“Micropolis” Micro City Standard

Version 1.1 – May 14, 2010

A standard to allow individual builders to build modules to add to a micro scale city in a group build.

A 16 x 16 stud Module equals 1/4 of a city block. Four Modules create a short block in a city. Each four module block is ringed with a two stud road. Blocks connected together create a 4 stud wide road. Cars are 2 studs, buses or trucks 4 studs.

Scale: 1 brick is 9 feet, 1 plate is 3 feet and one stud is 7.5 feet. These are for reference only. The blocks are smaller than the blocks in a real city. Scale your buildings accordingly.

Base Module

A sandwich of plates and bricks create the base of the module. One plate layer for the bottom, one brick layer on top of that, one plate layer on top of the bricks. 1 x 2 Technic bricks with one hole are in the stud 8-9 positions on each side. There are 4 technics bricks used. This allows the modules to be connected with Technic pins.

Roads, Alleys and Sidewalks: The two outer rows of studs on two sides are the roads, the opposite two sides contain the optional alleys, and the sidewalks parallel the roads. Use two rows of black tiles for roads. Crosswalks are a 1 x 2 white tile at the 4th stud position from each corner. Use 1 row of dark gray tiles for alleys and parking lots. Use light gray tiles for sidewalks, although alternate colors can be used to tie the sidewalk to the building.

Micropolis Base Module

Micropolis Base module.

Download a Model File!
We have put together a generic model of the base module in LEGO Digital Designer so anyone can get started building their own Micropolis right away.
Micropolis Module Base (LXF)

Bluff and Waterfront Modules
The version 1.1 specification has been extended to include Bluff modules which allow for vertical expansion and Waterfront modules which allow for adding water in a standardized way to a Micropolis layout. These extensions have their own pages of specifications.

You can view the Micropolis Bluff specifications here!

You can view the Micropolis Waterfront specifications here!

Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Can I see some pictures of a Micropolis layout?
A. Absolutely. Over the past years many group members and other AFoLs around the world have built quite a large variety of different modules and images of many of them can be found in the Micropolis Flickr Pool. Two of our members have amassed quite a collection of modules over the years and photos of most of them along with layouts that they have participated in are available at Virtual Micropolis. If you have built a module please let us know! We always love to see what people are doing with the spec!

Q. Why 16×16 modules?
A. We wanted to make the smallest discrete module something that anyone with even a very modest collection of LEGO bricks could fairly easily put together.

Q. Where can I get enough parts to build a module?
A. The hardest part for people with smaller collections will probably be the tiles used for the roads and sidewalks but those can be fairly easily sourced from LEGO Sets, Pick-A-Brick, BrickLink, or other builders.

Q. Why not use baseplates instead of plates for the bottom of the modules?
A. While some builders have many 16×16 baseplates available in their collections others don’t have any. While currently 16×16 baseplates are available for sale new from The LEGO Group, since they are not as thick as the plates used in existing modules they would produce an inconsistent looking layout.

Q. What if I wanted to build a bigger module?
A. Go for it! Some ideas just won’t fit on a single 16×16 module. In our own layout we have a combination of 16×16, 16×32, 32×32, and several much larger modules and some members have talked about ideas that are even larger than that! However in order for the module to be compatible with a group build it should be “self-contained” and include the Technic bricks at appropriate locations and have the standard road and sidewalk borders so that when it is included with other modules the roads and sidewalks are contiguous.

Q. Why 32×32 city blocks?
The basic answer is simplicity. If you are going to invite 100 people to come up with a module to bring to an event the only way that goes really smoothly with very little coordination is if the spec is simple.

The problem with rectangular blocks or oversized blocks is that you need at least two different kinds of modules to fill the shape properly. For example, our basic 16×16 module has streets and sidewalks on two sides. Let’s call that Module A. A standard 32×32 Micropolis city block then can be assembled with four of these types of modules:

AA
AA

A small rectangular block that is 32×48 and contains up to six 16×16 modules has to have a second module type that only has streets and sidewalks on one side to fill between the ends of the block. We’ll call that Module B. Rectangular blocks then get assembled in just about any length by filling between the ‘A’ modules with ‘B’ modules like so:

ABA
ABA

Or if you’re into late 70’s pop music:

ABBA
ABBA

Or if you like badly designed suburbs with no cross streets:

ABBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBA
ABBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBA

Larger square blocks are even more complicated because you need to fill in the middle of the block with modules that have no streets and sidewalks. Let’s call that Module C. Larger square blocks then get assembled in just about any size by filling in the middle of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ modules like so:

ABA
BCB
ABA

 

ABBBA
BCCCB
BCCCB
ABBBA

Things get really weird when you start talking about non regular blocks with cutouts and cul-de-sacs. At that point we should probably start talking about counting points of shared infrastructure and their configuration which honestly sounds like a whole bunch of fun in about five years but is a bit much for the early versions of the spec. We are not saying that it’s impossible to manage such a thing just that for a simple spec that it’s a bad idea and that keeping things to very simple 32×32 blocks with exceptions for oversized modules that are normally bordered with streets and sidewalks keeps things simple and very easy to assemble from hugely disparate builders.

Q. In the pictures of your layout what part did you use for the crosswalks?
A. During the build of our first layout someone had a black tile with some printed striping from the old LEGO Studios sets. A generous member went out to BrickLink and bought a pile of them and in the past we have used them in many of own layouts. Due to the relative scarcity of this part we have been been slowly changing over to using the standard white 1×2 tile and find that a layout that uses a combination of the two looks okay. There has been quite a bit of talk about acquiring or producing custom printed tiles for this purpose but no actual effort has occurred yet.

Q. Why are the Technic bricks in different places in pictures of early layouts?
A. An early “beta” version of the spec had two Technic bricks on each side at studs 3-4 and 13-14. As we worked on the layout we noticed that the extra pin holes were unnecessary and in some cases were actually making it harder to assemble the layout so for our first published spec we changed to one Technic brick per side and are working on converting our existing modules.

Q. Does it matter if I fill the base of a module with bricks or leave it open under the top plate?
A. It depends on what you have on top of the module but in most cases you can save on part count by leaving most of the interior of the module base open though a brick or two in the middle tends to help when building on top. Some builders fill their bases completely while others leave them very open. Some modules even use the space creatively for basements or other below ground level features. 

Q. Can I put X on my module?
A. It depends a bit on the exact details of “X”, but for the most part the answer is yes. The entire purpose of this specification is to allow for the simple conglomeration of modules from highly disparate sources without having to worry about if a particular module will fit with the rest of the layout too much. If you build something that has the required roads, sidewalks, technic pin holes, and height that is all that matters. Technically you could take a base module and cover the rest of the available space with green tiles and call it a lawn. I don’t think that makes for a very interesting module, but it would absolutely work within the context of a larger Micropolis layout because the roads, sidewalks, technic pin holes, and height all matched up.

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  • http://garth.typepad.com/ Garth Danielson

    It still says 2008

  • http://cavorter.cavort.org/ Cavorter

    Garth – Good catch! Taken care of.

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  • Elias

    I got a question, can i put my own stickers in the model to make some details to buildings and streets?

  • http://cavorter.cavort.org/ Cavorter

    Thanks for the question!

    There is nothing specifically in the spec about using or not using stickers just as there is nothing in the spec about modifying or even not modifying parts, or only using LEGO branded parts. So: Technically no. Have fun.

    As an example, the current version of my own Micropolis Watertower uses a sticker to put “Micropolis” on the side of the tank since doing so with any of the official parts would be effectively impossible at this scale. (Updated images with the sticker are waiting on my HDD at home to get uploaded.) We also have at least one building that makes use of the custom printed 1×8 bricks with the TwinLUG logo on them.

    If you are submitting your module to a group layout or contest then the organizer may have other ideas about what they want to include or not and if you ever have any intention of doing something like that you probably want to keep the serious customizations to a minimum. If you are just building for your own enjoyment I don’t really think taking other people’s views on what you should or shouldn’t do with your own stuff is always a good idea.

  • Elias

    Thanks for the answer, i got other question, if i wanna make an airport, what size need to be a plane or an helicopter?

  • http://cavorter.cavort.org/ Cavorter

    It mostly depends on the size of the plane or helicopter that you are building. As you can read near the very beginning of the spec, the scale is 1 plate is 3 feet and one stud is 7.5 feet. So a standard 1×1 brick is 9 feet high and 7.5 feet wide and deep.

    According to Wikipedia a relatively small plane like the Cessna 150 is 24.75ft long with a 33.33ft wingspan and is 8.5ft high. Done very simply studs up that would be about 3 studs long with a 1×4 plate for a wing. That’s obviously fairly small and so the aircraft that have been built for Micropolis so far have been slightly larger and slightly more detailed then that. Matt Holland in particular has done a few though I could not quickly find any images of them. There have also been a couple of small helicopters built that seem to be about the right scale. Just as a comparison, the iconic Boeing 747 is 231 ft 10in long with a wingspan of 195ft 8in and has a tail height of 63ft 5in. That roughly translates to 31 x 26 studs and 7 bricks high.

    The biggest problem with building an airport for Micropolis is that a scaled runway is a HUGE expanse of tile. Checking around the net it appears that a small municipal runway tends to be 800ft at the very smallest to 18,000 ft for commercial international airports and even up to 39,098 ft at Edwards Airforce Base. So to build a to scale runway of a very small airport would be about 107 studs long. You would probably get away with making it a bit shorter and relying on the sheer quantity of tile to make it look long enough, but the couple of times we’ve talked about it in the group we’ve been looking at something like 150-300 studs long to even approximate a single runway for a medium sized city. If you wanted to replicate London Heathrow to scale (which has relatively short runways) you would need two runways averaging 1653 studs long each, which is obviously insane but you would still probably need in the range of 300-500 studs to make it look right.

    The scale is there as a guideline and I’m not saying not to do it, but I am saying that you should think through what sort of scale of project that you are going for and what makes sense for your resources. A really good way to get a feel for if your design looks right is to make a few of the Micropolis cars (1 jumper plate with 1 1×1 tile on top) and put them down next to a really rough version of what you are looking to accomplish. If you think of those cars as a typical mid-sized sedan you can get a pretty good idea of how the design works with the spec scale.

    Better yet, think of it this way: An airport fuel truck at a typical large US international airport might look something like a 1×3 plate with a cheese wedge on the front and a 1×2 plate and a 1×2 tile on the back. Now take a look at this image of a fuel truck next to a small private jet and you’ll get a pretty good idea of the sort of scale that you should probably be thinking about building in.

    In any case, good luck with your project. I hope it comes how you want it!

  • Elias

    Thanks, And i got other more simple question, in a normal Micropolis block, can i put a bridge like the shown in this photo?
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/52229125@N05/4813602426/

  • http://cavorter.cavort.org/ Cavorter

    It depends largely on the context of the bridge. From the limited context of the photo it looks like it’s some sort of footbridge over a pond/stream/smallish body of water? If so: wonderful. My partner J used a similar technique to cross a maintenance road over a pair of pipelines in her Oil Refinery module (which I also need to post pictures of very soon).

    Just to iterate something that appears to not be stated explicitly above: there isn’t anything specific that the specification requires for the contents of a module other than what is already stipulated. You could put a bridge, a building, a hole in the ground, or really pretty much whatever you want in all of the parts of the module not explicitly specified. Where things get picky is where your module connects with other modules.

    The entire purpose of this specification is to allow for the simple conglomeration of modules from highly disparate sources without having to worry about if a particular module will fit with the rest of the layout too much. If you build something that has the required roads, sidewalks, technic pin holes, and height that is all that matters. Technically you could take a base module and cover the rest of the available space with green tiles and call it a lawn. I don’t think that makes for a very interesting module, but it would absolutely work within the context of a larger Micropolis layout because the roads, sidewalks, technic pin holes, and height all matched up.

    If you build a module that has that nice little footbridge over a small body of water that is contained within the region of a standard base module of whatever size or that conforms to one of the waterfront module types, that’s the important part. If it is also built so that it looks appropriate to the scale of the rest of the city, that’s also probably a good idea. Does that answer your question?

  • Elias

    Yes! Thanks for answering my questions, prepare for a awesome model!

  • http://www.pointykitty.net/nostalgia.php Alyska

    Until Cavorter can post the rest of his photos, here’s an updated photo of his water tower module with the Micropolis sticker on it:

    http://lj.alyska.net/images/2010StohlmannMicropolis-WaterTower.jpg

  • Tyler

    You know, there is another module design that could be used without worrying about whether it will fit or not with an existing layout.
    A 16×16 base with roads on all four sides would be able to be used with all the existing modules (excluding the waterfront outer corner module and waterfront open module since they don’t have a complete road, of course) and would never require any additional modules (like how the one-roaded “Module B” described above would sometimes need the road-less “Module C”). It may have slightly less building space than the other modules, but it would allow for much more elaborate city layouts.
    As far as I can figure, it wouldn’t make managing a large-scale project any more difficult since it would fit just about anywhere. (Of course, I’ve never managed a Micropolis-building-event or even been to one, so I may be wrong). It might even make it easier, as it could be used to fill in gaps left by larger modules/groups of modules, as long as those gaps have roads on each side.
    It might be something to consider for v1.2…

  • http://cavorter.cavort.org/ Cavorter

    With a small exception, I do not agree that a base module with roads on all sides works very well. As an illustration, I put together this example of precisely why it doesn’t work in LDD this morning.

    The primary argument is the placement of the crosswalks. In particular the crosswalks to nowhere stand out quite a bit and, to me, don’t work at all. You could mollify that somewhat by swapping where you put the crosswalks when you put the module into a layout but that seems like a fair amount of work.

    But here’s the thing: According to the spec as long as the sidewalks and roads on two of the sides match up, then I can see your point. To that end I made a couple of small modifications that I do think make the module work. The thing about these modifications though, is that it’s just a customization of a base module, which is perfectly in spec. It just so happens that this particular module has roads on all four sides though as you can see I removed most of the extraneous crosswalks and moved two of them so that they are in line with the regular sidewalks (Which I know at least one person argues should be the way they go at the corners anyway).

    So, yes, you can make it work. But it’s not in the spec because it doesn’t have to be.

    Your comment did get me thinking though, and I think I’ve got an idea for how to implement a roundabout that could be really interesting.

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  • uitzetter

    Hello everybody,

    My name is Cindy and I am a lego fan. I never did anything with Lego since my childhood, but my son is almost 6 years now and a big fan of mostly city sets. But by putting everything together I thought, this will be my new hobby! I want to build things with Lego. But I do not have a lot of room and I do not have any spare parts to build, since all the the lego we have is used in the city sets for my son.

    Then I stumbled into lego micro building and thought, this is what I want to do! I started to search for a standard in microbuilding. I did that, because I really like the modular buildings at minifig size and wondered if there was such a thing in microbuilding. And your great site and micropolis city standards is what I found.

    But I do have a few questions if you guys are willing to help.

    I’m living in The Netherlands so I want to know if I understand your scale correctly.
    1 plate = 3 feet high = 0,91 meters high?
    1 stud = 7.5 feet wide and deep = 2,3 meters wide?
    1 X 1 Brick = 9 feet high = 3 plates high = 2,7 meters high?

    If I got the above part right, would you be so kind to answer the next questions?
    1. If 1 brick equals 2,7 meters high and 2,3 meters wide you have to build micro’s of very, very hughe buildings to get a little bit of detail in your buildings right? How do you do it with smaller buildings live normal houses etc.?

    2. Do you know where to find good documentation on microscale building specifically? Where can I order, where can I download? So far, I only managed to get regular “unofficial lego building techniques” which doesn’t discuss microbuilding techniques much.

    3. I know about Bricklink, Brickset, Pearon and LDD (which I intend to use first, so I will know which parts to use). As I stated, I do not have any spare parts, but I do have to collect pieces. I have had tips to go to fleemarkets and watch for sales in stores. And of course Bricklink. Can you give any tips how to start my collection?

    4. What kind of stones do I need first? I’ll bet I would need mostly 1X1, 1X2 bricks and a lot of small plates, otherwise you cannot get a lot of detail right? So buying used sets doesn’t seem the way to go. But rather bulk buying in little stones?

    Well. that’s it for now. I’m really, really hoping for your help. Thanks for reading my message.

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  • mike

    I’m cuurious…is it bad form to use 1×2 black jumper tiles to hold my vehicles down on my roads? I’m still working on my first module and already I see that the vehicles will not stay just being placed on flat tiles…just asking!! Thanks!!!

    Mike

    BTW, I’m looking at building about 5-10 modules to Brickworld Chicago in June!!!! I really do love the scale!!!!

  • http://cavorter.cavort.org/ Cavorter

    Using any kind of stud to hold your traffic in place is not bad form at all. As long as the roads and sidewalk are in the right place, that’s the important part. Some people don’t like to stick their traffic down preferring to be able to move it around easily. Others, like my partner Jennifer Heaton, stick it all down using jumpers or plates or whatever. Some of us are just too lazy to build traffic. Any way you get your traffic on the module, or leave it off, pretty much works fine.

    Where it can go wrong though is if you aren’t careful to keep your traffic on your own module. If you’ve got a string of modules that are designed to work together, that’s something else entirely. But it is important to make sure that your module doesn’t bleed too much into the space occupied by another. I have this problem sometimes with one of my oldest module, a construction site. The tower crane on the module protrudes just a touch into the space of the module next to it (possibly in two different directions if it’s positioned right) and that has impacted where it can be placed in a larger layout. Traffic is similar in that if your vehicles overlap onto the module next door it can severely limit the placement of the module, if not make it impossible to place in a larger layout. Just something to keep in mind.

    We’ll be looking forward to seeing you in June!

  • mike

    Cool!! Thanks!!!

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  • Sam

    One quick question. I am 13 (one month from 14th birthday) and wondering if I can join.
    But my Dad is willing to join with me.

  • sam

    one more question does the module need alleies

  • buckyballs

    I realize that as an American we initially prefer to use Imperial, but…for the purposes of scaling…don’t you think metric would have been a helluva lot easier?
    Also knowing that LEGOs have an inherent metric ratio, that being (as I’m sure you know):
    – plates are .32cm thick,
    – the side of a 1×1 is 0.8cm,
    – the height of a brick is 0.96cm

    For a house blueprint I get it because the measurements are usually imperial, bit the dimensions of what we build are easily taken in metric and scaled.
    Seems to save a lot of division guesswork.

    Also thanks for the great template. Like everything else in this community, gotta give the props. And when someone sets a standard? Awesome.

  • http://www.cavort.org Nathan Stohlmann

    It’s a fair point.

  • http://www.cavort.org Nathan Stohlmann

    Alleys are always optional.

  • http://twitter.com/Laz75 Francesco Spreafico

    Shouldn’t “1 x 2 Technic bricks with one hole are in the stud 8-9 positions on each side” be “1 x 4 Technic bricks are in the stud 7-10 positions on each side.”?

    It does look like that in the images.

  • http://www.cavort.org Nathan Stohlmann

    The spec requires only a single hole, however some builders find it more convenient to use 1×4 Technic Bricks instead of 1×2 either because of parts available in their collection or a slightly simpler parts layout in the base.

    I tend to use two 1×16 and two 1×14 Technic Bricks for my module bases.

    The important point for the Technic brick is that there is that single pin hole in the middle of the base on each side.

  • http://twitter.com/Laz75 Francesco Spreafico

    Got it, thanks!

  • http://www.cavort.org Nathan Stohlmann

    No problem! Do you mind if I use a modified version of your question for the FAQ?

  • http://twitter.com/Laz75 Francesco Spreafico

    Sure, go ahead!

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  • Dneul

    How do I become part of this collaborative display?