Streets Ahead

Take a winding walk through this Lombard street build

Fans of power-walking and haters of flat surfaces should definitely consider visiting San Francisco’s famous Lombard Street! I myself have visited Lombard Street, and also walked the even steeper neighbouring streets, where my hill-allergic legs quickly reduced me to a shaking, sobbing mess.

Sadly, as at least one other Mojang employee can verify, that’s a true story.

But what’s this? My traitorous legs appear to currently be jumping for joy? Must be because even someone as lazy as I can still appreciate great craftsmanship when I see it, and this recreation of San Fransisco’s zig-zaggiest pathway from Brian (also known as Creeper2357) is a twisty treat that turns my traumatizing experience into bittersweet nostalgia. Someone carry me over to him so I can shake his hand!

“Lombard street had been in the back of my mind for some time,” Brian tells me. “When I choose projects to work on, I look for things that are interesting and somewhat recognisable, but that can also be translated into Minecraft with relatively little loss of their detail and atmosphere. Lombard Street more or less checked all these boxes, and it helped that I had been there and seen it in person too.”

It’s certainly an interesting looking street, and we’ve got the automobile to thank for that. Lombard used to be an absurdly steep street of 27 degrees, until the early 20th century, when the good people of San Francisco realised that driving cars down a street that slanted would be the worst idea since… er... *Googles bad ideas in the 1920’s* the Great Depression?

So in 1922, the street was reduced to a 16-degree slant and a road with eight sharp turns on it was installed. I’ve never driven down it myself, unless you count that really fiddly race mission in the excellent game Driver: San Francisco, which you probably shouldn’t.

“Don't start building on a whim,” Brian advises, when I ask for tips on how to recreate real-world locations as iconic as this street in Minecraft. “Do your research and plan out everything before you build.”

“If you are trying to replicate something, Google Earth is an invaluable tool. Their database of photos and satellite imagery is massive, and it also comes with a measuring tool to help find the dimensions of things.”

Often there’s tons of helpful information like this online, especially for famous real-world locations, which can be invaluable for your builds! Research Lombard Street online, and you’ll also learn that it’s such a popular tourist attraction, that some visitors even ask the people who live on Lombard Street if they can use their bathrooms which is clearly not OK at all what is wrong with you.

“Before I start building, I plan out the large details,” Brian explains. “For Lombard street, I first laid out the shape of the street, then put it onto an empty hill.” Once that was done, Brian could start filling in the details that make this street sing, like the smart use of brick blocks, and the varied surrounding apartment buildings.

I can just imagine sitting on one of those balconies, watching the little Minecraft cars drive by on their, er, square wheels, while I wave to the tourists below and tap my homemade sign saying ‘NO, OF COURSE YOU CAN’T USE MY BATHROOM’.

“The hardest part was probably the landscaping – the trees, bushes, flowers,” Brian tells me. “Plants and landscaping aren't my strongest area, and while I can easily replicate buildings, plants are much more abstract. That randomness requires more attention to get right.”

Personally, I think that the landscaping is one of the strongest parts of the build, so I was surprised that is was such a hard part for Brian to get right. Surely making an eight-curved street in a game made entirely from blocks was more of a challenge?

“Part of the fun in building is working around the limitations of only having certain blocks,” explains Brian. “There are mods that add items like chairs or curved blocks, but I think that takes the fun out of it.”

I really like Brian’s approach to Minecraft. Do your research, make yourself try building things that you feel you’re not strong in, and see Minecraft’s limits as a challenge to be surpassed, not hindered by. It’s a great attitude to building that’s clearly paid off.

In fact, could whoever was in charge of building the nearby Filbert Street, go back in time and take Brian’s approach to building? Because there is no good reason for that San Franciscan street to be 17.5 degrees. My legs still have nightmares...

Written By
Tom Stone