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Contest Entry for Micro-Build Tournament!

Okay, so today I have entered the 2011 Toys-N-Bricks Micro-Build Tournament! The challenge was to pick an official LEGO set from a pre-determined list, and build a micro-version with no more than 200 pieces.

I choose the Taj Mahal because of its incredible beauty (both the real and the LEGO version) and because I knew that it is going to be a challenge to build such a huge set in a micro scale – and I like a good challenge! 😉

The LEGO Taj Mahal (Set #10189) is the largest set ever released by LEGO. It contains 5,922 pieces!

Although I have entered other LEGO contests before, I was particularly excited about this one, as micro is my favorite building scale! (You may want to check out my post on microscale building with LEGO.) Oh, and the prizes for this contest are super sweet! With the Grand-Prize being the LEGO Maersk Train, and for 2nd place 10 Series 3 and Series 4 LEGO Collectible Minifigs!

The real-world Taj Mahal has an amazingly delicate structure – mixing Persian, Indian and Islamic elements – born out of the great love and devotion of the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife who died at childbirth. In addition the LEGO Taj has some added intricacies not seen in the original Taj Mahal.

I knew I was heavily restricted by the part-count, but I wanted to incorporate at least the following unique features of the LEGO Taj into the micro version:

  • The tan, blue and gray color accents, with of course white being the main color
  • The crystal-like windows
  • The 3-part modular design

I also focused on:

  • Keeping the micro version aesthetically pleasing – being true to the original
  • Keeping the whole thing solid and functional as a LEGO set should be
  • Keeping it all under 200 pieces! LOL! 😐

In summary, although this was not a requirement, I wanted to create something that could pass for an official LEGO mini-set.

When I work on a new project I often use a combination of building with real LEGO pieces and using LEGO’s Digital Designer (a free software for virtually designing with LEGO). I’m a hands-on person, so I like to play around with real bricks, however I don’t have an unlimited LEGO collection like Nannan. Therefore I may complete a design in LDD to get an overall feel for the project. LDD is also great to play with color and part choices, and to create an accurate “shopping list”. (Great if you are on a budget!)

My first design for the micro-version Taj came to around 250 pieces, so I had to start scaling down to the bare essentials without loosing too much of the unique features. (Please note; I could not locate the little unicorn horns in LDD, so I used some other pieces for the spires while designing.)

Originally I had a wider base with a more detailed connection between the frame and the inner layer – this was one of the places where I pulled parts from to get below the 200 threshold. I still prefer this first version.

Although I could have eliminated it all together to lower the piece-count, I wanted to keep the double-plate layer at the bottom (representing the blue baseplates of the full-version Taj, with the white layer over it).

I choose to use light-bluish-gray for the second layer to differentiate it from the white walls while remaining in the color-scheme of the LEGO Taj – otherwise, using all white on such a small scale, it would have made it hard to differentiate the details. (I used tan for the inner-courtyard for the same reason.)

An other idea I had to differentiate the inner and outer courtyards and the walls is to use tiles (thereby using a different texture) – this turned out really nice even in white, but again; too many pieces! 🙁

The grilled tiles were also a nice option – and in fact closest to the large version of the Taj, but again; too many parts. 😥

I also wanted to keep the four little “feet” the building rests on, even though this added extra pieces – not good when I’m trying to cut down! But without the feet the model would be hard to pick up; with the building just falling through the hole. Again; I wanted to keep this functional as a set.

I was very intrigued by the blue line running around the walls, doors and central dome of the LEGO Taj, and I definitely wanted to keep this feature in the micro version.

I choose to use light-bluish-gray door-frames to represent the gray line around the doors in the full-version LEGO Taj.

I also worked quite a bit to get those windows right! I wanted to have that nice shine-through effect the large version has. I used trans-clear plates and a trans-clear inner column so light can shine all the way through the building.

As you can see on the final design; the base, the building and the dome separates just like in the original LEGO version. I was also able to keep the color scheme pretty accurate.

The frame (with the four corner towers) is 91 pieces, the dome is 19 pieces and the building itself is 90 – if my math is right that should be 200! Yay! 8)

On the final design – again; due to piece-count restrictions – I have changed the corners of the building to 1×3 plates instead of the round bricks. They are held in place only by friction. They hold up pretty well, but if you shake the building too much they will fall out. 😕

So there you have it! The micro Taj Mahal! Wish me luck at the contest! 😉

BONUS: I also made a light-up version of the Taj with a standard LEGO light-brick. If you press down on the middle dome, the inside will light up!

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that according to legend, Shah Jahan was planning to build an other mausoleum – this one for himself – right across  the Yamuna river from black marble. Unfortunately he died untimely – killed by one of his own sons!

But in case you were wondering how it would look like, here is a micro Black Taj! Would have been nice across from the white one, isn’t it?

Just getting a bit silly at the end… 😈

{ 52 comments… add one }
  • Maxx May 15, 2011, 5:52 AM

    Awesome, love the light up one:)

    Good luck xxx

    • admin May 15, 2011, 11:23 AM

      Thanks, Maxx! 😉

  • DarkDragon May 15, 2011, 9:09 AM

    That is a great micro building. Very impressive. There is a new maker of lego-type bricks which creates a product called Nanoblocks. They also have a Taj Mahal in the same scale as yours. However, yours is much much better and looks more like the real thing! Great job!

    I agree with Maxx, love the lightup version too!

    • admin May 15, 2011, 11:27 AM

      Oh, hey, nice to see ya over here! 😉

      Yes, I know about the Nanoblocks version. But it is 420 pieces so it would not have qualified! 😆

  • Sarah May 15, 2011, 12:04 PM

    That is so awesome! I love the light-up version! Good luck in the contest!

    I’d never heard of LEGO contests like this before. If you run across more in the future, do you think you can blog about them to let us know? It’d be much appreciated.

    Will and I just recently got some of the Star Wars micro sets and it is a very interesting scale. We haven’t built in it yet, but your model is truly inspiring! I’ll have to spark Will’s creativity to see what he can come up with. 🙂

    • admin May 15, 2011, 1:00 PM

      Thanks, Sarah! 😉

      There are LEGO contests going on all the time on various LEGO sites and forums! Really fun! I will keep an eye on them and post them here in the future.

      Micro-scale is cute and easy on the budget! Did you see my post micro-scale building? I will also ad a gallery at some point with more tiny MOCs!
      Microscale – INTRODUCTION

      • Sarah May 15, 2011, 3:09 PM

        Thanks! It’d be fun to get in on some contest. We often have ideas for MOCs, but it’s always neat to try a specific challenge.

        I did see your other post on Microscale. Those are some very cool micro-scale models. A gallery would be awesome.

        If we end up building anything in microscale, I’ll make sure to post pics.

        • admin May 15, 2011, 3:49 PM

          Sarah, I like contests too! It forces you to get out of the box and your usual building-style and build something unique and different. And the deadline always ads a bunch of anxiety! But it is all good fun! 😉

          I already have some ideas for writing a post about LEGO contests in general (some guidelines, tips, ideas, etc.) and then list the sites that have them. Then have updates in the News section for all the contests happening at any given point.

          I will ad it to my “Posts to Write” list. 😛

  • admin May 15, 2011, 4:17 PM

    While I was looking for images for the LEGO Taj Mahal set, I came accross this! A LEGO Taj Mahal Spaceship! 😯

    Appearently it is some kind of an ad created by a Russian designer. 😛
    Found here: https://www.adsoftheworld.com/media/print/lego_taj_mahal

    • Sarah May 16, 2011, 1:05 AM

      Wow! That is something else!

  • DavidH May 16, 2011, 4:50 PM

    This is really-really great! The LDD design pictures are impressive too! You should have entered the pink Taj to the contest! It is an instant win! 😉

    • admin May 16, 2011, 10:12 PM

      LOL, David! I’m not sure about that! :mrgreen:

  • marques finch May 17, 2011, 8:18 AM

    I have only one computer and that’s at work so I was thinking maybe you should bring your tournament to South Carolina this makes it easy for me and others to show you what we can build with legos

    • admin May 17, 2011, 10:07 AM

      Marques, I’m not sure if I follow you there… 🙄

  • Inger May 17, 2011, 9:38 PM

    Amazing job, very inspiring .
    Thanks for sharing the process you went through choosing and then designing your mini model.
    Good luck with the contest-I’m almost inspired to do my own model but not sure I could live up to your creation.
    Funny…I never think about building Lego creations myself-always think my son could do it rather than me.
    But maybe….

    • admin May 17, 2011, 10:32 PM

      Inger, although I love introducing kids to LEGO and play with them while they are over at my house, what I get real satisfaction from is to encourage adults to build. Being playful and creative is natural to children; after all they have no problem playing with rocks, sticks, or dead bugs. LOL! 😛

      However seeing adults reconnecting with those long lost attributes is a really touching experience. Too many grown-ups take life way too seriously and forget about the little pleasures in life. Things like dreaming up something and building it from little colorful bricks. The world would be a better place if more adults would play!

      So, yeah, go ahead and build something! Steal your son’s LEGO when he is not looking or get your own. You are already in deep trouble by running a LEGO blog, so might as well go all the way! :mrgreen:

      And never-ever compare yourself to others! I mean not in the way of putting yourself down – getting inspiration from the creations of others can be a good thing! That is why I troll flickr all the time! 😉

      Also, Will has been coming out with some really good posts on adults entering into the world of LEGO. It is really a wonderful subject and one very dear to my heart.

      So don’t be shy, LEGO won’t bite! (Just don’t step on it! That hurts!) 😛

  • Inger May 18, 2011, 12:42 AM

    Thanks for the encouragement (I’m not sure I need so much of it LOL!)
    I seem to be ok with buying the occasional set “for myself” which I “Share” with the kids but building something while they are not around is something else and I really didn’t realise I had a mental block around it until I read your article.
    Perhaps I will check out my son’s Lego while he is at school tomorrow :0) .

    • admin May 18, 2011, 9:47 AM

      I won’t tell on ya! Promise! 😉

  • kingcobra May 18, 2011, 10:30 AM

    Stunning! Really beautiful! Love the one with the light!

  • brickmaster May 20, 2011, 12:43 PM

    So??? How is the contest doing? Did you win? 😉

    • admin May 20, 2011, 1:52 PM

      Not yet over…! 😉
      Voting finished last night at midnight. Results haven’t been announced yet. I think our position is looking good! Fingers crossed! 😛

  • admin May 21, 2011, 7:15 PM

    UPDATE: Won first place! :mrgreen:
    See here: Yay! I Won!

  • TakeAbricK.nl May 22, 2011, 4:30 AM

    Very nice work Anna and congratulations on your First place.
    I love that Taj Mahal, but don’t have it myself. I just entered ‘LEGO of today’ a year ago. I’m more into collecting LEGO from 1932-1982.
    In the meantime I did buy some ‘modern’ Maersk, Atchitecture, Modular, Trains and City.

    Maybe I should buy a Micro-Taj-Mahal Instruction from you, for I’m afraid I ran out of room and money for the Big one 🙂

    Congrats again,

    • admin May 22, 2011, 10:38 AM

      Thanks, Diana! Yeah, LEGO-fans need big houses! 😛
      That is why I build everything small. I only have so much room! But one day, when I grow up, I will get a big house, with a big LEGO room and will have trains running around, and I will buy all the modulars, and I will have to get an even bigger house! LOL! 😀
      I send you the instructions if you want it. 😉

      • TakeAbricK.nl May 22, 2011, 11:39 AM

        LOL, you have the same dreams I do! 🙂
        Maybe I should go on collecting just Micro Lego!
        So yes please, an instruction would be great 😀

        • admin May 22, 2011, 12:55 PM

          Diana, I will work on the instructions this week. For building the Taj I only used LDD to work on some concepts and to take screen-shots, so I have to go back and optimize it for instructions. Will get it done though as several people asked me for it already. 😉
          I’m also planning to write a post about some tips for entering contests. If we want a bigger house, we better start winning lots of them! :mrgreen:

  • admin May 22, 2011, 1:27 PM

    UPDATE: For those of you guys who have asked me for instructions; I will work on optimizing the LDD files for instruction purposes so I can email it out, but in the meantime you can go to my flickr gallery.

    There are detailed pictures of the parts for each section and details of the columns and the inside construction. You should have no problem copying my design from there. See here: Mini LEGO Taj Mahal Gallery

    Enjoy! 😉

    • TakeAbricK.nl May 22, 2011, 5:31 PM

      I think that will do fine! Thanks A.!
      Nice pictures out there.

      • admin May 22, 2011, 6:02 PM

        You are welcome! 🙂

  • hedgehog May 26, 2011, 12:45 PM

    Congrats Brick blogger, very nice piece indeed.
    you deserve to win! thanks for sharing, hope to build 1 too!

    • admin May 26, 2011, 2:19 PM

      Thanks! BTW, I got my train yesterday! I haven’t opened it yet. Just waiting for the weekend! 😛
      Also, thanks for blogging the contest! 😉

      • Strider December 14, 2012, 9:48 AM

        I know this is a late comment but Congratulations! Very nice design! And what do you mean you waited to the weekend to open your Lego set? You’re self control is super natural.

        • admin December 14, 2012, 12:09 PM

          LOL! Yeah, it may be hard to wait, but it is also more fun. I just look at the box, then later look at the other side of the box. Then the sides… then look at the front again. It makes the fun of receiving a new set last longer. 😉

  • Andy - smallplasticbricks.com August 25, 2011, 12:55 AM

    This is very creative and unique. I love the way you used pieces that you wouldn’t normally think of. Congrats on your prize…I just bought my Maersk train and waiting to set it up when I get the space. Lego is eating up 2 rooms of my 3 bedroom apartment..lol.

    • admin August 25, 2011, 10:40 AM

      Thanks, Andy! And congrats on your Maersk train! You will LOVE it! The only thing that bothers me is the stickers (especially the ones overlapping several parts), so I bought a second set of sticker-sheet on Bricklink, just in case the ones applied get damaged. (I had a $10 cupon!) 😉
      LOL! I know what you mean when LEGO takes over your place! 😆

  • john October 27, 2011, 11:07 AM

    what a great micro build!!! the best i have seen by far!!
    i just love the design and how the light brick works!! do you might have the instructions or like a ldd file for this? coz i would love to give this a go… thanks in advance!!

    • admin October 27, 2011, 11:53 AM

      Oh, thanks, John! It would take me a while to finish up the LDD version. I was playing with LDD while building, but never had the intention to make instructions. However if you go to my flickr gallery, I have all the parts listed for each section, with more detailed pictures than what you see in this post. I’m pretty sure you would be able to put it together easily by looking at those. If you run into any trouble let me know. Here is the link: Mini LEGO Taj Mahal Gallery

  • jason October 29, 2011, 4:42 AM

    wow… this is far the best mini scale build i ever saw!! it is just awesome! i had look at your flicker gallery but couldn’t work out what is the number for lots of pieces …. do you might have a part list? thanks~!

    • admin October 29, 2011, 11:37 AM

      Jason, thanks! I don’t have a part-list, but it you let me know which parts do you have trouble with, I can give you links to BrickLink to find them. Would that work? You can let me know here, or even easier; you can make notes on my flickr pictures noting the parts you are not sure about. Hope this helps some! 😉

  • ram February 26, 2012, 10:19 PM

    hi there,
    Beautiful !! Great tribute to wonderful structure in the world. Shahjahan would be really proud of you..:-)
    If you don’t mind, can you please send me LDD instructions.

    • admin February 26, 2012, 10:23 PM

      Thanks, Ram! I would love to send you some LDD instructions, but unfortunately I don’t have any. I did play around with LDD as I was building the model, but I never generated any instructions. I’m planning to do it at some point though as you were not the first one who asked me. In the meantime you can check my flickr gallery for more detailed photos. They should help you in constructing one: https://www.flickr.com/photos/akunthita/sets/72157626720977710/
      And if you have any questions just let me know. 😉

      • ram February 27, 2012, 10:18 AM

        Thank you. will try this

        • admin February 27, 2012, 11:51 AM

          You are welcome. Just let me know if you have any questions. 😉

  • Ninjoey February 2, 2013, 7:40 PM

    wow! great job admin!

  • K August 2, 2013, 1:33 PM

    This was not only good to watch, but learned a lot. congratz on your win.

  • mikail April 29, 2015, 7:24 AM

    hey (=
    have you maybe the brick list please?

    best regards

    • admin April 29, 2015, 10:46 AM

      Mikail, you can find the parts needed in my flickr album: https://www.flickr.com/photos/akunthita/sets/72157626720977710/

      • mikail April 29, 2015, 12:05 PM

        Okay thanks (=
        do you know how much it costs?
        i have the big Taj Mahal and i want the Mini one (=
        later it’s look funny (=

        • admin April 29, 2015, 12:27 PM

          Mikail, they are pretty common parts. Check first which ones you have already, then you can price out the rest on BrickLink. I had most of the parts already when I built it, so I have no idea how much it would cost to build it from scratch. But it should be that much.

  • Anne September 29, 2015, 5:31 PM

    amazing design, way to go!!
    I’ve got almost all the parts together, except for the large dome-piece – can’t seem to find it anywhere. Do you have a part-name or number? That would be sooo helpful, thank you!
    My son will love this (and so will his Mom ;-).

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