Review: 21029 Buckingham Palace

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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.

The 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.

The Verdict

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.

26 comments on this article

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By in United Kingdom,

wifeys getting it for christmas she will love me big time!

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By in France,

I'm afraid that a commentary on pricing cannot be accurate if you didn't pay a penny for the product for which you appreciate its cost. It is always slightly disturbing to read Brickset (in some cases: still) recommend sets for their price for which they never felt the impact on their monthly budget.

For example in this case you (still) recommend the set for its price (cf. "Even so, I don’t think the price is grossly excessive given the quality of the completed build and the presentation. Recommended"), although, despite the fact this set interested you (cf. "I’m definitely a fan of the [...] 21029 Buckingham Palace –"), you didn't buy it (cf "while my scorn at the pricing persists, [...]. When LEGO offered Brickset a copy of 21029 to review I was therefore quick to volunteer….").

The fact I critizise this point should in no way be interpreted that I dislike Brickset reviews. In the contrary, if I point this (imo) issue, it is that nearly everything else suits me. Thank you very much for the work. And I'm aware that even if you didn't pay for the sets for review, you still had to take the pictures and write the review, which represents quite some work.

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By in United States,

@Tijgeric, Are you insane? Even though because of his amazing website he may have received the set for free that doesn't mean that he can assess the impact it would have on his monthly or even yearly budget. Furthermore, most people who buy the set will buy it because they want it and decide if the price is fair. No LEGO toys are "necessities" they are pleasure toys meant to teach, play with and entertain. A standard way to determine whether a set is over price is the .10 cent per piece count. The reviewer even admits that since all the pieces are small that this is not necessarily the best indicator. In every which way he explains why he is giving his verdict on the value of the set. I don't know what more you want for him other then to maybe perhaps decline the free sets which is one of the best benefits of his job. Even you admit yourself that he reviews the product and writes the article. Perhaps your should re-think you comment.

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By in United Kingdom,

@LindsayJoy
Disney castle was a necessity for me...

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By in United States,

@Tijgeric I think you completely miss the point of free sets being offered for reviews. There's actually been a good discussion in the forum about this exact. Long story short, free sets allow the reviewers to be objective and not constantly trying to justify a price. The reviews are more unbiased and fair this way. The website discloses if they got a set for free to be fair and honest. By commenting on the price, they're able to still address if they think the set is fair value while offering an objective review at the same time. Offering free sets is smart and really the only way to do it, and it gets the sets out in the hands of reviewers. You really don't understand the review process and what makes a good review. It's absolutely fair for the reviewers to comment on price even if they received it for free.

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks for the review, it's interesting to see the build coming together gradually and the techniques at play, particularly in an Architecture set. And on the pricing terms of this theme £40 seems 'fine', not a steal, but equally not massively overpriced - and I don't even own the set yet so this is based on set descriptions and reading a review!

I do however wonder why there aren't more 'Skyline' sets?
Hopefully the Skylines will return in January next year, because I would be keen to see a London, Paris, Rome or Moscow. They are generally the only type of Architecture sets I have bought so far, bar one or two exceptions.

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By in United States,

Fantastic photography for this review DrDaveWatford!!!

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By in United States,

26x26, but the palace only occupies like a 3rd of that? Hmm....

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By in United Kingdom,

Two complaints from me (other than it looking good) - the fences seem a little small, and where are Madness playing on the roof?!!!

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By in Germany,

@TheRancor: I've heard that the next Skyline sets will be Sydney, Chicago and London

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By in Germany,

Nice review @DrDaveWatford.
Saw the set this very morning while at my local toy shop. Not a fan of Architecture sets (haven't actually got any), but I wouldn't mind having this one. Not sure I'd want to spend €50 on it though - so many other sets to buy first, so this one will have to wait.

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By in France,

@Lindsayjoy: Thank you for your answer. I thought again about my comment, I'm afraid I still find it fine how I thought about that point. I cannot believe a critic will think the same about a product/show if he needed to pay for it or not. Especially if it is precisely the producer/organizer who paid the bill.

@monkyby87: Thank you for the answer. Too bad I cannot say much more, I just disagree. I have another point of view and I don't think I'm alone to share that view. Of course I don't want to say I'm right, oh no, maybe I'm indeed wrong (although I don't think so), I simply see something differently.

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By in United Kingdom,

@ monkyby87 "...free sets allow the reviewers to be objective and not constantly trying to justify a price. The reviews are more unbiased and fair this way."

The most ridiculous thing I have ever read on this site. Until TLG gives away its products for free to everyone who asks, any review that doesn't question the price is unreliable.

The two best reviews I've read on this site in recent weeks have been DrDaveWatford's review of Buck Hoose and CapnRex101's review of the Death Star: articulate articles by educated AFOLs writing about well-designed (for a change) sets. In both cases, despite their fondness for the set, they grumble about the price, and they're right to.

@ Tigerjc, I agree with you. Try as we might to be fair, sometimes - subconsciously - the price we pay affects the way we feel. I like my Berlin skyline (http://brickset.com/sets/21027-1/Berlin) all the more for having only paid £10 for it: at £25 I would walk straight past the shelf.

Anyway, on an unrelated matter, does anyone have the 'phone number for the "LEGO AFOL Relations & Programs Team"?

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By in United States,

I have sympathy for both sides of the reviewers getting free sets debate. The only issue I see so far with Tigerc's original post is this:

"...recommend sets for their price for which they never felt the impact on their monthly budget."

I am not sure how anyone but myself could be expected to assess any impact on my (or anyone else's) monthly budget. DrDaveWatford could be a very wealthy man and would therefore feel no impact, while others are in very different circumstances.

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By in United States,

@Tijgeric
You do realize that by posting these types of comments you are hijacking the threads of good articles. By replying to you I perpetuated your rant and made it worse. This is called trolling even though you appear to have done it accidentally. But if in fact you continue to post this same sentiment on every thread just know that a disclosure was made very clearly that the set was provided free of cost. That if you want articles written by educated AFOLs they are very likely not paying for a set they review and no amount of complaining is going to change that. That the person who wrote this review is a skilled writer and reviewer and in my opinion his article was worth much more then the $50 value and even without my opinion taken into account I think most people would access that this post was worth at least $50. This is just how the world works now and if you want to read an "unbiased" review free of the worry that the people received the set free you can wait for an AFOL to post a review on this very site under fan/member reviews. It may take a bit of time for a well written one to appear but that is the cost of being picky.

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By in United States,

@Space 1979:

I think what monkyby87 might mean by more unbiased and fair is that it gets the sets into the hands of people that are not necessarily in love with the product and therefore not blinded by obsession. Therefore they can decide more objectively if it is a fun build, has valuable parts, and is generally a good set. Perhaps no cost can sway the perception of price but in a different way. If say someone is obsessed with Buckingham Palace and has wanted a set of this their entire life they may not care if they are being ripped off. There is always a touch of bias if you get something for free but that bias can go both ways and honest reviewers will be impartial to their best abilities.

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By in United States,

@jackthenipper
Funny its a necessity to me too ;-)

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By in United Kingdom,

I'm not a fan of the line in general, but this one is very appealing - I think the plaza with fountain and vehicles in front help to make it feel complete.

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By in United Kingdom,

I reckon this is likely to be my first architecture set. Excellent review.

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By in Sweden,

The set looks good but generally Architecture sets are horribly overpriced.

As for the important free set debate: a reviewer that is not independent of the manufacturer cannot be expected to write an unbiased review. Simple fact in economics. That's one reason I love JANG's reviews. He emphasizes that he pays full retail price himself, to make the point that he can be trusted.

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By in France,

@LindsaJoy: thank you for your answer. Please permit me to indicate you that you misunderstood me. With "I'm afraid that a commentary on pricing cannot be accurate if you didn't pay a penny for the product for which you appreciate its cost." (my text), I did NOT mean "That if you want articles written by educated AFOLs they are very likely not paying for a set they review and no amount of complaining is going to change that." (your text). Again, I like A LOT Brickset reviews (cf. my first post, last sentences). This was a LITTLE issue in my eyes (cf. "slightly disturbing"). You are making a bigger problem of it than it is. If I gave the impression of "trolling", this wasn't indeed my intention. To avoid to make this impression worse, please excuse me, I won't post anymore on this article. I already wrote way too much for the detail I wanted to tell.

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By in Poland,

These comments about Brickset getting free sets for review are useless and miss entire point about reviewing anything. If you don't know how reviewers / journalists work then you shouldn't be making comments about it, and don't read any reviews, whether on Brickset or elsewhere. And if you do know, then you're obviously trolling because it doesn't need any comment about it.

That said, I welcome any Architecture review and this set is one of the most interesting of the theme. It's getting better all the time, just compare it with early Architecture sets...

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By in Singapore,

Great review Dave! I have always admired Architecture sets, with their micro/nano(?) scale and their tiny details executed perfectly.

However, i had not purchased any Architecture sets yet, mainly due to there being other more "playable" stuff out there, but also due to their cost. I do believe that the prices of Architecture sets are justified, with extra effort in making it more "professional", its just my budget doesnt accomodate that at this point in time =P

Touching briefly on the reviewer issue, i do see the validity of the arguements on both sides of the issue, but i think ultimately it all falls upon the reviewer himself. Thats why we trust some reviewers more than others perharps, with some like JANG (whom i really respect) indicating upfront that he pays for all items he reviews.

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By in United States,

What a lovely written and helpful review! Thanks for all the info as it makes a difference when deciding whether or not to buy a set. As a huge fan of Architecture sets, this one soon will be on our shelves as the skillful design gives you a feel for the real Palace, which is impressive in person.

Most Architecture sets are small, which is a good thing because they take up less display room and cost less than the huge ones, which we do not have room to display. I am happy that the reviewer receives a free set because it requires so much time to prepare a quality review like this one. So that is a nonissue for me. And yes, Architecture sets are relatively high priced (compared to other non-licensed LEGO) partly because the box and books are of such high quality.

Really looking forward to the other City Architecture sets as they remind of us of fun times spent in other cities. While these sets are not built for playability, they rank high on bringing back fond memories and creating dreams of places to visit on a wish list. This set does that as well.

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By in United States,

This review was super helpful to swing me into picking up an Architecture set. I'd been ambivalent as well. Picked up Flatiron Building and enjoyed it a lot.

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By in Belgium,

price per piece is in my opinion not always correct, for me a 1x1 piece (there are a lot in architecture sets) isnt worth as much as a 8x2 or something else
i feel lego is sometimes using more small parts to boost their piece count (eg using 2 1x3 pieces where a 1x6 piece could easily be used)
i also miss the times where you got a big baseplate with your set (eg for a police or fire / gas station or gasstation 6397 becomming 60132)

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