Since Huw and and I visited the house just before its official opening a two weeks ago we've written about the Mini Chef restaurant, the LEGO Brick Builder (manufacturing and packaging), and some of the exclusive items for sale in the shop: the fish tanks and the Architecture model of the building.
Now we will turn our attention to the the experience zones, the areas of the building that you pay to access, which are shown on the plan on the right.
When we were exploring the House, we both chose to start in the basement, where the history collection is housed. For me, part of the reason was that many people had chosen to climb the stairs, to the upper experience zones, while there were (slightly) fewer people going downstairs. I don't think I quite knew what to expect.
Everyone will find something interesting here, particularly collectors and historians, or anyone who wants to see the sets they had as kids.
When you first enter the floor you are met with this display set in the floor of the basement, showing how in the early days of LEGO, old moulds for LEGO bricks would be disposed by casting them in concrete foundation of new factories. This ensured they wouldn't fall into the wrong hands.
On raising your head from the moulding display, you're met with this large LEGO logo. The logo is made up of 1.6 million LEGO pieces spanning the lifetime of LEGO. There are bricks from the 1950s through the present included.
Here's a close up shot. The employee answering questions claimed that there were minifigs trying to dig their way in and out, but I never found them.
This floor is structured with a gallery that flows clockwise from the large LEGO logo, and covers the circumference of the floor. As you move through the exhibits, you travel through LEGO's history starting from the original wooden toys.
Each major milestone in LEGO history is documented, along with equipment from each period. One thing that you will notice right away in coming to the floor is that the lighting is quite dim, and the whole setting is calm. All the displays are well lit, though.
Many different aspects of LEGO culture is explored, with sets from different eras. One of the displays shows the mini modular set along with a LEGO store set, with minifigs from many LUGs in the foreground. Huw was quite happy to see Mr. Brickset right in the front row!
All of the exhibits are located on the outer wall of the basement. Several of the inner walls of the gallery features shadows of children playing along with scrolling quotes in several languages about the importance of fun, imagination and play. There are benches placed thoughtfully in front of these walls for visitors who want to linger, as well as strategically placed bins of 2x4 red bricks for idle hands to play with.
The inner walls of the gallery suggest there's something behind it - and indeed there is. The center of the floor is taken up by a room that is filled floor to ceiling with LEGO sets through the decades.
The presentation is excellent, with the set on side of the shelves and the packaging (usually MISB) on the other
As you wander in a clockwise direction you are taken forwards in time until you reach an empty cabinet for 2018. I have idea what will happen in 2019 since there's no room for expansion!
At either end of the centre room there are several built sets. At the opening event it seemed like one end featured many past and current Architecture sets, and the other featured several modulars and some of the larger sets. These could only be viewed through peepholes, which made taking pictures rather problematic (and why there's no pictures of them here).
There are also two large circular displays in the middle of the central room, one containing trains, the other Technic. The trains in particular are very attractively presented, on multiple layers and arranged like wheel spokes radiating out from the centre.
In the centre of this middle room there's a large Surface-like device with about a dozen touch screen workstations.
By scanning your armband at one of the stations, you can log in. There, available to your touch, is an inventory of (almost) every LEGO set made, organized by year and theme. You can scroll through them, as you see I'm doing here. As you touch each set, a larger view comes up, so you can get a closer look at those sets that you've always wanted, and if they were in a box with a flap, you can flick your finger to open it to peer inside. (I notice that Cafe Corner is on this screen, which is on my personal wish list).
You also have the option of selecting the sets that you own, which is then stored in your file. At the end of your day at LEGO House, one of the pictures that you can download are all the sets you identified as owning there at the workstation. I could have spent hours at this workstation looking at old sets (and identifying all the sets I own would have taken a while!). As it was I was conscious that other people were waiting to use the workstations, not to mention there was the rest of the House to explore, so I only added a few sets to my file before moving on to other sections of the House.
(We've subsequently heard that there's a limit to the number of sets you add so it's no threat to Brickset! -- Huw)
Originally, I started with the basement as I thought it would be a quick walkthrough to start the day. However, I was quite wrong! Scrolling through the inventory of all the sets could get you fully absorbed for ages, as well as checking out all of the displays.
I really like how they have the shadows of children playing on the walls with the scrolling quotes. This is a lovely, quiet and calm space. I think it was an interesting choice to make the lighting quite dim om most of the floor, but it works well with highlighting all the displays. I like the benches provided in different areas as well as the containers of bricks.
When I go back to the LEGO House, this is definitely an area where I would spend more time.