Blocks for adults

It’s been quite a while since I posted anything because the two weeks of summer arrived and I’ve been doing things (gasp) outside. Now that it’s nearly over, I thought I’d celebrate with more modular building goodness.

I had a design goal for making something simple and stackable that could be used for SF (or really modern) buildings, from a simple colony to a mult-storey office tower. I played around with some designs and came up with this:

Look, it’s modular!

Buildings like this are relatively easy to construct. There’s the basic frame, plus another paper layer going on top to add the three dimensional aspect. Alternately, you could make it in a single layer and cut out the windows and doors and line them with cellophane or clear plastic, but that would tend to make the building a bit weaker.

I actually tried these buildings out –they’ve already been displayed, but here’s a different picture, taken with a cellphone, to add that extra bit of variety:

Look at the top right corner.

This is even a Tomorrow’s War game in progress, so you know that the buildings can withstand actual play.

I haven’t included any instructions with the templates, because if you’re smart enough to cut out paper without cutting yourself, you can figure out how to assemble a box. The templates, however, do have red lines which require some explanation.

If you’re going to be using the same brand of mat board that I use, the red lines indicate the thickness. That way you can trim one side or another to get the buildings to be the correct size. I usually don’t worry about the roof, it just sits on top and makes the buildings 3mm higher. You are not required to pay any attention to the offset, but it’s there if you need it.

I have built my sloped building with no obvious entrance, as it’s designed to be on the second storey. This may irritate some people, so the template has a door option. However, if you have a door, that particular piece can only be stacked one way.

Once assembled out of mat board, the buildings can be painted in the usual way. I don’t bother priming (because they’re paper) and I airbrush them in tan, because tan theoretically works everywhere, just like those awful khaki pants that people wear when they’re trying to be “business casual”. Perhaps I should paint one of the buildings light blue to go on top, like the light blue shirts everyone always seems to wear.

Now that you’re aware of my sartorial opinions, here are the things you’ve been looking for, cleverly hidden at the bottom of the article:

Small and medium modular buildings

Sloped front modular building (with alternative back)


  • Those futuristic windows must be self-tinting or can shunt the sun’s energy into the power systems. That’s cool because in the 21st century we need ugly overhangs to keep the people inside from roasting in the summer.

  • Those are beautiful!

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