Review: 21046 Empire State Building

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View image at flickr

The Empire State Building is perhaps the most famous skyscraper in the USA, if not the world. Its distinctive art deco style also makes it one of the most attractive. At 443m high it was the tallest building in the world until 1970 so all in all it's no wonder that it's a popular subject for LEGO's Architecture series to model.

This is the third version, following on from 21002, one of the first Architecture sets, and a similarly scaled but more detailed version in 21028 New York City skyline released in 2016.

This new one, 21046, which stands at 55cm tall, dwarfs them both and upon first inspection looks to be a bit of a boring and repetitive build given that it's big, square and there are 684 1x2 grille tiles to attach, but that's not the case at all...


Construction

The building sits on a 26x16 base which as usual is bordered with tiles including a printed one. Roads populated with yellow cabs occupy the first few studs along the sides. It's a shame there isn't a bit of variety in the cars, given that cabs are far from being the only vehicles on the road in the city!

Take note of the four sets of escalators leading from the ground floor, made using drum lacquered silver 1x2 cheese graters, now, because you won't see them again!

View image at flickr

The central core of the skyscraper consists of literally hundreds of SNOT bricks and plates upon which either 1x2 grille tiles, or sub assemblies like that shown below, are attached.

Hidden away inside, visible only briefly during building, are drum lacquered 1x2 tiles used for the lift doors.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The designer could have made the core solid using 2x4 bricks or something but instead he has used what would once have been considered an illegal technique to mimic the steel girders used in the real building.

The 2x3 tile is slotted between the studs of a 2x3 plate, and another one is attached to the top.

View image at flickr

I didn't get to talk to designer Rok Zgalin Kobe at the recent fan media days, but I understand that he said to those that did that this technique is OK with tiles, but not plates.

View image at flickr

Anyway, the assembly above, and four similar ones, are stacked onto the tower to build up its height.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

Four subassemblies, clad with dozens of 1x2 grille tiles, are attached to the exposed studs on the sides.

View image at flickr

Having done so, the lower part of the building is largely complete.

View image at flickr

Just a few more sub-assembles with dozens more grille tiles, and the narrow section at the top, which includes the observation platform, to attach.

View image at flickr

Finally, the mast, which at one point was used for docking airships, is constructed using drum lacquered silver parts around a core of 1x1 'Dalek' bricks.

View image at flickr

What could have been a dull and boring build was actually anything but. Yes, there are a lot of grille tiles to attach but unlike affixing 1x1 pieces which need to be meticulosity aligned, it was not arduous at all. In fact, there is a refreshing lack of 1x1 pieces in the set, which helps keep the pace of building up.


The completed model

It really is a thing of beauty...

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The mast is attached with just a 318 bar in a clip so it's easily knocked out of alignment :)

View image at flickr

The roof tops of the various protrusions from the main tower are all light grey which is probably realistic and also helps provide some contrast to the predominantly tan coloured building.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The view at street level.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The observation deck, on the 102nd floor just below the mast, is 373m above the ground, or 38cm on this model!

View image at flickr


Compared to other LEGO Empire State Buildings

As you can see it dwarfs the other versions. By my reckoning, this one is about 1:800 scale.

View image at flickr

The series 3 Gorilla Suit Guy insisted on ascending the tower. I can't think why...

View image at flickr

View image at flickr


Verdict

There's something special about the design of the building: its proportions, its rocket-like appearance, its art-deco styling.This model allows you to really appreciate all of this in a way that's perhaps difficult in NYC.

Not only is the finished model a joy to behold, it's also a pleasure to construct. The core uses some interesting building techniques, and you're not constantly bogged down aligning tiny 1x1 pieces, so it's a pleasant and relatively quick experience, despite all the grille tiles.

Architecture sets are not usually very cost effective parts packs but this one makes a pretty good one, particularly if you're after tan grille tiles and hundreds of SNOT bricks and plates, which you can view in the inventory.

In terms of playability; well, there's isn't any unless you're planning to re-enact King Kong...

Overall then, this is another excellent Architecture set, and one that, at £90/$129, seems reasonably priced, too.

It's available now at shop.LEGO.com in Europe and will be released in the USA on August 1st. You can order and view it at shop.LEGO.com using the links below:

USA | Canada | UK | Germany | France

45 comments on this article

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By in Sweden,

Good review! What an impressive set. Lego is killing it with sets aimed at an older audience at the moment.

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By in United States,

Come on Huw, add a picture of this next to 40334 Avengers Tower. Pretty please :)

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By in United Kingdom,

great review. would like to see this next to the statue of liberty

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By in United Kingdom,

Hope LEGO make the Chrysler Building next.

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By in United Kingdom,

I can certainly do that ^^, but not that ^^^ as I've not opened mine yet ;)

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By in United States,

Alas I prefer my Skyline set ESB, as the Gorilla Guy king kongs atop it at better scale.

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By in United States,

afaik, because of the groove in flat tiles, they're slightly thinner than plates, allowing for those kind of connections

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By in United States,

Okay that's a slick looking building. NYC is always a good subject for these sets since due to its prominence as a backdrop in pop culture, we have all "been there" in our minds. I remember talking with an Ecuadorian who had never been to the US before who was telling me how much he loved NYC and wanted to go there someday, in part because of what he had seen in the movies.

And yes, the city is so full of giant buildings that even as a tourist walking through town its hard to appreciate the Empire State Building from all angles; so the Lego model offers a nice alternative. The only other building that really has that big of a presence in the city is the new World Trade Center building, but it is much more modern and lacks the Art Deco styling that makes the Empire State Building so iconic.

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By in Canada,

Love those last two pics! :D

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By in United States,

How about a picture next to the Saturn V?

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By in Canada,

Just over half the height of #10181 I think?

Any chance of the CN Tower or Taipei 101 next?

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By in Turkey,

First one I liked, second one even better, but this one... Wow, takes the cake...

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By in Sweden,

I'd love to see a photo of this next to something like Ninjago City, just to get a better sense of the scale.

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By in United States,

Is this built on baseplates, or a series of regular plates?

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By in United States,

I don't think pinched tiles have ever been considered an illegal technique. The original Yellow Castle used 1x2 tiles pinched between the studs of a 2x2 plate as the ears on brick-built horses. The issue with doing the same with plates is that the studs on the vertical plate sit on the studs of the horizontal plate and prevent it from being fully seated between the tiles. The result is a weak connection that prefers to slide a bit to either side so the studs clear each other.

@piteous:
If you shave the studs off a plate (please don't), the result should be pretty much the same thickness as an unmodified tile, so that has nothing to do with pinched plates being an illegal technique. The grooves, on the other hand, do play a role in a different technique being considered illegal for plates but not tiles. Tiles in minifig hands and clips do not stress the hand/clip significantly because the groove reduces the cross-section of the portion being gripped. For a standard plate, or an old jumper where the bottom edge is squared off, that little additional bit is enough to do some damage.

@xboxtravis7992:
So go to Detroit, and look at the Penobscot building. It's believed that the Empire State Building was a slightly larger copy of the Penobscot, and Detroit has, on average, one of the oldest and shortest skylines of any major city in the US. Works out great for MichLUG, with various members having completed at least eight buildings ranging from 6.5' to 11.5' tall, only the first of which (an ~8' Sears Tower) being a building that's not located in Detroit. At present, the Renaissance Center is the only skyscraper (really, five of them) in Detroit that's really too big to build for a minifig-scale layout.

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By in United States,

The detail on this one is great, lets hope the push for more Asian influences at Lego give us some of the great Chinese skyscrapers.

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By in United States,

The image with Gorilla Guy alone makes this a must buy for me. SWEET!!!

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By in France,

Looks very impressive

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By in United States,

@Purple Dave: You'd think plates would be the same thickness as tiles if they didn't have studs, but surprisingly, that's not the case. I've seen a comparison that demonstrated that flat tiles without studs are actually incrementally thinner than plates with studs—even including plates with reduced stud counts like jumper plates. It's hard not to conclude that tiles are actually designed with this kind of connection in mind while plates aren't.

Source: https://ramblingbrick.com/2017/07/29/stressed-by-the-elements-saturn-v-tiles-plates-and-the-legality-of-connections/

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By in United States,

@Lyichir, I knew there was at least a source or two that confirm flat tiles are just *narrowly* thinner than plates. I distinctly remember seeing a close-up photo comparing the three (plate, flat tile, jumper), just may have been from the link you provided.

for those interested: flat tiles are approx. 3.14mm, modified plates are approx. 3.17mm, and plates are approx. 3.2mm

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By in Germany,

Yup, sold. :-)

Might have to make some space on my desk (at home) next to the two Burj Khalifas.

Thank you for the comprehensive review!

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By in United Kingdom,

I’d love a larger more detailed version of the Flatiron Building but 21023 is probably already the correct scale compared to this...I’d settle for both the Chrysler Building and 1 WTC done to the same scale though!

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By in Netherlands,

Well, Huw's thoughts mirror mine about this set. And yeah, it looks very good on its own, and is an impressive display piece.

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By in United States,

I am looking forward to getting this, and hopefully buying colored pieces for the top to simulate the building at night! Any suggestions as to what to get would be greatly appreciated :-)

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By in Norway,

I think it's a bit odd that they on one side uses metallic cheese graters and tiles for details you won't even see on the finished model, while on the other side they uses these gawd-awful plain red/blue pieces for the internal structure. I can understand using different colors adds a little variation and gives a helpful hint that they're supposed to be hidden, but I'd really appreciated some more interesting colors (like the teal parts in the bottleship) - that's also a good source of parts to "steal" later if you just need a few in a rare color.

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By in United States,

Love the gorilla--it needs some little biplanes, too!

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By in United States,

@axeleng:
Hidden parts in odd colors are often an easter egg, being a way for the designer to reference the colors of their national flag. Unless they are specifically ordered to stop, that's unlikely to change. The company seems to be in support of including at least a few brightly colored bricks in any model that's largely rendered in greyscale, so that order is unlikely to be issued.

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By in United States,

@axeleng, aside from easter eggs, a lot of interior/structural bricks of architecture sets tend to be "primary" LEGO colors (white, red, blue, yellow). mainly as a means for builders to differentiate, orientation or the kind of element they'll need for each step (Statue of Liberty and Saturn V builds are great examples of this)

also, the teal elements included in Ship in a Bottle were more or less how the production worked out (i'm guessing because TLG re-introduced the color around that time)

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By in United States,

Great review as always, Huw! I really love this set now and would love to get it. Originally when I saw it revealed, my first thought was that this must be such a boring, monotonous build - man, was I so wrong!! The awesome build techniques, build process, and beautiful result - yet another home run for TLG. My wish list just gets bigger and bigger....

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By in United States,

Gorilla Guy, awesome! Following the size trend, I'm thinking that the next version will be to the scale that the Gorilla Grodd big figure can be on top!

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By in Australia,

Yeah I’ve just finished it yesterday and it looks amazing! It does look good together with the Statue of Liberty and the Guggenheim. One thing that surprised me was the name tile is ever so slightly different to 21002 (it’s predecessor). I wondered why they bothered when the original piece fits the job perfectly.

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By in Latvia,

This, Trafalgar Square. Am I going to start an Architecture collection? Oh and also Statue of Liberty... And thanks for the Gorilla-King kong, to me it was funny

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By in United States,

Cool! Thanks for the review, Huw!

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By in United States,

I like the review, and the gorilla suit guy is a nice touch @Huw!

I will be looking to get one of these for the girlfriend for her birthday or Christmas, just hoping it is put on sale at Walmart, like the Statue of liberty was when it was released in the US.

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By in United States,

Great review and I notice the light neutral gray backdrop for the photography. This model really stands out against it, especially the drum lacquered metallic silver parts. Thanks, Huw!

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By in Netherlands,

Thanks for the review! Just want to mention that there is not actually a link to the set's Brickset page in the article (nor how many pieces it has). :)

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By in United Kingdom,

^ I've corrected that oversight, thank you.

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By in Italy,

I have the impression that the yellow cabs are in a much larger scale than the ESB itself and should be downsized, albeit it's very hard to find pieces that small for the purpose.

BTW, great review and outstanding photos (perfect backdrop color!).
Thank you, Huw.

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By in United States,

Thanks for a great review. The Empire State Building is the most iconic skyscraper in the world. This set looks worthy of display in architect's offices. I will certainly buy this set.

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By in United States,

The question is why is this released in Europe before USA? It should be the other way around or at the same time. Not to mention almost 2 months apart.

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By in United States,

@piteous:
Or the BttF DeLorean, where even though key elements were red or blue, it was still easy to get confused about which end of the car you were working on early in the build.

@fulcrumbop:
Ugh. Every time I put Grodd out in a display, I get no end of "look, it's King Kong" comments.

@shadowwarrior016:
The original printing pad may have been destroyed, and they may not have any specific fixed rules for general font size. There are silver-on-black letter tiles that look similar, and which have been released in three different sets. The tiles from two of those sets look almost exactly the same, but letter tiles from the third set are a noticeably smaller size than the other two.

@vader11:
Why did they release a promotional minifig of a LEGO Store employee that was only originally available with [email protected] purchases? Why was it wearing a UK uniform, when it was only originally available in North America? And of course, the few times they _did_ factor that in, everybody complained about how the Team GB CMFs, or the German soccer CMFs, or the Chinese New Year sets weren't available worldwide. We don't really know how they choose whether to release something worldwide vs North America vs Europe other than that it's a shorter trip to get from Europe to Europe, and that some licensing partners have very strict rules on street dates. GWPs can be all over the map, though, and I believe North America may have had the free mini Routemaster bus before the UK.

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By in United States,

^^I asked that because the this is an American landmark (obviously), so it doesn't make any sense that the US get it 2 months after other parts of the world. None of the examples you provided have such "paradox". Imagine if the London bus is released in the US 2 months ahead of the UK, or if the Chinese sets released in the US first. If this is just a random city set, then I wouldn't even ask such question as of why it is released in the EU first.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ Because it suits LEGO's well-thought-out marketing plans to do so.

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By in Germany,

Until today a proud owner of the first ESB (on the left side in your picture), standing with the Lady Liberty minifigure and Ecto-1 in the NYC section of my shelf. Not so proud anymore after seeing that picture - even the skyline version is superior, but this thing is really a beauty!

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By in United States,

@Huw:
You mean the dart board in the break room?

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