Custom Ninjago City Expansion (Part 1)

Custom LEGO® projects take me a long time to finish. In fact, I normally only get one done each year. In all likelihood, this year will not be an exception. However, there currently is a project on my workbench. I am building a custom Ninjago City expansion. Ninjago City is one of my favorite LEGO® sets. It employs a multi-level approach that is awesome. I love how the city transitions from traditional to modern as you move up. Consequently, I will use that same idea in my custom expansion. This project is not finished yet. Nevertheless, the traditional base layer has taken shape, and I feel good about it. So good in fact, that I am ready to share a preliminary look. 

For a review of Ninjago City, click here.

The traditional base layer of my custom Ninjago City Expansion, featuring Dragon's Forge.
The traditional, base layer of my custom Ninjago City expansion.

To give you a bit of background, the initial idea for this project came in January 2018. During a trip to Walmart, Dragon’s Forge spoke to me. I visualized it as part of Ninjago City, right next to the canal. Therefore, the set came home with me. A year passed before I had time to start customizing it. I have been building, destroying, and rebuilding it now for a few months. In the end, my Dragon’s Forge is a touch smaller than the original. It is also modular, and does not swing open like the set did.

For a review of Dragon’s Forge, click here.

Side view of my custom Dragon's Forge.
Side view of my custom Dragon’s Forge.

This project features a personalized Dragon’s Forge.

I maintained the exterior design of Dragon’s Forge. The original was an amazing set. Why mess with something good? Making it smaller made the design flow a little better though. In terms of the interior, the forge aspect was my focus. To save space, I removed the living area. I did not change the hammer and anvil much, nor the look of the fireplace. I did change the chimney, and removed the play features that were in it though. Placing the fireplace on an angle to the rest of the baseplate was challenging enough without having to maintain the gears and moving parts of the original. I added a secret trap door into the floor. For now, it is empty. However, I will probably add a treasure chest or something into it later.

Overhead view of my custom Dragon's Forge,
Overhead view of my custom Dragon’s Forge.

I also customized Ninjago City Chase for this project. The original set was a fun little market stand. I wanted to include it in my city, but in this case, I made some significant changes. The stand needed to have a proper roof. However, the base of the set is similar to the original. I added a few more crates around it to make the scene look more like a busy market street.

For a review of Ninjago City Chase, click here.

Customized Ninjago City Chase set.
Customized Ninjago City Chase set.

I also modified Ninjago City Chase.

I removed the tea corner from Dragon’s Forge, but I still wanted to include something similar in this project. A completely custom corner featuring a tea stand solved the problem. I used a roofing technique inspired by the Ninjago City set. Snake pieces from the Buffmillion Mech in Dragon’s Forge accent it.

Completely custom tea shop that I build for my city.
Completely custom tea shop that I build for my city.

I like my LEGO® builds to be realistic. Consequently, to heat water in the tea stand, there is a fireplace. The smoke from the fireplace channels up into an exhaust pipe. A similar pipe comes out of the Dragon’s Forge fireplace. These two pipes join and extend out beyond the baseplate. Since there will be a city layer built above this one, trapping the smoke from two fireplaces under it was not an option. My imagination tells me that workers sealed the original Dragon’s Forge chimney when the city grew above it. This exhaust pipe was my solution to these problems.

The side of my custom build that connects to the Ninjago City set.
This side connects to the official Ninjago City set.

This custom layer of Ninjago City was built to look aged.

This layer of the city is old, and had to look that way. On the other hand, I did not want it to look like a dilapidated slum. I used a technique similar to the Ninjago City set, which uses different color bricks in the same section. It creates a patchwork look that simulates sun bleaching, or actual patching of cracks and holes. I also built holes into the walls, and used different textured bricks to further the look.

Pipes and wires run all over this design.
Pipes and wires abound in my design.

These are some of the oldest buildings in Ninjago City. They predate the city that grew above them. That means that they also predate the city infrastructure. In my custom Ninjago City expansion, that infrastructure is visible. Pipes are present to drain the water from the upper levels. There is the aforementioned exhaust pipe built to accommodate the buildings above. Additionally, electrical cables visibly extend to shops from a transformer. The upper layers have hidden cables. However, in this level, the buildings are older than the electricity that feeds them.

A rear view of the Ninjago City set, and how it connects to my expansion.
A rear view of the Ninjago City set, and how it connects to my expansion.

Time to start level two of my custom Ninjago City expansion…

There you have it, the first level of my custom Ninjago City expansion. I tried to make it look aged, but not dilapidated. I also tried to make this level seem somewhat realistic while keeping in line with the idea that subsequent generations built above it. It has taken me months to reach this point, but I am quite happy with this set up. The next challenge is to build the second level. However, I already have an idea in mind featuring another actual set from the LEGO® Group. There are so many great sets that I want in my city, but I do not have the horizontal space for them all. Therefore, as much as possible, I am trying to build upwards, and I am modifying my favorite sets to fit that scheme. What set will it be? You will just have to wait and see!

The first level of my custom project joined to the Ninjago City set.
The first level of my custom project joined to the Ninjago City set.

If you have any thoughts that you would like to share, please feel free to leave them in the comments field below. I have also been experimenting with videos this summer, and have posted a video tour of this build on YouTube for your viewing pleasure (click here to go check it out). It features a few more details on the thought process behind my design. 

Until next time,

-Tom

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