The LEGO Neighborhood Book

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No Starch Press should be congratulated for providing so many AFOLs with an outlet to publish LEGO-related books. Their output is as prolific as DKs but because they are 'unofficial' books they cover a far wider range of topics and are generally more geared towards, and appealing to, adults.

The latest book to be published, The LEGO Neighborhood Book -- Build your own town, is by Brian and Jason Lyles. Brian runs Brick City Depot where he publishes instructions for modular buildings so it will be no surprise to learn that it's about how to create your own modular buildings in the style of the official LEGO ones.

It's a 200-page 20cm-square softback book, so a bit different to other No Starch LEGO books, but its shape and size does suit the contents, and in particular the instructions, well.

The first half of the book contains six chapters which cover the foundations of constructing modular buildings:

  • The 'Cafe Corner' standard -- a useful reference on what exactly the modular building standard is: where the connection points go, how the sidewalk/pavement should be constructed, how high and deep the building should be and so on
  • The design process -- how to decide what you're going to build and in what colours
  • Bricks everywhere -- how to look at real buildings and 'see' them as LEGO parts
  • The details -- how to construct windows, columns, cornices, lights, benches and so on
  • The interior -- how to build internal details for houses and commercial buildings
  • Gallery -- photos of the author's buildings, provided for inspiration

It contains some great practical advice, in the form of photos of parts of buildings re-imagined in LEGO, ideas and inspiration for constructing aspects that they all need, such as windows, and also instructions for stand-alone models such as park benches, street lamps, beds, recliners and so on.

I know many AFOLs already look at the world around them and think about how it could be built with LEGO. If you're not one of them, you probably will be after reading this book.

The LEGO Neighbourhood Book

The LEGO Neighbourhood Book

The second half of the book provides instructions for four modular buildings, or rather one, plus another one that's cleverly designed to form the basis for a multitude of others.

The first building is the 'corner drugstore' featured on the cover of the book which is, apparently, an 'icon of classic Americana'. I'll have to take the author's word for that because I've not travelled widely in the US so haven't seen one myself. It's certainly an attractive building, though, packed with details inside and out.

The LEGO Neighbourhood Book

Next, instructions for three houses are provided. First a base model is constructed which has studs on the face of it. Then, one of three facades are added, studs-out, to it. There's a Parisian-style house, a Colonial-style building and a Canal Ring/Dutch-inspired one.

The LEGO Neighbourhood Book

It's a clever idea that I'm tempted to use myself: once one or more base models have been built it's then straightforward to make all manner of styles of building, as long as they have the same layout of windows and doors, of course.

My only minor criticism of the book is that it's rather US-centric which is of course understandable given that's where the authors are from, although there are a few Dutch-inspired models. This won't bother most of you reading this, and the techniques discussed in the first half are transferrable to whatever style of architecture you're planning on modelling, so it's not really a big issue.

Overall, it's another cracker from No Starch. If you're thinking of making your own modular buildings but don't know where to start you'll find it particularly useful.

The book is published in September and can be pre-ordered from Amazon: Amazon.co.uk | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca

Exclusive set to be available at FAN EXPO Canada

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FAN EXPO Canada is being held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, August 28 - 31st. LEGO will have a stand there and will be offering an exclusive set for sale:

"For LEGO, the event is about the fans – it’s an opportunity to engage with builders of all ages and offer a fun interactive experience that is unlike any other in Canada. Because YOU are some of the most loyal fans of LEGO, we are offering an advance sneak peak of the FIRST EVER LEGO FAN EXPO Canada Exclusive. This limited edition LEGO STAR WARS Rebels set features The Ghost Starship with Kanan Jarrus Minifigure from the upcoming STAR WARS Rebels TV series.

"The set is ONLY available at the LEGO Booth #748 between Thursday, August 28 to Sunday, August 31, 2014, while quantities last. Tickets will be distributed at the booth on a first come, first serve basis when the show floor opens to the public. Quantities will be limited per day and only one LEGO FAN EXPO Canada Exclusive per customer per day. A valid ticket will be required for purchase.

"For a chance to win one before the show, please check out the contest page for more details. [Canadian residents only]"

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Good news for attendees, bad news for Star Wars completests...

Discounts at Amazon.com

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Latest 30% or more discountsPriceSavingDiscount
70101 Legends Of Chima Target Practice$8.40$6.5944%
70102 Legends Of Chima CHI Waterfall$9.75$5.2435%

August offer from Chowren Toys

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Here are details of the latest offer from Chowren Toys:

"Our August Brickset promo is Pharaoh's Quest 7326 Rise of the Sphinx for $36.99. All readers need do is enter promo code 7326BRKSET at the check-out to receive this price. There are total of 50 available and are limited to 10 per customer while supplies last. This promotion will only last until 11:59pm (US West Coast time) on Wednesday August 27, 2014. Just like previous promotions, Brickset readers will need to have registered an account in our store in order to use this code.

"All buyers please look over and read the notes in the shipping chart before you make your purchase. Please note this is just an approximate shipping charge, but it shouldn't be too far off. As with previous promos, any over-charge on shipping will be refunded."

The Tumbler now available to VIPs

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The Tumbler

76023 The Tumbler is now available at shop.LEGO.com and in brand stores to LEGO VIPs.

Please click on the links below to purchase. If you end up at the shop home page, log in to LEGO.com and try again.

UK (£159.99) | USA ($199.99)| Canada ($229.99) | France (219.99€) | Germany (199.99€)

Classic LEGO Sets: Classic Town residences

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House with Roof-Windows

Here is another article on classic Town sets contributed by The Toymaker:

According to the Brickset database, there were 1,199 minifigures inhabiting Classic Town. These residents shared a grand total of 12 residential properties between them, a figure which puts the often reported housing crises in London and other European cities somewhat into perspective. In reality, if that is not too tenuous a concept, the houses were inhabited by 24 people plus a butler, one parrot and a visiting couple in a camper van.

There was an ongoing reluctance from TLG to simply build houses that people could live in: more often than not, the properties were “sold” as vacation or weekend properties. Nevertheless, they offered a welcome respite for all FOLs from the unending emergency services and racing that dominated the town: in a quiet corner of the living room or attic, a few curved road baseplates wound their way between tall cypress trees and a small, tranquil residential area slowly developed over the years.

376/560: House with Garden

Classic Town’s founding year featured its first ever house – the solidly named, 91-piece “House with Garden”. This attractive red and blue property with two minifigures was built on two 16x16 green baseplates and uniquely hinged so it could appear as a single enclosed building with front and back garden or in “landscape” format as shown on the box (with a slightly odd gap between the two structures). The approach has been repeated in recent years with the far more spacious 10228: Haunted House and 71006: Simpsons House. Attractive exterior detailing came from the green shutters on the windows, above which a canopy provided further shade, the latter in what became a fairly frequent red/white/blue sticker set.

The house interior featured a small kitchen with sink, table and chairs on one side and a sitting room area with armchairs and a TV. The garden included a further set of table and chairs, a barbecue area and a sun lounger for the minifigs to take in turns to sleep – there was no other bed!

Thanks to its inherent Bricklinkability, with the only slightly rare pieces being the window, doors and 33° blue roof slopes, sets without the stickers can be found on Ebay for less than £20.

6365: Summer Cottage

The next property was a ‘Summer Cottage’, known in the UK simply as a ‘Cottage’ (we don’t have summers). It was another single story building, this time in yellow with a red, gabled roof, complemented by black “weather boarding” in the roof’s pine end and a yellow chimney making up its 144-pieces. A solitary minifigure in a new waistcoat design came with the set, depicted sitting in her garden under a new striped parasol.

The interior was furnished to a higher specification, including a fridge, cupboard and cooker complete with hood, thanks to a small number of stickers to provide the detail. This minifigure had a bed in which to sleep as well as a bedside cabinet with lamp.

You can expect to pay around £30 for a complete version of this iconic set on Ebay.

6372: Town House

The following year saw the release of the Town House which took the design onto a significant notch, thanks to its 217-piece count and the introduction of 1x4x5 floor-to-ceiling windows. The blue and red inverted the colouring from 376/560, but with yellow detailing on the windows, along with other features such as an exterior lamp, postbox and the a return of an exterior barbecue. By far the most significant development however, was the addition of an upper floor with attractive dormer windows. The interior featured a kitchen, dining area complete with fireplace and twin bedroom upstairs.

Given the near impossibility of ever getting a ‘complete’ version of this set due to the stickers, it sells for about £25-30 on Ebay.

6374: Holiday Home

For the third consecutive year, LEGO released another house, the 257-piece Holiday Home which, to my mind, was the best. For the first time, a house stood on a 32x32 baseplate and this one was uniquely designed with an angled driveway with ‘crazy paving’ printing. The building was large with white ‘stucco’ and a red, tiled roof with very attractive double gabled feature the highlight of the front elevation and showcasing the veranda with a retractable roof. It also provided arched detailing around the ‘car port’. Not only could the two minifigures afford a better house than their neighbours, they could also afford a car for the first time. Key new pieces included a more modern design door and new 1x4x3 45-degree sloping “Velux”-style windows (that would come in particularly handy in later years).

The interior housed a small kitchen adjacent to the front door, a dining area with seating for three and a surprisingly spacious bedroom with double bed and writing desk. The garden, in addition to delightful flowers around the car port offered a barbecue, parasol and table and chairs. I always craved Number 74 as a child, but it was not until 2011 that I managed to obtain a copy on Ebay. Complete sets minus boxes are going for well over £40 this year.

6370: Weekend Home

It was not until 1985 that the next house was released, the more modest Weekend Home, essentially a re-imagining of 6372. In addition to only having 177-pieces from which to build their dream lifestyle, this couple made do with a bicycle. The tried-and-tested formula was repeated: kitchen, diner, bedroom (with only a single bed), outside seating and barbecue. The greatest innovation lay in an additional upstairs room featuring a cupboard and writing desk as well as a lamp post in the garden.

As would be expected for a more modest property of this nature, offers on Ebay are being accepted for around £30 for boxed sets.

6360: Weekend Cottage

The 1986 release managed to pack a surprising amount into its diminutive proportions and 113-pieces. Resurrecting 6365’s colour scheme, the two-storey property was very much a weekend residence with all cooking and eating needing to be done outside in the cramped garden, whilst inside there was room downstairs for a table and attractively-detailed blue lamp. Upstairs offered just a single bed and cupboard. Although boxed sets have fetched £30+ in the last few months, unboxed can go for half that.

1484: Houses (Limited Edition)

This limited edition set from 1987 was a clear response to the obvious housing crisis in Classic Town. Featuring linked/semi-detached houses with a minifigure in each, one of the yellow and red buildings was slightly set back from the other. There was also a small blue car featuring a new chassis usually the domain of racing cars. The interiors were exceptionally cramped with the right hand property offering a kitchen but nowhere to sleep and the left-hand a desk and a bed.

The strange looking character on the right hand side of the box art represents a Weetabix from whom the limited edition set could be obtained. Expect to pay £40 for this currently, particularly if you want the Weetabix.

6388: Holiday Home with Campervan

This set had two releases: 1472 as a retailer exclusive in 1987 and then on general release as 6388 in 1989. Visually, it looked delightful, offering an attractive house broadly reminiscent of an alpine-style cottage plus a small car and visiting campervan towing a boat and trailer – so was probably the most playable set of the lot. At 353-pieces, it was also the largest set of the sub-theme so far. Piece-wise, it featured a large number of yellow 45° roof slopes which were not too common at this stage.

However, it left a lot to be desired in terms of build and believability: the interior featured a single room – a very well appointed kitchen with cooker and utensils, a (doorless) fridge and a coffee machine. Outside, there was a large veranda area that, due to the positioning of large barbecue, was unreachable by small hands without demolishing the structure.

Perhaps reflecting this slightly compromised design, complete sets can go for less than £25.

6349: Holiday Villa

In 1988 it was time for another large property with this Holiday Villa arriving as a rehash of 6374, sitting on the same crazy paving baseplate, and largely duplicating the layout and look of the former set. Thanks to the recessed-forward facing roof lights on the upper floor, the property had a complicated roofline that made it appear more modernistic than the timeless 6374. It was augmented by a small black car and yellow garden furniture. The interior featured a kitchen with utensils and serving hatch, a telephone, table and chairs, whilst upstairs was a double bed.

Several examples of this 205-piece set have been sold for less than £20 in recent months.

6592: Holiday Hideaway

Looking for all the world like a miniature 6388, this 111-piece set should be considered more log cabin than genuine house, offering a lamp, a cooker and a single bed within its three walls. The two minifigures (one of whom is definitely over-dressed for the trip) come with a bike and the first representation of a portable barbecue, giving a small degree of playability. Expect to pay towards £20 for the set which appears to be fairly rare.

 

6416: Poolside Paradise

Marketed in the UK as ‘Paradisa Palm Villa’, this ultra-modern, largely transparent property presented a very different aesthetic to the largely sober Scandinavian or Germanic styling we had seen to date: more Malibu than Malmö, being largely white with pink and grey detailing. Built on a moulded baseplate, the main feature was the outside swimming pool, complete with diving board and sunbed on which a scantily-clad female minifig reclined languidly, whilst her butler offered a selection of beverages.

Inside, there was a large kitchen on the ground floor, accessed from the driveway via a side door. The upstairs was reached by an external flight of stairs – the first to feature in any Classic Town house – where there were two balcony areas either side of a central dining suite. Vast new 6x6x9 convex corner panels enclosed this upper level. Only two other sets (9701 and 5985) have ever featured this piece in any colour). Smaller 3x3x6 versions enclosed the parrot on the ground floor: the air conditioning must have been tremendous. Two other minifigures and a small black sports car were included.

Although the set is very playable, it doesn’t really integrate visually into a town layout and given most of the Paradisa sets weren’t particularly good (in my opinion), it is therefore unsurprising that it seldom goes for more than £20 on Ebay.

1854: House with Roof Windows

This delightful, if not a little strange, 144-piece set resulted from a promotional partnership with Velux, the Danish roof light company, in 1996. In case we were in any doubt, the set was named “House with Roof Windows” although may have been more succinctly described as “Roof with Windows”. The two-floor interior features a table and chairs at ground level and a single bed on the first floor. In case we were in any doubt, not only did Velux branding appear on every window, but also on a large flag in the garden. It was never explained whether the minifig couple were Velux employees in a show home, or a couple enmeshed in some form of corporate sponsorship deal as they, too, wore Velux branding. Boxed versions on Ebay are obviously rare, but one sold for £31 earlier this year.

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Since these long gone years, LEGO has transformed its capabilities in house building, with 8403: City House showing the way in terms of interior detailing. There has also been the superb line of Creator Houses offering even more realistic representation. But I’m sure that connoisseurs of Classic Town will retain their affection for the simple and structures of a bygone age.

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We're going to take a short break from posting classic LEGO articles but they'll resume in September. If you'd like to contribute one please get in touch.

This week's top news articles

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New LUG forming in Wilmington, DE

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Brickset contributor TheLEGOChronicler has just moved to a new area and wants to form a LUG:

"I recently relocated to Wilmington Delaware and am looking to start a new Lego User Group here. Have connected with some other AFOLs in the area and we are looking to start this coming Saturday August 23rd. To start we are going to meet at my house in Wilmington at 6:30. I am just off of 95 in the Baynard Square Neighborhood. I will be getting some Pizzas so you can come hungry. Our first meeting is going to be focused on introductions and talking about options for what we could do as a group. Feel free to bring a project or pictures of your collection/creation to share as well. All are welcome. If you are interested in joining us PM me for the address."

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