My experience with the Avenue Saint-Jacques Custom Modular Building Instructions
About this creation
What happens when you purchase instructions for a 13,000 piece modular creation?
This is a review of the building instructions for the Avenue Saint-Jacques creation (ASJ), which was originally designed and built by Snaillad, who gave permission to 2013*lego to reverse engineer the creation into a complete building guide and parts list. This is my first review and I hope that you will enjoy reading about my experience with this project.
First a little background... my favorite theme is the modular, Café-Corner’ style buildings from The LEGO® Company and I own the entire modular series. Over the past two years, I have enjoyed purchasing instructions on eBay and Bricklink from BrickCityDepot, BrickBuildersPro, and several other designers, and even some ‘questionable’ reverse engineered designs. I am not very artistic and I struggle to create original concepts, but I do enjoy building and customizing creations designed by others. I have nothing but awe and appreciation for AFOLs that are able to conceive, design, and build so many fantastic creations. I am always very careful to explain to my friends, family, and others, that someone else has designed most of what I have built.
At Brickworld Chicago 2013, I displayed my entire collection of modular buildings, including all of the official LEGO® sets and those designed by AFOLs. One of the attendees enjoyed my collection and he showed me the ASJ on eBay. I was so surprised and amazed that this beautiful, gigantic creation had instructions. I had never seen the instructions before, because the eBay listing from the seller does not include the word “LEGO.”
I looked over the listing very carefully for several days, trying to gather up the courage to purchase the instructions. I was concerned about the size and how it would fit into my collection. I also did not care for the open back, which allows one to easily peer inside and view the stunning interior details. The side facades were mostly a slab of bricks and I did not have any other buildings that were tall enough to be properly displayed against the side of the ASJ building. I figured out that I could add windows to all sides and install a rear façade. This way, I could display ASJ by itself or against other modular buildings.
Obtaining the Instructions
I located the original posting of this creation on Flickr and EuroBricks. I studied the photos very carefully and determined that I could create a rear façade in order to enclose the interior. I also realized that I could easily complete the major part of the building without building the street and the unique subway entrance. After a few weeks of considering all of this, I finally purchased the instructions on July 10, 2013.
I also noticed that dozens of people have purchased these instructions, but I could not find any mention or photos on the various LEGO® blogs and sites from others that purchased these instructions. I am under the impression that many have purchased these instructions for the purpose of studying and admiring the various building techniques. If any one else has built this creation or a version of it, I hope that you will post photos.
Instructions Analysis and Pre-build Planning
I used Microsoft Excel to create a footprint to make it easier to determine how it would fit into my overall display. I also wanted to shorten the overall footprint of the creation and map out the location for the custom rear façade.
The instructions arrived via email in a PDF format with 1,210 pages in the building guide. I also received a list of parts with an image for each part... these were organized by color and part numbers, according to the order on Bricklink. The list of parts is 46 pages long. There are 725 different parts listed, for a total of about 13,485 parts. I estimate that I used about 13,000 parts for my version of this creation.
The instruction packet included an XML file that makes is easy to upload the parts list into Bricklink for inventory management. I printed all 46 pages by printing four pages per sheet, so I ended up with about a dozen pages printed. I had to convert the 1,210 page file into smaller 230 page sections, so that the smaller PDF files could be easily emailed to my iPad. This made it easier to build away from a desktop computer... I cannot imagine anyone printing out 1,210 pages.
Over a week-long period, it took several hours to go through the parts-list and pull parts from my existing inventory. I estimate that I pulled about 6,000 parts. First, I grouped each set of parts into separate plastic zip-lock bags and put them into a larger container. After this was complete, I determined the number of additional windows that I would need to create the side facades that were originally slab-sided. Then I used Bricklink to make separate “wanted-lists."
Before starting construction of the main building, I decided to build the rear façade from existing pieces in my collection. I studied the photos and instructions, so that the windows, colors, and lines of the overall creation would match up with the main building. Here is how it turned out:
I cheated by using an x-acto knife to slice off a stud on top of a 2x2x3 slope, so that the top of the mansard roof on the rear façade would slide easily in place at the rear of the ASJ.
The removable base of the rear custom facade was started with 2x16 plates set upon permanent 2x2 stud jumpers. The first 10 rows of bricks included 1x1 Technic bricks with a hole. These would be used for fastening the façade to the main structure, while making it easy to separate to show off the detailed interior. There are a few more 1x1 bricks with one stud on the side, which were used to fasten the façade at a higher level. Since the façade is only 2-studs wide, it is fairly fragile. I built about 80% of the façade before starting work on the main building.
Obtaining & Organizing the Parts
After the rear facades were completed, I studied the instructions to estimate the number of extra windows needed for each side façade and additional tan parts needed to modify the side facades. This required about 86 additional windows for the side façade.
Once the final Bricklink Wanted List uploaded, I studied the pricing for each part needed. I also tried to figure out which part substitutions would allow me to use more parts from my existing inventory or to purchase cheaper alternatives. Then I assigned maximum prices to each part to be ordered. After this was complete, it took about 8-10 hours to find the best combination of orders to make, to minimize the total cost of parts, shipping, and time spent on ordering from multiple sellers.
The initial Bricklink ordering took place over a two-day period, where 21 orders were made for about 239 different parts, totaling about 6,700 parts. To build up my inventory, I tend to order more parts than needed for a specific project. Most of the orders were from US stores, except for two small orders from Europe for some rather rare parts. In order to preserve uniformity, I always order new parts.
For the next few weeks, I would arrive home each day and there would be a few small packages from various Bricklink sellers. I really enjoy separating and sorting all of the various parts. This consisted of placing the exact amount of each part needed for the building, into a separate a zip-lock bag and placing it into a larger bin. I would then place the excess parts into my organized inventory.
Once the bulk of the parts arrived, I organized the various parts by color and emptied the contents of each bag into official LEGO “stacking compartment trays”. These trays have a special surface coating that makes it easy to slide out tiles, plates, bricks, and any other tiny LEGO® parts. I was able to organize the bulk of the parts into 20 trays and a few larger containers for over-size plates, etc. I placed these 20 trays into two “13 inch Folding Mesh Cubes” from Container Store. This made it easy to pack up the parts and easily move them around on a moment’s notice, especially when it was time for dinner and my wife would ask me to clear the dining table.
As I mentioned before, the rear façade was constructed before I started ordering from Bricklink, but now that I finally had most of the parts needed, I finally began to build the main structure and furnishings. I used Excel to map out a shorter width for the sidewalk, placement of the rear façade, and plotting what sort of buildings could be displayed adjacent to the completed ASJ. Once the first level was almost completed, I started to design an adjacent building that would be placed next to the restaurant outdoor serving area.
I decided that an iStore with a huge ‘fruit’ logo, copied from eBay seller: laygoman28, would be perfect. Generally LEGO® modular buildings are joined together by pins at the base of each model. The side of the Avenue Saint-Jacques building swings open to reveal the interior, so I carefully designed an adjacent building that would have a 3-stud gap between buildings at the front. And the side wall of the adjacent building would recess away from the adjacent side, which would allow the ASJ to swing open across a tiled floor. I created the iStore, a reflecting pool, and garden. There were several adjustments and rebuilds of the iStore to obtain a perfect fit so that the ASJ could swing open with the smallest possible gap.
As the building phase continued, I often had to make adjustments to the various kitchen and bathroom furnishings, so that exterior windows could be accommodated. I added stickers from BrixStix to cover some of the bathroom and kitchen windows. This allowed for privacy for the bathrooms from the exterior view, plus the stickers covered the backside of kitchen cabinets, that were unsightly from the exterior view through the windows.
The instructions were easy to understand and the overall structural integrity of the design was amazing. I am grateful for the willingness of the original designer to permit the sale of these instructions and for the technical skill of the instructions creator.
A project like this is recommended for AFOLs that may not have the time or skill-set to design such a huge MOC – this project will provide months of building enjoyment and it will definitely improve your design skills.
Great review thanks!
I'm collecting the parts now, I'm pretty far.
I'm in the advantage that I have a physical LEGO store with a real PaB wall so I opened a lot of sets, collect what I need and put the rest in the wall :-)
But even then, almost 14000 bricks is really a lot.
Another advantage for me is that I can display it in my store once it's ready.
Looking forward to build it :-)))