In the latest transatlantic joint review, Huw and I will take a look at the newest Architecture set, 21037 LEGO House. Huw is the photographer and is the primary author, while I'm providing the colour commentary.
For followers of LEGO, you know that the LEGO House in Billund, Denmark, opened its doors to paying customers for the first time last Friday. This LEGO House Architecture set is available exclusively from the brand store at the house which is first LEGO brand store in Billund (and it's about time!).
It's one thing to see the building in pictures, but quite another to see it in person in the centre of Billund. It is - there's no other word for it - stunning. Will the 21037 LEGO House be as inspiring as the real thing?
The building's unique and interesting form can be observed from the ground but it's really from the air that you can truly appreciate it, as this aerial shot from Simon Lucas on Twitter shows:
Architect Bjarke Ingels, himself a LEGO fan, said he wanted to create a 'cloud of interlocking LEGO bricks... a literal manifestation of the infinite possibilities of the LEGO brick' and I would say that he's been successful.
The box and instructions
The box is much like that of all Architecture sets: black, high quality and not destroyed on opening.
At the fan pre-opening event Huw had his set signed by set designer Rok Zgalin Kobe and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen. I didn't get to the store until later in the afternoon, so was only able to get it signed by Rok.
In my brief conversation with Rok, he asked if I was a fan of the Architecture sets. I answered yes, and that I really enjoyed the skyline sets that have been coming out. Rok said that they were originally his idea, so I made a quick plea to have San Francisco (where I live) featured as a skyline. Rok didn't make any promises, but I have a feeling we may see a San Francisco skyline sometime in the future.
Inside the box there are six unnumbered bags, four 6x12 dark grey plates and the perfect bound instruction book.
The first several pages of the instruction booklet outlines the history of the LEGO House, some pictures during construction and several artist renderings of the final building. Throughout the instructions there are facts inserted about the building, such as the amount of concrete used for the basement and that the surfaces of the terraces are made from a waste stream from sneaker production.
The base for the building takes the form of an asymmetrical cross. It's almost fully tiled, both inside and outside the building.
The base is constructed across 33 building steps to help ensure it's built without error. Nevertheless that didn't stop Huw placing a 1x2 plate where a tile should have been that wasn't spotted until much later. (This would be one of the reasons that Huw took pictures for this review. He's a better photographer, but my mistakes in building came so much earlier in the instructions!)
The eight ground floor rooms are added next, along with the main staircase, complete with the tree of creativity in the middle.
Extensive use is made of thin wall pieces such as the new 1x3 one, and 2x2 corner, on the tops, into which a 3x3 or two 2x3 plates are placed at a half-stud offset to mount the coloured tiles on top, a technique that has been used on other Architecture models. The actual LEGO House exterior features white tiles that meant to look like LEGO bricks, so obviously the thin wall pieces are perfect for this use.
Next, the eight first floor blocks are added as individual subassemblies,.There is something very meta about building blocks of a building that represent LEGO bricks out of LEGO bricks. Indeed, I found several instances of parts usage really interesting, particularly in the floor sections. For example, there are times when two 1x1 tiles are used next to each other someplace where a 1x2 tiles could have been used. However, using the two tiles makes for a better effect in representing the building.
The first floor rooms are held on by just a few studs and can be removed should you wish. I found while building that while they can be removed easily, you also have to be sure that you've pressed on them enough so that they properly connect to the rooms underneath.
The second floor rooms are built as a single sub-assembly.
Finally, the 2x4 brick at the top that houses the masterpiece gallery is constructed, complete with round skylights in the studs.
The completed model
When you view the real house it's easy to see that it's formed from blocks -- 21 of them, in fact -- but hard to appreciate how they are all interconnected and stacked. This is particularly true when you're in inside the House, where many sections naturally flow into each other. However, when you build this set it all becomes apparent: eight blocks on the ground floor, eight on the first, four on the second, then the 2x4 brick keystone at the top.
Our estimate is that there are 17 different coloured LEGO elements in the set, which might be some sort of record.
Just like when viewing the real building, not much of its colour is apparent from ground level. The main entrance is to the left of the yellow stepped terrace, the brand store is underneath it.
One of the things I found surprising in the set was the number of clear tiles and plates, which obviously represented windows. I didn't remember so many windows at the House, but pictures of the day remind me that clearly there are. I think it's because all my attention was focused inward that I really didn't pay attention to the windows. However, the entire atmosphere of the House is very light and airy and the use of the clear bricks throughout the build does a good job of demonstrating that.
It's not often that Architecture sets are given much of an interior and while this one is not exactly bursting with details it does nevertheless convey the sense of space and openness of the real building. Not only is the Tree of Creativity featured in the model, so is some extra greenery featured in the main atrium area. (Pictures of the real thing forthcoming in future LEGO House articles)
Here you can see how the central staircase has been constructed, on top of clear plates.
The asymmetrical and LEGO-like design of the building is very apparent in these views from above.
The colours of the terraces closely match those on the real building.
This is quite simply the best Architecture set ever: just like the real building, it's colourful and eye-catching, yet clean and contemporary.
Of course, it's a terrific souvenir of the visit, but I would really encourage building the set should you buy it. Even though we have signed sets, neither Huw or I have any regrets opening our sets and building them. I found the building experience a great opportunity to relive the experiences in each area of the House - remembering each of the Experience Zones, walking through the Masterpiece Gallery, among others - all while building each of those features. In that respect it's a shame that the basement of the House isn't included in this model, as that's a pretty spectacular feature as well. In fact, I'd venture to say that the building experience wouldn't quite be the same unless you've visited the House.
We think this may be the most beautiful LEGO set ever.
There are a myriad of reasons why you should visit the LEGO House: being able to buy this set as a memento of your visit is just one of them.
We'll be writing more about our visit to the house in the coming weeks.