Avoiding the "Big Gray Wall" Syndrome
Bruce 18 I 05
Okay, we've all seen it, most of us have probably built it: the Big Gray Wall.
It can be very imposing to attacking troops, and sometimes the sheer formidability is a strength in a MOC. Often, though, it can be kind of boring to look at. If you're starting a large project, whether a walled city or a simple keep, how can you avoid the Big Gray Wall syndrome? Here are some strategies, illustrated by builders from throughout the community. In each case click on the image for a link to the original photo gallery.
This list is by no means comprehensive. If I am missing proper attributions, please let me know. If you would like me to remove your MOC from this page, please let me know.
Mottling: Natural stone is not all one uniform color, so why make your wall out of one shade of brick? Mix a few bricks of a different shade into a wall of primarily one color, or completely mix colors to give this mottled effect. Leaving aside any arguments about blay, we currently have bricks and plates in five shades of gray (counting the very light gray plates available in the mosaic sets) (even more if you consider that old light gray yellows a bit with age). In addition, white, tan, and any of the sand colors mix quite effectively with the grays. For example, look at these mottled walls by Joel Midgely, Leo Vermeulen, Jon Furman and Ley Ward.
There are also official printed pieces available that can be used to give the impression of real stone.
Corners: A variation in brick colors at the corners can give another nice effect. Here are examples by Kevin Hall, Piotr Rybak, Marc Nelson and Pawel Nazarewicz.
Mosaics: One type of color variation is to incorporate a mosaic into the castle walls, as in these creations by Benjamin Harris, David Jolley and Cyndi Bradham.
The Big wall doesn't have to be a completely flat surface. Grill bricks, log bricks and 1x1 cylinders can all be incorporated to give the impression of rough stone. Here are examples of texture variations by Nathan Wells, Jon Furman and Bruce N. H.
Also, SNOT technique can put plates "studs-out", as in these creations by Travis Kunce, Chris Paton, Leonard Hoffman and Erik Brok (this last is a town creation, but could easily be adapted to castle).
If the wall is more than one stud thick, varying the thickness with the incorporation of slopes, arches, pillars etc. can make it more interesting. Here are examples by Aaron Sneary and Jim Foulds, Charlie G., Nick Mann, Takeshi Itou, Jared Holmes, Dave O'Hare, Marcel 'Santaclaus' and Christophe Bongay.
The incorporation of decorative elements, such as the lion's head piece, can also add some texture to a wall, as seen in these creations by Fred Carcanague, Ben Apps and Twan Theeuwen.
Who says the big wall has to be along a straight line? Different shapes can help avoid the impression of a big flat wall. A pattern of 1x3 bricks and 1x1 cylinders can lead to a curved wall, as demonstrated by Nathan Wells, Andrew Van Pernis and Erik Brok.
A large sheet built of 1x2 bricks has some flexibility and can create curved surfaces, as in these examples from Erik Brok, Rene Hoffmeister and David Cheramie.
Although these examples by Jurgen Luttgen, Henry Lim, and Daniel Siskind are not castle creations, they do show further examples of this flexibility. One could imagine employing these techniques in castle structures.
Flat sections can be set at angles other than ninety degrees in a variety of ways, or curves and angles can be approximated by patterns of right angles. Here are examples by Old Republic, Andy Lynch, Nathan Wells and Reinhard Ben Beneke.
Breaking up the wall
Probably the best way to avoid the Big Gray Wall is to break it up. Incorporation of a variety of window styles can make a wall more interesting, and give access to the interior of a creation. Here are some window ideas by Fred Carcanague, Nathan Wells, Morten Sonne and Denis Pouchain.
Arrow slits are an important twist on windows, as these are also part of your castle defenses. There was a lot of discussion of arrow slits on Classic-Castle's forums, and many of the ideas are summarized in this post. Examples include these creations by Nathan Wells, sdfg, Dan Siskind and Andy Lynch.
Stained glass windows are a nice variation, because these can give a splash of color. You could imagine these ideas by Erik Amzallag, Daan Bargerbos, Jojo Koehler, Bruce N. H. and Jurgen Bramigk included in a large cathedral, the chapel attached to your keep, or simply in the home of a wealthy nobleman.
Windows also give the opportunity for many structural details, as demonstrated by Juergen and Ingo Bramigk, Gary Thomas, Leah Cardaci and William Howard.
Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo? Where would Juliet have uttered these words if she didn't have a balcony? Balconies break up walls, and also give you a platform to place figs somewhere between attackers on the ground and defenders on the battlements. Here are a couple of examples by Jojo Koehler and Jon Furman.
You can incorporate timber sections to extend the wall with a different color to break up the gray-ness. See these creations by Ingo and Jurgen Bramigk, Erik Amzallag, Paul Janssen, Ben Ellerman, Justin Major and Juan Cuello.
Avoid the BGW altogether by designing your castle so that it is broken up into different sections of different heights. That way, the battlements and roofs give the texture to break up the monotony. See, for instance, these MOCs by Dan G., Takeshi Itou, Jonathan Hunter and Juan Cuello.
Two final thoughts: First, if you are trying to avoid the BGW, it is important to not go overboard on the above techniques. Too much of a good thing can lead to a really cluttered, muddled result. Second, the BGW is not, in itself, a "Bad Thing". These creations by Robert Carney, Denis Pouchain, John Langrish and Jojo Koehler all include large expanses of flat grayness, but the result is beautiful in each case.
Anyway, these are but a few of the many awesome creations by LEGO Castle fans. I hope that the structures linked above can inspire you to bigger and better creations.