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Everything you need to know about the LEGO Merlion in the largest LEGO diorama in Singapore

The largest LEGO diorama in Singapore inside the largest LEGO store in South East Asia, now has another highlight.  The diorama competition to find a Merlion builder is over and the winning model has been installed.

Read on to learn how Ethan Yee's winning build came to be.


Ethan Yee a.k.a. @bricksgowhere

Simple beginnings

"Building animals with bricks is hard - there are a lot of curves and textures which aren’t easy to replicate, and because animals exist in nature and look recognisable, small differences can make the build look “off”.

There are digital tools which can be used to design builds, but I usually prefer experimenting with physical bricks. Before I started, I gathered a selection of white parts which I thought might be useful, so I could look at them while I was building and select pieces which would fit best."

"The white parts I gathered for inspiration. Luckily, I recently disassembled an old Sydney Opera House (#10234) set, and it had a lot of white curved parts - many of these parts made it into the eventual build."


Design Stage

"For builds like this, I usually break them down into smaller sections and focus on the most challenging one first, so I can adjust the rest of my build if needed. For this build, I started with the head before building the body, then the tail, and then the base last.

For the head, the main challenge was capturing the flowing mane, which had a lot of flowing diagonal lines. I spent a bit of time playing around with different curves, wedges and sloped pieces - there was a lot of trial and error involved, but I eventually had a shape I was satisfied with.

For the body, the main challenge was to capture the round body which tapered towards the bottom and coiled into a narrow tail, while also adding some texture on the exterior for the scales. I experimented with a few techniques, and in order to capture the tapered round shape of the body with the parts I had, the only solution was really to use a studs-on-all-four-sides technique, with extra plates added to make the body round and a little more curved. It’s a little hard to explain in words, but I’ve added some pictures below."


Building Techniques

"Left: The basic technique used for the body. I eventually removed the pieces circled in yellow, and added more plates to get the curved shape.
Center: The same technique used in LEGO BrickHeadz line. The Goldfish set (#40442) is shown here.
Right: Another technique which I experimented with. This technique was less stable, and didn’t allow me to capture the tapering curves of the body well enough."

"Other ideas I experimented with for the scales on the body."

"The initial drawing I made of the curved body of the Merlion, vs the final build. Thankfully, this was a brick-building contest and not a drawing contest!"

"The tail was relatively easy compared to the head and the body. That said, the tail of the actual Merlion statue is shaped like a fan, and I realised that I didn’t have the right parts to capture the fanned-out tail - all my attempts didn’t quite look like a tail. I had to take some artistic license and eventually landed on a shape that looked more like a traditional mermaid tail."

"Center: An earlier attempt to replicate the fanned-out tail of the Merlin; Right: The tail from the final build"


"The base was the easiest of all the sections. I toyed with the idea of building a structure or a viewing platform of some sort. However, I had been to the LEGO Certified Store where this build was meant to be placed, and I noticed that the space set aside for the build was in a dense, forested area. If I had built additional structures, I would run the risk of my build not integrating well with the rest of the diorama, or having structures that were not proportional. I therefore opted for a simple, generic base, with some plants and flowers to add some color. I also used some brightly colored tiles from the new LEGO DOTS series to create a colorful, leafy pattern to symbolise diversity in a Garden City."

"Experimenting with patterns for the base - the final build uses the pattern on top."


"For me, part of the fun in creating brick-built models is in working within constraints - both the constraints of the medium (using mostly rectangular bricks to create life-like objects), and working with the parts I have. I think there are still many ways my build could be improved - if anyone else wants to build one, feel free to contact me (@bricksgowhere on Instagram), I’d like to see it!

I learnt a lot through the building process. More importantly, I had fun! Thanks to the Bricks World Team and Titans Creation for organising this competition!"


As the winner, Ethan's build will be permanently displayed in the largest LEGO Diorama in Singapore at our Resorts World Sentosa Store.