Posted by: bgtwindad | August 20, 2010

Parvia: Build your own world… Part 1

Note:  The following post was written in June.  I unfortunately got distracted and didn’t get it published.

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I recently found out about a new company and product available for scale modeling.  Parvia is an innovative company providing a unique product.  That much is for certain.

The folks at Parvia conducted a Beta test program where they invited some N-scale model railroaders (and other folk, I suppose) to free samples of their products in exchange for fair and honest reviews of their product.  So, I volunteered.

It took some time to get things started – mostly because I was distracted with other projects, but I recently placed my order for four of the complete sets, plus a few extras.  Since I chose the free, but slow shipping (because I’m cheap that way!) I’ve got some time before I can review the actual product.  For now, you’ll have to settle for some information about the company and the website.

Parvia, the company…

Parvia the company was founded in New York, but is based in Seattle, if you can say it is based anywhere.  It is a virtual company, and has no real offices.  All of the non-manufacturing employees work from their homes.  I find that rather fascinating.

I’m not sure who their website designer is, but Parvia’s website is one of the more unique-looking websites I’ve seen.  Its look and feel very nicely matches the product itself, with simple, clean lines and soft colors, and is easily navigable.  The catalog and ordering process took a moment to figure out, but was still easy enough.  Certainly not the worst I have ever seen.  Pricing is clear, and a variety of shipping options are provided.

Parvia, the experience…

Parvia markets what I would call an “experience” or a “community” based product, nut just a pile of plastic parts to build from.  On their website, you can sign up for an account.  With that account, you can obviously order kits, buildings and detail parts.  You can also submit designs for custom buildings and entire dioramas.  If someone else orders a diorama you designed, you get a royalty fee.

There is a Wiki under construction, which will enhance the sharing by users, and suggestions for games and other group interactions that can be done.  And of course, some stories from Parvia users.

The system doesn’t quite seem to be fully in place, but their intent is clearly not just to sell parts, but to foster a community of modelers who share ideas, designs, models, and fellowship.  And of course, drive sales through all this community support.  That’s not a bad thing.  That’s a win-win.  It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Parvia, the product…

That’s all nice, but what exactly is Parvia?

Parvia is at its core a modular building system that most closely resembles “LEGO* for grownups”, if it resembles anything at all.  The townscapes are built on a rigid plastic frame which the company claims makes even large models sturdy and portable.  The model itself is made of modular pieces – streets, sidewalks, grass, building walls, roof sections, and details.  The walls have details printed on, and custom buildings can be printed to order.  So if you want to model that unique courthouse in your hometown, they can make it for you.

The models are in 1:160 scale, so 1 inch on the model represents 13 foot 4 inches in the real world.  Not by coincidence, this is the same as N scale model railroading, so Parvia is exactly compatible with N scale trains, accessories, and scenery, as well as closely compatible with a number of other popular small modeling scales.  For reference, a 6 foot tall person would be just under half an inch.

These are not hyper-photo-realistic models.  Which is where the LEGO comparison comes in.  Well, that and the glue-free click together construction technique.  However, they are very conceptual representative, and the printed building facades adds a very nice detail touch.

The bottom line so far…

Full disclosure: Parvia gave me the product I will be reviewing.

That being said, I don’t see myself using this for my model railroad layout.  It’s not the level of realistic detail I’m shooting for.  That’s OK.  Parvia doesn’t even pretend to be competing with Woodland Scenics.

I could see my kids using this for scenery on their layout.  Or anyone for whom being able to say “There’s the town!” is more important than having their friends wonder whether that photo is of a model or the real thing.  Or who doesn’t want to deal with glue and sharp knives just to have a model town.

I have a friend who has enjoyed town planning and design for many years.  He finds joy in deciding where the fire station should go, and whether the Northeast corner is a good place for the garment district.  How wide the streets should be and where to put the sidwalks.  This sort of product, assuming the real thing passes muster when it arrives, would be perfect for him.

I’m intrigued by the product concept and design, and I’m encouraged by the positive contact I’ve had with the company.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the actual product works out.

Stay tuned!!


* LEGO is a registered trademark of the LEGO group, and has nothing at all to do with Parvia, this site, or me… which should be obvious since this is a personal website.

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