This is my first MOC.
After a long dark age, it recently became obvious to me, while playing with my three years old daughter, that LEGO was a fabulous source of inspiration and creation.
The discovery of the AFOL community and a few recent amazing TLG sets made me realize how far LEGO had gone since my childhood (we're talking CS and CC era here).
This immediately made me feel the urge to try building stuff on my own.
A natural inclination towards architecture and organic structures made me want to try building a castle first. Welcome to Arboretum!
Arboretum is an outpost castle situated in a damp tropical region, not too far away from the sea coast (somewhere between the Black Marsh, Stranglethorn Vale, and Belfalas ;-), lying deep within a wet forest where walls have ears and mushrooms have eyes.
Its inhabitants are made of a wide bunch of characters and species, which seem to cohabit in a peaceful atmosphere, as well as a few unwanted guests.
Human guards keep watch of the main entrance on the catwalk (they mostly want to know when they'll get to eat the turkey), while an unidentified bearded man in black seems to be the only one to know what the heck he's doing here.
Wood elves keep watch of the weapons and treasure stashes, scrutinizing the horizon with their keen eyes while dreaming about the stars.
Hidden in the shadow of the Great Tree in the Arboretum room, William the Alchemist, lost in his thoughts, is imagining his next recipe while keeping an eye on the skull of his predecessor, freezed in resin.
On the terrace of the arboretum, a Kaï Man and an Orc share a game of apples, while a Dwarf is about to stove an argonian thief in front of the main entrance door.
The courtyard is equipped with a small weapons keep, food and drink for a small feast, as well as a tiny library for 101 situations - how to cook a roast on a rainy night, how to stop bleeding when the enemy just cut one of your limbs, and other useful fun facts.
The chapel is where the phials are kept and alchemical experiments made in the shade of the central oculus.
The conference hall on the second floor of the back tower has a hearth (lit by leds). It's the room where the most precious - material and intellectual - treasures are kept in deep shadow.
The arboretum itself is kept on the third floor of the back tower. Its Great Tree is all at once the source and fruit of the castle's inhabitant's high level of alchemical knowledge and power. The alchemically enhanced tree growing in the room is powerful enough to have broken through the roof and part of the walls of the room now lying in ruins.
The original sparkle for this MOC was Sebaastian Art's (www.flickr.com/photos/30639040@N02/) great castle tutorial in The LEGO Ideas Book (as is pretty obvious if you compare the front faceted low wall of Arboretum to the suggested model in the book ;-). Trying out some of his very elegant wall techniques led me to try and build a whole new thing; a vertical setup was chosen to save physical space, and because I love towers :-)
I wanted to try out a few "advanced" techniques (advanced to me, anyway), and online documentation was amazing for this matter. I also wished to use a few "special" pieces out of context (the SW cockpit, the big trans-clear motorcycle rim, the planet hemisphere), which led to some tricky technical problems to solve. Yummy!
Arboretum stands on a 32x32 baseplate. It's a modular building, which makes it easy to move around : the second floor of the front tower, the second and third floors as well as the roof of the back tower can be lifted up to have access to the room interiors, which have furniture and specific decoration elements.
I spent about a week (four or five nights, to be more realistic) building the castle. It took me much longer than that to set up my own photo "studio" and begin to understand the use of a camera and lighting setup...
Lack of elements and experience led me to some choices I would probably solve differently three months later. It certainly doesn't pretend to respect any kind of castle building or historical orthodoxy.
But hey, I had great fun building it.
Hope you enjoy Arboretum!