A diorama is a model or series of models that combine into a coherent 'story-telling' whole. They can cover fictitious, historical or mundane events. Vignettes can be considered a very small kind of diorama whilst a full train layout serves at the other end of the spectrum.
A LEGO diorama is typically (although not always) more detailed than larger layouts (eg. in trains or castle shows) as it is designed as a standalone work. Popular themes for dioramas are castle, trains/town and space.
A diorama is often build around a centrepiece, be that a story, a model or a minifig. In building a diorama it often pays to design or build this centrpiece first and work from there. Looking at the dioramas in the reference list shows the importance of a centrepiece.
Working through an example should help to demonstrate how a diorama can be built. This example diorama will be based on the theme 'The fall of Rome'.
- First work out a centrepiece structure: in this case the Coliseum
- After building this decide upon a story: there is a rebellion of gladiators going on inside the Coliseum
- Working from there, add some characters and associated props: gladiators, soldiers on chariots, maybe some released exotic animals, and some spectators
- Finally, add miscellaneous props to give a bit more life: perhaps some dropped fruit, overturned benches etc. and maybe some other small buildings nearby
These steps should produce a diorama with lots of action and a definite 'story' that a viewer could work out, all based around a single centrpiece model (the Coliseum) and a theme ('The fall of Rome').
Types of dioramas
These dioramas often focus on city life (modern or recent-historical) and will often feature minifigs going about their everyday life (perhaps in slightly more exciting ways).
- MOCPage Turtle Creek Branch Line by Steve Barile
- MOCPage BrickApple by Sean Kenney
- Brickshelf imageGaylord & Co building on the Illinois and Midland Canal. A slice of life ca 1845, by Larry Pieniazek... built for the Build the Trust competition and displayed at BrickFest 2005.