In contrast to many AFOLs, I am largely ambivalent about the LEGO Architecture theme, which has at times felt like the epitome of style over substance. Although a few sets have caught my eye and tempted me into a purchase, for every Big Ben or Trevi Fountain there has been a disappointing Sydney Opera House or Burj Khalifa, and overall there have been just too many below-par Architecture offerings to win me over. My interest has definitely picked up this year, though; while my scorn at the pricing persists, I am definitely a fan of the new skylines sets, and another set – 21029 Buckingham Palace – immediately stood out in the publicity shots. When LEGO offered Brickset a copy of 21029 to review I was therefore quick to volunteer….
Box & Contents
Even without the name of the theme emblazoned across the modestly-sized and surprisingly heavy box the set would be immediately recognisable as an Architecture offering. That is thanks to its elegant black glossy finish which also unfortunately serves as a hard-to-photograph fingerprint magnet. An image of the completed model resting on what appears to be architectural plans dominates the front of the box (above), while the 12+ age rating hints at a potentially fiddly build. The back of the box (below) features a picture of the model juxtaposed with an image of the real Buckingham Palace, together with brief information about the London landmark in six languages.
Once two tape seals have been cut, the front cover of the box can be lifted to reveal the contents. These include five unnumbered bags of elements, three loose dark bluish grey 8 x 16 plates, a glossy booklet and a single-page leaflet. The leaflet, which asks “LEGO Architecture – do you like it?” provides a link to a product survey; the inclusion of a theme-branded, standalone product survey leaflet is in marked contrast to the usual scenario where the invitation to complete a product survey is a generic page included in the instruction booklet. The 122-page perfect bound booklet has a stiff cardboard front cover (below) and back cover. The first ten pages of the booklet provide some background information about Buckingham Palace together with a number of photographs, after which there’s a full page guide to using the enclosed Brick Separator and then we’re into the building instructions. The last few pages contain a couple of advertisements for the Architecture theme and a single page inventory of parts. The booklet is beautifully printed and looks very stylish, but the perfect binding is less than ideal from a practicality perspective as you need to hold the booklet open or weigh down the pages to prevent it from closing while you are trying to build.
As previously stated, the bags of elements are unnumbered; consistent with this the build is not broken into numbered stages in contrast to most sets in this day and age. Emptying out all the bags at once might be a novel experience for some younger builders, but many traditionalists will no doubt relish it. The set contains a total of 780 elements, but it does not look anything like that many when you pour them out of the bags as most are small.
Buckingham Palace rests on a base (below) which is fashioned from a variety of plates including the three 8 x 16 plates mentioned earlier. The base is 26 studs square including its black outer border which incorporates a 1 x 8 black tile with "Buckingham Palace" printed on it; as you would expect this tile is exclusive to the set. Most of the base is tiled, although there is a bare area towards the rear surrounded by dark tan jumper plates upon which the Palace itself will eventually sit. Towards the front of the base you can see a number of olive green 1 x 1 plates and 1 x 1 round tiles which have only previously appeared in five and seven sets respectively.
The rear wall of the Palace is first to be constructed, followed by the sides. There is extensive use of tan 1 x 1 headlight bricks placed back to front to represent windows, and a couple of tan 1 x 3 arch bricks serve as arched doorways. The sides of the palace are made up of striped window sections which consist of stacks of alternating tan plates and clear 1 x 1 plates. These sections are rotated by 90 degrees and held in place by SNOT bricks; assembling them reminded me of building the clock tower of the recently-released Big Ben set.
The front of the Palace is next to be built. This incorporates more striped window sections constructed as described above, together with three arched doorway sections featuring tan 1 x 2 x 2 arched windows which have appeared in less than ten sets to date in this colour. The columns above the doorways nicely mirror the real building and consist of tan 4L bars (a.k.a. lightsaber blades) stuck into the top of light bluish grey apollo studs which hold them in a vertical position.
The Palace roof is made up of five distinct sections. Despite the small scale the model still manages to recreate the building’s three pediments above the columns via the use of dark bluish grey cheese slopes arranged on top of tan 1 x 1 round plates. A variety of tan panel elements, including a tan 2 x 2 x 1 corner panel found in only seven sets to date, create detail to the rear of the pediments.
With the Palace itself now basically completed attention switches to its surroundings. The iron railings and front gates are next to be constructed, complete with lamp posts fashioned from light bluish grey telescopes. Then a large ornamental fountain is built outside the gates and topped off with a pearl gold minifigure statuette only previously seen in one set. A teeny red London bus and black cab are placed on the paved area around the fountain, after which the Royal Standard is placed on the roof of the Palace and we are done.
There is not much to see at the back of the model (below), with nothing but blank walls to look at. What I would say however is that it is at least neat and tidy back there, which is by no means a given; I can for instance remember complaining about how messy the Ghostbusters HQ looks from behind in my Brickset review, but no such complaints here.
I think this is a really nice set. First and foremost the designer has done an excellent job of capturing the essence of Buckingham Palace at such a small scale, while also managing to incorporate many recognisable features into the design. Additionally, in contrast to the majority of Architecture offerings, some detail from the area surrounding the building is also included; for me this greatly increases the appeal of the set and makes it a pleasing display piece.
Set 21029 Buckingham Palace contains 780 elements and it is available now at a RRP of £39.99 / US$49.99 / €49.99. On the basis of the parts count the set initially appears to be very good value for money, but in practice the vast majority of elements are small and the completed model is modestly sized. Even so, I don’t think the price is grossly excessive given the quality of the completed build and the presentation. Recommended.
Many thanks to the LEGO AFOL Relations & Programs Team for providing Brickset with a copy of the set. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.