Saturday, 20 July 2013

Like a virgin

The mysterious 21050 Architecture Studio has just surfaced. There has been little info about this set but the general assumption online was that it would be exclusive, at least initially, to US Barnes & Noble stores who are running special LEGO® Architecture Studio store events from 25-28 July 2013. But no; a single copy was spotted and bought by 'Miro78' at Legoland California today.

It doesn't build anything in particular, there are no instructions. In fact there's an amusing and crazed disclaimer on the box stating, "Picture for inspiration only. Model cannot be built from the pieces in this box. Model shows pieces not included in this set. See side panel for full parts listing." Even more amusing if you read that out loud in the voice of a Dalek.

Miro78 has posted this helpful picture of said side panel on his Flickr, so look at the pic here and ask yourself - would I pay $US149.99 for these parts? There are 76 different elements, none are new or rare, and the total count is 1,210 pieces.


I was laying the groundwork for a little trap there. If (like me) you thought heck, I'd just buy them on BrickLink at a fraction of that price, you'd (like me) have been wrong. Clearly I didn't feel like sleeping tonight as I've just spent 45 minutes calculating the part-out value of that inventory on BrickLink. The results surprised me:

  • Average - Last 6 months : US$164.78
  • Average - Current Inventory: US$178.99
  • Quantity Average - Last 6 months: US$147.74
  • Quantity Average - Current Inventory: US$184.85

About $15 of that is accounted for by the six White 8X8 Plates, but that's it for very expensive inclusions. (See the end of this article for some more details on the top element costs.) Of course you'd also have to pay shipping on top, to several sellers, if you bought all these parts on BrickLink. So the large cost of the set is mostly just down to the large quantities of elements involved.

Perhaps my sneaky question, would you pay $US149.99 for these parts, actually comes down to do you want these specific parts in these quantities anyway?

But wait, there's more. No not a set of six steak knives but 21050 comes with a "272-page inspiration guidebook with tips and techniques" which will no doubt be beautifully done, as all other booklets in the Architecture series have been. You get a glimpse here on the box art, but Miro78 has kept his MISB so we'll have to wait to see just how nice and inspiring the book is.


Perhaps rather sadly, what excited me even more than the booklet are the little trays you get! These totally take me back to my youth. So much better than bags!


So you do get more than just a 'parts pack' with 21050. You get an experience, and a play concept that is pure and true to the very early days of LEGO. I'm not clutching at straws here - that's really important. And perhaps even a breath of fresh air in this era of 'hand-holding' instructions with no alternate models pictured, and endless licensed Themes full of custom parts. I'd love to sit down with a thousand basic elements and build some white buildings.

LEGO tried out the same concept 50 years ago with their Architecture sets in 1962 (see picture, from a display in LEGO Ideas House), and in 1963 released a wholly different System of parts called Modulex, which was aimed at professional architects. Neither lasted. I don't see 21050 being any kind of massive hit with AFOLs (though please comment with your thoughts), but it will be perfect for teenagers and those fresh out of their Dark Age - or about to come out of it! - who have an interest in Architecture. Or Hoth.

Would you like to see more parts packs of this scale as official releases? I'd be very happy to see the return of the classic Supplementary Pack! Some further large Architecture Studio packs would be great, perhaps without the glossy booklet and at a lower price point and containing other popular neutral tones.

Click to see all Miro78's pics of 21050 Architecture Studio. And finally here's the screengrab I mentioned earlier of the top elements by Total Value - this was done in Brickstore software.

48 comments:

  1. That's a pretty cool starter pack, though it could have been better (more arches, for instance). Certainly beats the multi-colored block packs LEGO offers (e.g. 10664) which contain a disappointingly low variation of blocks -- certainly too many 2 bricks wide ones.

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    1. I like the inventory too. A tough task for TLG to agree, I'm sure. I have a real thing for arches :O) but at the end of the day you never know just how/what people like to build so I guess larger arches were weighed up as too specialist.

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  2. Perhaps I'm a little biased because I'm going to be hosting the Architecture Studio event at my Barnes & Noble, but I am thrilled about this set. (I mean, I wouldn't have agreed to host it if I weren't.) It's definitely a great spiritual successor to the 1962 architectural sets, and I'm hoping it will lead to a whole subtheme of expansion packs. Maybe each one based on a particular architect or style - in which case I'd love to see a Deconstructivist Studio set. One thing I would have added - I can't believe I'm saying this - is a brick separator. As you said, this is targeted at adult fans of architecture and design who may be getting it as their first LEGO set in decades (or ever), so given that and the fact that it contains so many plates, a separator or two (in white, of course!) could have come in handy.

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    1. Lovely idea for supplementary sets there Jacob. "21051 Deconstructivist Studio"? I'd buy that in a heartbeat without even looking at the box. Even faster than a heartbeat if it were "21052 Brutalist Studio". :oD

      Very exciting you're hosting the event! Will you comment about it somewhere? Interested to know the structure of it.

      Very good point about brick separator, I say you can never have enough actually! Although orange would have RUNIED the design of that lovely inventory on the box. ;O)

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    2. I've been planning for a while now to start a LEGO blog focused on art, architecture, and design. I think I'll do a write-up of the event as my first post, so I'll be sure to give you a link once it's set up.
      We'll be finalizing the structure of the event in a couple days, but for now my general plan is to discuss a few basic architectural concepts, show how they're implemented in famous buildings and local landmarks, and demonstrate some LEGO building techniques that put them into practice. After that we'll just have a free-build session where people make models using what they've learned and discuss them among the group.

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  3. I already have this set as well - got it directly from LEGO as a review copy. But I can't post the review until the end of this month. I can tell you this much though; the set is targeting a very narrow niche; LEGO fans who are also Architects - or the other way around; Architects who are also LEGO fans. It comes with a 267 page book that I'm pretty sure would only appeal to architects. It features various architectural firms who were given a bunch of LEGO bricks to play/build with, and they share their models and realisations from the experience. The book is definitely not for the general public, or even the general LEGO fan.

    Interesting that you mentioned Modulex and the previous free-building Architecture set; yes, it is very much like those. I guess there is nothing wrong with having such a focused target audience; my Dad is an Architect and he regularly uses LEGO for modeling. He also teaches, and uses LEGO with his students. Perhaps LEGO is going to carry this set in the same venues as the LEGO Architecture line. Books-stores, museums, and in certain big cities - in Chicago, which is a main hub for architects, you see the LEGO Architecture sets in a lot of places - a lot more than in other cities.

    Anyhow, it is an interesting experiment for sure. And if someone is into white LEGO elements, it would be a good way to get them - as you pointed out in your price-comparison. ;)

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    1. Interesting to hear those initial details of the book. I'd have made it a good mix of architects and AFOLs writing for it - so that good connection techniques are plentiful. Although I guess TLG would have been keen that techniques were kept limited, to avoid illegal connections and weak structural techniques.

      I went to an exhibition/build event once where about a dozen architecture firms had been given 21005 Fallingwater and asked to create their own building. The overriding memory I will never be able to delete from my consciousness is that one firm's effort was to build the original model then put it in an oven to partially melt it. Yes, interesting concept on a number of levels, but you just lost my attention right there. Not cool, guys. >:O(

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    2. Actually, despite the disturbing image that will haunt me forevermore, I will post a link to those re-models as the various approaches were frankly quite thought-provoking. Click with care, kids.

      https://inspirationalgeek.wordpress.com/2011/09/12/lego-architecture/

      (I was wrong, they didn't all use Fallingwater.)

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  4. I'll be picking up as many of these as I can lay my hands on. A monochrome parts pack: Yay!

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    1. Interesting! How big is your collection at the moment - i.e. do you see this as a good way to establish a fledgling collection, or a simple way to boost a large collection with parts you know are useful?

      Would/do you spend the same money buying your own selections of individual elements? Is the packaging sealing the deal for you here? Just interested in people's motivations for purchasing this unusual set.

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    2. My collection is roughly 250k parts. I am often looking for a useful combination of monochrome elements, and being stymied by the fact that, even with a collection this size, it is difficult to do. TLG makes obtaining large amounts of architecturally-useful monochrome parts a pain in the butt, even via the PAB wall or the boxes worth of PAB stock you can get if you ask at the stores. And it doesn't seem like the Taj is getting re-released.

      Now if only they would produce similar architectural parts packs in other colors, as well... I'd snap up the same set in black, bley or tan in a heartbeat. Beats buying Orthanc for the black bits, and ending up with all the excess stuff (minifigs, the what is that... an Ent?, etc.). I'd also like to see curved elements, but hey, this is a start, so I intend to support their efforts in this direction. Maybe there will be successor sets with arches, cylinders, inverted tiles and so forth. Props to TLG for starting down this road.

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    3. Ideally, TLG should make it possible to buy a box worth of any part currently in production, with price breaks for increased sizes bulk orders, just like any other industry. I never understood why they create this false scarcity.

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    4. I suspect it's largely down to keeping the business focused on its strengths. Building the infrastructure to support bulk element sales wouldn't be prohibitive by any means but I imagine they don't want to spread themselves too thin by taking the risk of doing something that might not be popular, and I guess could potentially harm set sales a bit too.

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    5. When you consider that the aftermarket parts resellers on Bricklink and BrickOwl can purchase sets at retail, pay sales taxes, manage to make a profit, and *still* undercut LEGO for bulk new parts purchases, something is definitely economically wrong with this picture. In a rational market, it should be *impossible* to obtain parts currently in production more inexpensively than via bulk orders direct from the manufacturer. The aftermarket ought to exist to service collectors of the out of production, or budget purchases of used material... as has always been the case with books or music, for example.

      But I digress from the topic of this post, and perhaps from the blog as a whole as well, so I suppose I should end this rant.

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    6. You're ranting about elements, which is the raison d'ĂȘtre of this blog, so carry on :O)

      We have no control in the situation of course, so as you know there's nothing achieved by ranting but letting off steam. I do think *something* will happen though, maybe just a formalisation of the randomness that is Bricks & Pieces.

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    7. Anyhow, back to the concept of Architecture Studio... In *my* fantasy world, aside from actually having other monochrome color options readily available, there will first be basic structural follow-on packs ranging from 21051 All the Slopes You Could Possibly Ever Need to In Order to Construct a City of Pagodas, and 21052 A Combinatorially-Complete Set of *Curved Tiles* (including Spaghetti Toppers and Circle Sectors) to more stylistically-based ones like Glass & Steel Skyscrapers (this wouldn't probably need any new molds, just a lot of windows, with structural parts in silver plastic, and some chrome, of course... there is *never* enough chrome), Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, Deco, Googie (George Jetson appearing as a contemporaneous CMF), and Furniture parts packs such as All the Chromed Fiddly Bits You Would Ever Need to Furnish an Airport Lobby in the Style of Eero Saarinen).

      Repeat this mantra over and over: More Curves (and Longer), More Tiles and Bigger... and Inverted), More Chrome.

      And when the heck will they wise up and produce plates with studs on both sides? I mean really, how hard can it be?

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    8. Yeah your fantasy world sure is a lovely one. Many of those parts have been suggested and designed on CUUSOO but parts just never get any traction on that site. I intend to write a post about that!!

      And of course the plates with studs on top and bottom have also been suggested on CUUSOO. There is little doubt that TLG have designed these, but they never released them. I understand they tested them with kids (those kids! They'll never know how lucky they were to touch those elements!) but they were a step too far away from the traditional way of LEGO building - kids build from the ground up. They didn't understand building upside-down.

      Whether TLG try again sometime remains to be seen and wished for, but I've seen this question posed to LEGO Designers who always say; forget it, it ain't gonna happen. But they say it nicely.

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    9. I still (probably naively) hold out hope for the double-sided plate, because they are including unprecedented quantities of SNOT parts in the new kits aimed at kids, from Friends to Chima and everywhere else in between. And also... inverted tiles AT LAST!

      But there are geometries I build that simply can't be done properly in system without double-sided plates. I kludge a solution by using the smallest Technic axle pieces to join bricks base-to-base, but it forces everything to have to scale UP in size. Sorry, no micro-building for me when I do these things, and it's all because of their stubborn refusal to make a part that at least some of their competitors have no problem putting out. I'm not even asking for a female-female brick, though that would be nice too. The double sided plate is more fundamental to LEGO geometric subdivision, and hence more necessary. Indeed, if they made these, at least some of the new spate of SNOT parts wouldn't even be required.

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    10. Oh, yes, and I in my enthusiasm for curved tiles, I forgot angle-cut tiles. Basically, I want to be able to top any brick or plate with an appropriately-cut set of tiles. Buildings don't have studs sticking out all over the place.

      And in the absence of the double-sided plate, the scaling-UP effect causes me to have to consume *quadruple* the quantity of tiles I otherwise would need, making ready access to ridiculous quantities of 2x2 tiles in any conceivable color what is usually my prime obsession. I buy them by the boxload when I can, which isn't often enough, and which leaves me a very limited palette. So far, the only colors I've been able to get boxes of have been red, yellow, dark tan and light bley. Bleh. Boxes in basic black and white, at minimum, would be appreciated.

      And just forget it when it comes to 1x1 tiles, which I could (no joke) consume in the thousands, along with 1x2 tiles jumpers in matching colors. At least the set about which this blog post is speaking, if purchased in mass quantities, as I intend to do, will provide untold numbers of those little buggers in white, which is the best choice if I can only have one.

      By the same token, the color palette available to my creations is largely determined by what color tiles I can obtain in sufficient numbers. So...

      [tantrum]I wanna box of 2x2 pearl gold tiles! Waaah! Mommy![/tantrum]

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    11. Re: "their stubborn refusal to make a part that at least some of their competitors have no problem putting out". I think if you made that point to TLG, their answer would be that LEGO is better than them clones, and one reason is that they research how kids construct and act upon findings. As far as TLG are concerned, the fact they don't release this part is a wise and lengthily researched decision. I'd freaking EXPLODE to see it in sets, but have to graciously bow to their expertise in developing children's toys. And take solace in the joy of working within the constraints that the non-infinite System presents.

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    12. Re: "I want to be able to top any brick or plate with an appropriately-cut set of tiles." Now, here, I predict you'll stand a much greater chance of getting what you'd like. Having trawled through all the new elements released in the 2013 summer wave as I research posts, I was struck by the overwhelming presence of two things. a) New colours via Friends. Make sense - they have some catchup to do with "girls' colours". b) Lotsa bows. I've already blogged once about new bows but actually left many out otherwise I'd have been there all day. I feel quietly confident it is a category of new parts that will continue to grow.

      That said, LEGO are proud of their stud. As I've blogged, it's a critical aspect of their Brand. I was genuinely surprised to see them release 98138 Flat Tile 1X1 Round. And very very happy too. So maybe they ain't quite so precious no more.

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    13. Yes, Lego IS better than "them clones" (ignoring for the moment that Lego itself apparently started its brick line as a clone brand). But sometimes a good company can simply be wrong, and stubborn about it moreover. I believe this is such a case.

      And maybe they know it as well, but are taking their time, slowly evolving the kiddos' mental maps. They certainly are seeding larger numbers of SNOT building parts than ever before into the kids' sets. They teach SNOT building in the first MBA kit, and steadily continue to use and point it out thereafter. And the second MBA kit, on microbuilding, promotes reconceptualizing the uses of all sorts of dinky parts beyond the obvious. Maybe the idea is to free the kids from thinking of bricks as even *having* an "up" and a "down," but simply being elements that join however and wherever you properly can (the AFOL mindset). Having accomplished this, there is arguably no reason *not* to release the double-sided plate, if there ever really was.

      But you are right here about the exciting efflorescence of great new elements in recent kits: Friends, Chima and elsewhere. It's a very cool time to be collecting. And a very timely time to be starting this truly enjoyable blog. Kudos to you for having the vision to do this.

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    14. Re: "they research how kids construct and act upon findings"

      Galidor.
      Ben 10.

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    15. And take it straight from a kid who really gets it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s31GDlH_NDM

      TLG is not infallible, any more than Apple or any other company cum religion.

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    16. I'm not suggesting TLG are perfect or beyond criticism, just bringing what information I know of to the table. We have no influence over the parts TLG release, so I prefer to seek to understand their mindset and enjoy using what does get released. Your last comments are moving away from elements into Themes, so I won't comment on that, there's plenty of places to discuss those already! :O)

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    17. Re: "Your last comments are moving away from elements into Themes"

      Well, sort of... though that actually wasn't my point, which I failed to articulate clearly. All three of those instances involved the "dumbing down" of building techniques, and you can hear that kid, in his juvenile way, explain why doing this is wrong-headed, despite the focus groups or whatever.

      FWIW, I personally don't really care about themes. I care about parts. That's why I'm here.

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  5. Oh, and one more thing... This Architecture line is presumably aimed at ADULTS with an interest in (and possibly a profession of) architecture or related engineering discipline, and whom, one would hope (especially given that these people actually are responsible for REAL buildings and other critical objects in the real world) have the intellectual capacity to understand how to use a double-sided plate!

    If TLG thinks kids can't handle the double-sided plate, then just don't put it in a kiddie set! But *this* line, or anything rated 14+ (and I am being very conservative here, knowing younger kids who do very intellectually advanced things) ought to contain this part.

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    1. Sets aimed at adults are still a significant minority of what LEGO release and moulds are a significant investment. You just don't many (or any?) new parts in 'adult' sets. TLG are also sensitive that kids will nevertheless play with the adult models too - proof of this are that Architecture instructions are still a very 'step by step hand-holding' affair. In short, if they add a new part to System, they're adding it to System and not some uncontrolled 'adult System'.

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    2. I think you're mostly right about that. All the activity in mold development seems to be concentrated well below 14+, though Technic produces new molds, albeit at a greatly diminished pace from System. And we get a new version of the Mindstorms computer every few years... both subsystems of the Lego universe requiring significantly more mental energy than the lowly double-sided plate.

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  6. The set of slopes required for good architectural models must be extended to be smooth and to slope directly from the base, without the slight raise that simulates shingles.

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    1. I have never examined this, but my gut reaction is that it would not be physically possible to avoid the height of the stud that the piece is attached to. Even Modulex had the little rise you refer to, which would have been the obvious opportunity to avoid this if they could.

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    2. I think it's fairly likely that the reason (other than the shingles effect) that they don't do this is because it would create sharpish edges. It's probably a safety issue, like projectiles.

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  7. I'll be attending tomorrow night here in Queens, NYC (Fresh Meadows B&N) and am looking forward to an aspect of building I don't normally get into. Just wish I hadn't run out of business cards for the LUG, again =-)

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  8. Just bought mine in long beach, CA.

    I was the only attendee for the event so they weren't willing to bring out product etc for me to play with but I did get to review the set and a manager printed a few pages from her preview copy of the book.

    That enabled me to make a decision on the $150 investment...

    So far, so good. I like the pieces provided, the quantities, and the high production value of the set. The book is gorgeous and at 272 pages quite the tome. As an architecture nut, I love it.

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    1. Lucky they didn't cancel the event! - others did due to few registrations. I read of someone attending a busy event but even they didn't get to handle the book. Weird given it was a bookstore!... and very dumb to have denied folks the opportunity to see what they were getting.

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  9. Reviews are beginning to emerge across fan sites and I'm especially enjoying the pics of the inside of the booklet in these reviews on FBTB and The Brick Blogger. FBTB have also confirmed that TLG's ongoing quality issue with colours coming in a variety of shades plagues this set too. Very sad, but not unexpected.

    http://www.fbtb.net/2013/07/29/review-21050-studio/
    http://thebrickblogger.com/2013/07/lego-architecture-studio-set-review/

    In Eurobricks' review, Jim Butchers says "opening the box was a bit of a challenge since there were no punch-holes or flaps. The only way to open it would be to rip the cardboard partially". This upsets me greatly. Can any New Elementary readers confirm or deny this?

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    1. The FBTB reviewer has confirmed the box can be opened without causing any damage :O)

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  10. There will be make it a French release ?

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    1. I don't know. So far, it is USA only and is not listed on European Shop@Home sites.

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  11. BrickSet has the inventory: http://brickset.com/detail/inventory/?set=21050-1

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  12. I cracked open my first copy of this set yesterday, and can corroborate the observation made elsewhere that the white is noticeably variable from a beigish to a bluish cast under ordinary light. I haven't had enough time to do much with the set yet other than sort parts, but in the process of doing so noticed that one of the bricks (I think it was one of the 1-wide slopes) came in two different mold variants. It isn't anything that makes a functional difference, but it contributes to the impression (which the color variability plants in your head) that the set is a sumptuously packaged collection of remainder parts.

    Speaking of sumptuous packaging, the book is lovely, as everyone has noted, though perhaps not overwhelmingly useful (like many architecture books, which are often enough long on puff and short on real utility). And given that one copy of this set isn't enough to do much significant building, I think this book will be found on the aftermarket in plentiful quantities in due time; but it will also probably hold at a decent price point, as it is a nice artifact in its own right.

    Proof of the need for multiples of the set comes in the form of the one thing I *did* do with it yesterday, while messing around with it for a short time after the sort, which was to make a white grout underlay for a diagonally-tiled floor. I ran out of 1x2 jumpers before I could finish, and the result is tiny: it fits in a 6x10 enclosure -- not even the 6x12 that would have completed the pattern -- and, of course, the colored 2x2s placed diagonally over the top came from elsewhere.

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    1. Which mould variant did you come across? Just interested as my latest post has been delayed today when I spotted at the last minute a mould variation of the 1X3 inverted slope! Grr

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    2. Sorry... I've been busy for the past few days, and just now got a chance to grub through the parts bags to answer this question. It's the 4286 slope.

      As I said, the mold variance has no impact on ordinary sane parts usage: the little post on the underside is solid on most of them, but a few are hollow. I haven't checked, but perhaps you could perversely attach a Friends hair accessory to those.

      Meanwhile, I think I'm warming up to the book. I'll report back after I have the chance to spend more time with it.

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  13. Also, apart from the lack of a parts separator, (which would be more generally useful than the sorting bins, which are, let's face it, inadequate to the task of sorting the number of elements in this set, and just end up taking up valuable space in the box after rebagging the parts) the other serious oversight is the complete absence of white SNOT brackets. And *that* is puzzling, given that the set is pitched 16+. Granted, none of this is news, since the inventory has been available for some time now, but still, it makes you wonder. And yes, there are SNOT bricks in a few varieties, but it doesn't quite make up for the lack of brackets. Given the generous quantity of SNOT brackets in kids' sets nowadays, it doesn't seem like it would have been a really big deal to throw some in.

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    1. It's a good point. Given the precision needed in architecture plus the fact LEGO bricks aren't based on a perfect cube like Modulex was, brackets would have been great. I guess they had to make some tough decisions around balance of quantities versus range of parts when meeting the price point.

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    2. It's not just a precision issue. A number of realistic building facades are just plain cumbersome (at best) to put together without them.

      Again, TLG is pitching 16+, to an audience with at minimum a strong interest in architecture. People will want to build cool buildings. They will need brackets. They will need all kinds of hinges. They will most certainly need the new ball & socket plates that are coming in Mixels, even if they don't know it yet. If they are interested in architecture as practiced since the 1990s, they will be frustrated with the paucity of bows and inverted bows, or any other mechanisms for creating large-scale curvatures. Not to mention *white* inverted tiles, or my fantasy inverted jumpers.

      Will TLG follow this set with extensions and/or variations? I sure hope so, but some of these elements are so basic to architectural MOCing that you've got to wonder why they were neglected in Studio Mark I.

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  14. I have used this set as inspiration for my own "30-day challenge" in which I am coming up with 30 Lego-building challenges based on this set that I've been trying to build in about 30 days.

    LINK: http://tomalphin.com/2013/10/lego-architecture-studio-30-day-challenge.html

    (So far I've completed 18 challenges!)

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