Download - ReefScape

LEGO fish are taking the fishkeeping world by storm, thanks to a unique
idea and partnership with The Tropical Marine Centre and Bright Bricks.
Blocks catches up with the team responsible for this aquatic tale
ne of the many eye-popping displays at Brick 2014 in
London was this gorgeous coral reef made of over 35,000
pieces. Bursting with rich colours and ingenious part usage,
the model depicted dozens of species of coral and fish
and proved hugely popular with the public.
So which builder came up with this lovely idea? Well, the story is
a little unusual as it actually begins a long way away from the world
of LEGO. A UK-based company called Tropical Marine Centre (TMC),
who are a trade supplier of marine livestock and aquarium products,
were planning their display at Europe’s largest pet products trade
show which was taking place in Nuremberg, Germany. But they had
a problem: TMC have a strong environmental policy and in fact have
built their business around the ethical sourcing of their livestock. So
whilst being a cornerstone of their business, it really wasn’t ideal
to be displaying precious fish across the continent. But what could
possibly be an eye-catching and worthy replacement?
Managing Director Paul West is a huge fan of
LEGO and proposed the concept
Words: Mark Guest Pics: Fly and various
76 Blocks
Blocks 77
Titchmarsh from
Brigh Bricks
hard at work.
Building the seahorses
live at the show.
of a full, detailed reef including ledges, coral
tables, caverns and outcrops. His colleagues
were naturally sceptical, especially given that
there weren’t any outstanding examples of LEGO
reefs which Paul could find. Organic shapes
are notoriously difficult to achieve in LEGO,
particularly at smaller scales.
Then Paul heard about Bright Bricks, the
LEGO Certified Professionals responsible for so
many of the large-scale LEGO builds in the UK,
and Duncan Titmarsh took on the job. Wisely,
the initial focus of the brief was getting the reef
looking amazing, and only after that did Duncan
create the iconic marine fish that TMC had
shortlisted. In fact, Duncan carried on building
more fish as a live build during the trade show.
One member of staff, who had suggested the
inclusion of two seahorses (because they mate
for life) was surprised after returning from
a break during the show to find a baby
seahorse added alongside!
The model has proven a huge success with
fans of LEGO as well as fans of marine life. The
inventive use of parts and techniques in this
model truly captures the magical sight of a coral
reef. I was particularly impressed by the sea
anemone made of red dinosaur tails; I actually
once used this part in my own coral reef design
but didn’t think to leave the connecting hole
exposed – it’s perfect! Being a bit of a parts
geek, I was most excited by the mass use of
78 Blocks
The whole team
rightl y feelin g proud .
Pieces: 619
Price: £99.99
Dimensions: 25x14x19cm
Where from:
(a list of stockists is available)
This model is probably the key figure in the
collection and is proving to be the one in most
demand, and looking at it you can see why.
Like all the fish, the pieces are in one bag and
there are no numbered pouches for each section
so make sure you have plenty of space before
commencing. Due to the amount of small pieces
and brackets in this set I saw fit to organise the
pieces into piles first, which certainly helped.
The base is a 16x16 blue baseplate with
beige blocks and bushes to create the seabed.
The fish build begins with the tail, vertically
stacking alternate white and burgundy plates
and slopes to form the triangular shape. As you
work your way along the body I found that the
build was very delicate and I ended up taking
the tail off and adding it back later as it kept
coming off. It wasn’t until the body structure
became three studs wide that it stiffened up.
At this point you find yourself with a three
stud wide vertical structure that becomes five
wide with a line of hinge brackets down one
edge and a couple out of each side, this is all in
preparation for the elaborate fins. The top fins
and sides are similar in build – a combination
Blue Spot Stingray
Pieces: 731
Price: £109.99
Dimensions: 50x20x12cm
Where from:
(a list of stockists is available)
Out of the three XL fish in the range this is the
biggest one, with over 100 pieces more than the
Lionfish. Due to its size (primarily length)
this is placed on a far bigger base
than the other two and is
attached via a technic
parts which have only appeared in sets a couple
of times, like the Yellowish-Green domes that
were used in the Candy Cane coral.
What’s especially interesting is that TMC are
now taking the project a step further: the fish
were refined further by Bright Bricks and are
now being made available for sale as sets, sold
via aquarium suppliers in the UK (and Chowren
Toys in the US). They’ve released 15 sets so far
under the name ReefScape, with a limited run of
500 of each. I love initiatives like this; although
the cost of producing and selling custom sets
makes them far more expensive than official
sets, these are really adorable models with
some techniques you wouldn’t find in official
sets. A nice touch is that the instructions are
available as downloads on the ReefScape
website, if you have the parts, so take a look!
Next Month
All 12 small fish built and reviewed.
Endless detail makes the
reef a real show-stopper.
There’s a sting in
that tail - watch out!
Reviewed by Mark Guest
In the collection of 15 fish, three have received the XL
treatment and are considerably larger than the other
sets. Here are the three big ones built and reviewed
of layered single stud wide plates, attached via
the hinge brackets. They are easy to build but
I had to pay extra attention to the instructions
to ensure I didn’t miss anything, as each step
involves a lot of pieces.
The face is my favourite area of this
build with lever sockets being used for
eyes, a clever idea as the slots create
an effective overall impression. My
impression of this model is good, it
took a while to build and at points I
needed to concentrate to follow the
instructions, but the end product is
worth it. The fin work is well done
and once on the shelf can be angled
as you please. Out of the big three
this would be my first purchase.
The attention to
detail is amazing.
pin on a ball and socket joint.
The reef bed is very colourful and good in
detail and layering and I would argue superior
to the others, yet most of it is hidden once
displayed, which is a shame.
The essential structure of this build is layered
plates neatly stacked and arranged to create
the appropriate shape. The nature of this build
requires a little repetition but once again, has
an effective end result. The effect is achieved
using larger plates underneath and as you
stack upwards they progressively get smaller to
increase the
detail and structure. I found when building this
model the instructions were difficult to follow
as the images felt too small and I would have
preferred to see one step on a page as opposed
to two, allowing the images to be bigger.
The build is sort of split into two halves
and with the body built, you move onto the
long narrow tail piece which follows a similar
layering technique requiring good table space to
construct. Here the instructions are bigger but
you do need to concentrate as the interlocking
l-shaped plates are numerous and form what
looks like a brick driveway pattern. Like the
body, you build upwards and finish by returning
to the underside to add white detailing that also
supplies some needed reinforcement.
Out of the three XL fish I found this one less
inspiring compared to the others. The build was
okay and the sea bed was certainly superior but
the finished product felt very neutral, which
I suppose is the nature of the actual creature, so
isn’t necessarily a criticism. Despite this looking
quite simple, I can imagine the designer spent
a lot of time on this model making it accurate,
as it is very intricate.
In all honesty I like this model but being
a collector it would be low down on the list
of order as I try to complete my collection.
Blocks 79
Large Emperor Angelfish
Pieces: 546
Price: £89.99
Dimensions: 33x14x19cm
Where from:
(a list of stockists is available)
As with all the TMC fish you start by building the
reef base on which to support your display fish.
This consists of a blue baseplate with layered beige
bricks and plates, covered in random coloured
studs adding texture and colour to the seabed. The
interesting part of this for me were the yellow studs
that had a hole in the top, which is a piece I rarely
come across in my building. However the purpose
of this is to allow fitting points for the vertical
green vine pieces, a simple but nice touch in
my opinion. As with all the bases one of the
2x4 bricks is white and printed with the
reefscape logo.
The fish construction starts, as you
would expect with the underneath.
An arrangement of inverted slopes
staggered onto two levels. Due to the
way the instructions guide you it takes
a few steps before this base structure
is stable so build with care and take
your time.
The main focus moving forward then
is the body/rear section of the fish and is
a repetitive process of laying blue and yellow
plates alternately on top of each other. The varying
length of these single-stud wide plates has been
well thought through to recreate the fish’s patterns,
with the rear tapering into a V-shape. This fish is
hollow, but the use of plates spaced across the gap
keep the structure solid. The tail is then attached
using studs through a five hole Technic arm.
The head of the fish has to be my favourite part
of the build as it uses SNOT techniques at their
best to create a very effective head. The sides are
layered plate structures with curved smooth pieces
to give perfect contours and shape. These
plates are then rotated 90 degrees and
fitted to the internal SNOT blocks. The
face again is a change of angles and is
built separately before being connected.
The use of blue Technics pins for the
eyes works incredibly well.
This is a really good model, and
incredibly accurate compared
to the real thing. The building
techniques used are executed
well and the slopes for the open
mouth look great. If I had any
criticism of the build it would be
the repetitive nature of building
the striped body, but the overall
effect is worth the time and arguably
makes it better value for money. This isn’t for
the amateur builder and like the others is a
display piece, but it looks good on the shelf.
80 Blocks