St. Basil's Cathedral from Balody: Two Lighting Plans

 

INTRODUCTION

A Lego MOC designer/builder must be a little crazy to attempt the architectural complexities and artistic glories of St. Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow: ten churches, ten towers plus five mini-towers, four facades turned to the points of the compass and each entirely different than the others, arches, stairways, sealed and unsealed windows, etc.--all forming a bonfire shape reaching to the sky. All surfaces are decorated with vivid colors and unique designs, such as:

If you have the full range of available Lego bricks, you may be able to assemble 72,000 of them into this fetching MOC:

The new Balody nanoblock-sized St. Basil’s from China consists of only 4300 bricks to be assembled on an 8-inch square black base. It is the largest and best-looking of the nano-sized models of St. Basil’s available. I have a supply of spare nanoblocks but not in the variety of colors I’d need. I’d sell my soul for good stock of several different greens to enable the grass, the intermediate building roofs and parts of the towers to be of entirely different hues. No such luck. Nevertheless, I pressed on—trying not to feel too guilty about ignoring so many key features of the real St. Basil’s. The challenges involved in lighting St. Basil’s occupied my thoughts for months. I finally decided to create two options: internal lighting and street-level spotlights. I could find no photographs of St. Basil’s at night and lit from within. Perhaps St. Basil’s is never lit that way. But, spotlight/streetlight shots are common.

So, as I worked on this model...slowly...I looked to create places for light to shine out from the buildings and towers. One of the conveniences of this Balody St. Basil’s kit is that the domes are single pieces, already decorated to match the real domes. Unfortunately, the gold dome piece sitting atop the central tower is too large. C'est la vie! Here are two shots from above of the real St. Basil’s and the completed Balody model (with my many changes)--not that I’m trying to get ahead of myself.  😉  The first photograph guided some of my planning and changes in laying bricks and tiles onto the base. If I’d had more dark green bricks, I might have added a tree or two.

CUSTOMIZATION

I have a thing against studs showing on what are supposed to be walkways. So, bricks were replaced with gray and white tiles on the Balody base. Sections of studded green were created to suggest grassy areas.

One feature I wanted to preserve from the original building are the enclosed staircases on both ends of the west side of St. Basil’s.

The original Balody design does very little justice to these entrances and stairs. The Lego MOC above handles them well. I managed to add a detail or two of my own...for better or worse. Comparison shots like these do tend to make one want to give up. To the left of this staircase is another entrance/exit opening I created to allow a view in and a way for light to get out. Most of such “doors” had to be added to the Balody design.

 

LIGHTING—ONE

I used the following Brickstuff gear in lighting the buildings and towers:

  • 8 Pico LED’s with cables of varying lengths
  • extension cables
  • expansion adapters of varying sizes
  • 1 3xAA battery pack

As I built from the ground up, locations for possible lighting appeared on all four sides of the main building and up each of the towers. Openings for windows and doors were created—some filled with transparent or transparent colored bricks and some without. Many solid bricks had to be replaced with clear ones. The first big obstacle appeared in step 21 of the instructions.

The 20x20 stud green plate had to be replaced with a transparent one of the same size to allow light from two Pico LED’s on the floor of the building to travel upward.

Pico LED cables were threaded upward through openings left in the model to the north, south, east and west of this central transparent plate and up through the tower on the southeast corner (Chapel of St. Alexander with its bell tower). A few steps later, I added an extra layer of black bricks to help prevent light from escaping where it shouldn’t.

My hope during all of this was that some light would shine up from the floor through at least the lower levels of the towers. Then the LED lights threaded up the towers would add to that lighting. In all, I tried to illuminate ten towers (six with their own Pico LED’s and five relying on some light from below). The four mini-towers on the west side were not illuminated.

Here is an example of placing a Pico LED in one of the towers.

Here are two shots of light traveling "upward."

LIGHTING—TWO

Since most photographs of St. Basil’s at night show only spot/street lights, I decided to use four Brickstuff mini-spotlights along with a separate power source (the Brickstuff coin cell battery pack).

I added a sub-base—a 32x32 gray Lego base--onto which these spotlights and gray tiles were added to cover up the wiring to the spotlights.

The St. Basil’s model was place in the center of this Lego “frame.” This is a view of the west facade.

I confess I have a favorite part of this model. Not that it is any more realistic than any other portion—when compared to the real building—but I like the Chapel of St. Alexander with its bell tower. It just tickles me.  

   

RESULTS

You be the judge. 4300 nano-sized blocks certainly can’t approach what 72,000 Lego bricks can accomplish. Here are a few additional photographs—both unlit and lit.

After all of this, I think I prefer the spotlights only. Your call, of course. You can see additional photographs—unlit, lit, and building shots—at my Google photos gallery here.

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  • Oh, that's just lovely.  Really well done!

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  • David Steere , I think this is your best work yet, not just for lighting but for creative modding and brickwork as well!  Absolutely amazing.  Thank you for taking the time to share your thought process around lighting-- this is often the most valuable information for others to see, even if they are lighting larger/different buildings.

    I like both lighting options-- even the one with just the internal lights lit.  It makes a really nice soft glow.

    Again, fantastic work!

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  • Rob Klingberg John Gerlach

    Thanks to both of you for your kind words.  I saw your comments on Christmas Eve...nice!  I did my best with an abundance of ideas and a paucity of spare bricks.

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