I spent some hours happily working on my new project this weekend, and as I was building I began thinking deep thoughts about Lego. Perhaps it's because I'm "new" to the hobby, or perhaps I just felt the need to be philosophical on a Sunday afternoon, anyway, I decided that there are some definite "design principles" that can be applied specifically to Castle MOCing. Here are my thoughts in rough form: (these ideas could be useful whether you plan your MOCs or build spontaneously.)
1. Find a Source of Inspiration. Building from reference material is perhaps the most effective way of creating an amazing MOC!
2. Conceptualize a Story. Create a story that you want your work to Tell. In the case of a castle MOC this story could include a time or era (indicates technology), setting (indicates topography and landscaping), politics (kingdoms, warfare etc...). Basically, develop a detailed narrative that you can work within; this helps in making creative decisions. Adjust as necessary.
3. Architectural Consistency or Deliberate Inconsistency. Architectural consistency means that the builder should develop an architectural style or theme for his MOC, and then apply it consistently to all of that MOC's elements. Examples of architectural elements that could benefit from a unified style include window treatments, arches and doorways, crenelations, gates, buttresses, roofing etc... Of course, the style that the builder develops will vary from element to element, but the overall effect on this technique is to create harmony so that the MOC looks as if it was carefully planned and constructed by a particular culture, in a particular time and setting. This adds to a MOC's authenticity.
The inverse of the principle of Architectural Consistency is Deliberate Inconsistency. We all know that many of the buildings constructed during the Medieval period were built over many decades. Changes to the original builders plans were often made by subsequent builders. Other changes were made by occupying forces, or because of a shift in the structure's purpose etc... To reflect this idea, the MOC builder can apply deliberate inconsistencies to his work by incorporating architectural styles that are distinctly different from each other into the same MOC. Be careful that this logic does not become justification for sloppy building, however.
4. Human-Almost Imperfect. This principle refers to the idea that as human beings are imperfect, humans also build imperfectly. This principle applies in the main to smaller domestic structures which were built without expert planning, but can also be incorporated effectively into large-scale buildings.
Perhaps the most effective technique here is "offset composition." Most structures consist of interconnected masses and spaces. For example, a simplified inn could be made up of these elements; a common room, some bedrooms, and stables. First the builder decides where to locate the different elements in relationship to each other. We'll compose our inn by putting the common room on the bottom floor with the bedrooms above. The stable will be in the back, attached to the main building. Now we'll humanize or building by "offsetting." We'll move the stables slightly so that they jut out just a bit from behind the main building, and can be seen from the front elevation. This might also create a more interesting roofline. We'll then add an irregular overhang to the second story; with a large overhang on the front of the main building and another, smaller, overhang on one side. The second story is flush with the first story on the back and remaining side. An unexpected jog, an unexpected window, or an imperfect alignment are examples of imperfections that can help create a MOC that is more authentic, and much more engaging or "alive." This method can also counteract the very nature of Lego bricks themselves to be perfectly fitted and modular.
5. Asymmetry and Organic Development. These principles relate to the previous, but are a little more general. First, castles with an asymmetrical design are often more interesting and authentic than designs utilizing perfect symmetry.
The second part, Organic Development, is the idea that, in a large Castle MOC, the center of the MOC was built first and is therefore the "oldest" part of the MOC. The castle then "grew," in an organic way, outwards in all directions (depending, in part, upon topography). As the population expanded the castle also was further developed and added to. Our MOCs can reflect this type of development.
6. Allow for Shelf Time. It is imperative that the builder take a break at some point during the process of constructing his MOC. Step back and critique your work, then leave it alone for a while to allow the MOC to "age." When you are ready, you can return to reevaluate your previous progress and review criticisms with a fresh perspective. This "Shelf Time" period may occur several times before the MOC is completed!
7. Sweat the Details. Decide how to landscape, populate, and "dress" the MOC appropriately. Choosing a setting for the MOC can be helpful in making these decisions. Keep in mind that the architecture will be influenced by the climate, topography, and general setting of the MOC, so having some idea of the setting at the very beginning of construction is important.
8. Develop a Signature Style. A signature style is something that comes with time and experience, when personal conventions have been established.
Thank you for taking the time to read through this very long post. Please let me know what you think! Do these rough principles seem accurate when judged by your own MOCing experience? What's missing? Any input is welcome!