrealistic. These are alien structures and who is to say what a normal Alien ceiling height is anyway? Besides it is a moot point since they are as small as possible already.

      I am not planning to do very much inside detail since I want the focus of the games to remain outside of the buildings and on the table. The game interaction should be between the buildings and not between the rooms of a building. Also fitting my hand and a paint brush between floors wasn’t easy, so I don’t want to do any more of it!

      1. I see your point.

        I half-expected the buildings to be in multiple pieces, one per level, rather than the modular terrain approach you took, which looks much more important in the end.

  6. I have made “stackable” buildings in the past, however I never liked the way they played in a game. It always ended up with the buildings being disassembled and spread around the table. Having the entire back of the building open (most of the time) does away with that problem.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! The in progress pictures of how it was made should come out tomorrow.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! The in progress pictures of how it was made should come out tomorrow.

    1. Glad you enjoyed it! The in progress pictures of how it was made should come out tomorrow.

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