The Life Modular, with Paul Hartzog

The Manifesto has featured quite a few O.G. “Spacers” in its brief history and the next builder in the spotlight is no exception.  Unlike many of that first generation of sci-fi builders who ruled the ivy covered halls of LUGNET, Paul Hartzog is still producing thought-provoking work today.  In the past few years Paul has been focusing on modular dioramas that incorporate a flexible design system that can be customized to reflect your favorite Sci-Fi franchises. Paul was one of the unsung developers of the first great community experiment in modularity, Moonbase.  More than just a building standard, Moonbase was a full-blown mania that helped Spacers from around the world connect and collaborate as never before and it became a convention staple. Paul applied some of the same concepts to the interior design of Sci-Fi settings and while not yet as popular, they are no less striking.  Whether you prefer Star Trek or Star Wars, Paul’s system is perfect.27903663283_3891f6d5c8_o


The builder also has variations based on the video game Star Citizen and his own home-brew designs, but the concept remains the same.  The walls and floors are detachable panels that can be easily swapped out to suit your individual taste.  It allows you to play with combinations to get just the right look and makes it very easy for other builders to replicate the designs to allow for more ambitious layouts.  The design also makes it easy to modify as new parts or techniques become available.


I’d love to see a big collaborative effort using the standard Paul has developed, an expansive Moonbase-style layout but with a focus on interior spaces.  As you can see in the mosaic of photos below, Paul took a sample diorama to North Carolina’s BrickMagic convention where it hopefully gained a few advocates.  The small accessories that go with these scenes are delightful and worthy of their own post.  Fortunately you can find isolated shots of the furniture and equipment in the builder’s photostream.  Paul is a fascinating guy who I hope to meet in person one of these years and I can’t encourage you enough to check out his website if you’d like to learn more about the multi-talented builder.  One of those talents is music, I’m lucky enough to have one of his CD’s but you can check out his music through the site.  If you’d like more information on Paul’s modular building standard, head over to the Flickr Group dedicated to the topic and talk to the man himself.  That’s one of the great things about this hobby, you can reach out and connect with just about everyone.  More often than not, LEGO nerds are very helpful if you approach them in the right way.

Tyler Clites, one of the most accomplished builders our hobby has to offer, put a very similar idea into play for the interiors of his Magellan Modular Starship from 2014.  The frame dimensions are slightly different but the concept is the same and it opens up a wide variety of possibilities.  Tyler went the extra step of making the entire ship modular and the results were spectacular to say the least.  All of the variations look great.

Modularity is not the sole purview of the Spacer crowd, there is also a castle building standard, a micro-scale city standard, LEGO’s official modular building standard, a landscaping standard and a host of others standards too long to catalogue at this time.  I hope you’ve enjoyed our examination of the life modular with Paul Hartzog, goodnight constant reader.

9 thoughts on “The Life Modular, with Paul Hartzog

  1. Great article, this is full of good stuff. I’m very interested to test the Space Modular System, which may prove quite helpful for this year’s SHIPtember.

    I wonder how challenging it would be to create a modular, one-room block (like ), where any of the 6 sides can be the floor. I notice the symmetry isn’t exact on Paul’s design because both bricks and beams are used to create the structure. An every-wall-can-be-the-floor format might make it easier to make something reminiscent of Paul Vermeesch’s Star Wars Relativity, except in a spaceship.

    OK, now I want to do the same thing with trapezoidal, wedge-shaped rooms to create the “cylindrical” space station from the Ender’s Game novel.


    1. Go for it VA, that sounds really cool and I bet if you hung the pics in Paul’s group he’d give you some feedback. There is no substitute for trial and error and I think any standard is just a good place to start. Tyler did his own variation and it worked well for him. The only time you’d really have to adhere to the standard is you were planning some kind of collaborative effort. I hope you go through with the Ender’s station, I love the book and I’d like to see your take on it. There are plenty of great space ships in the hobby and not enough space stations.


  2. Hartzog obviously takes presentation very seriously. The photos are really good! Perfect focus and lighting. The angles and partial builds serve to illustrate his techniques very well. He leaves very little to the imagination, but rather, has gone to great effort to show us EXACTLY HOW he does what he does. Bravo on sharing! And that tiny rectangle with the storm troopers… that is some of the best Star Wars esthetics I have ever seen captured in Lego. II guess from your comments Keith, that you could not find any published examples of large collaborations using these standards? It could be truly epic. Attack!


    1. Yeah, Paul has immaculate photography, it’s a skill I’ll probably never learn because I still foolishly resent having to be good at two things. I’m lazy! I agree that it’s the best example of capturing the look of Star Wars that I’ve seen. You are correct, I was not able to find any examples of a collaboration centered around Paul’s standard, just the test-bed he took to BrickMagic that I featured in the article. I agree that such a thing would be epic indeed. Writing the article made me want to make a module.


  3. Interesting concept and not at all difficult to feel comfortable within the design constraints. It sort of screams LEGO in its simplicity. The modular nodes are a great idea for any story telling environment, it could easily and economically save time and space without losing freshness.


    1. I didn’t consider the storytelling angle but you’re exactly right, the standard lends itself well to such an endeavor. I may have to take a crack at it myself.


  4. The comment you nailed in my opinion is one of the brilliant things about Paul…he is an original Lego spacer and yet his current offerings are on the cutting edge of current Lego techniques. Evolved form and precision design.


  5. This may just be the thing that takes my latest comic idea from fuzzy concept to imperfect reality . . . or at least a way to create Star Wars porn.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s