The builds usually also contain stuff you wouldn't see in a regular kids' set, and hopefully these next few posts will highlight what sets Architecture apart for me. In this post I'm looking at 21019 The Eiffel Tower which was officially released on January 1, although it has been available for a few weeks in France.
I was pretty excited to receive it and couldn't wait to throw it together...(roll over for audio button. Click to pause.)
The vast majority of the elements in the set are Light Bluish Gray [BL]/Medium Stone Grey [TLG], so it should be welcomed as a parts pack for the many who like to build in that colour. Architecture sets often come with some elements in large quantities, but there are very few examples here. The only one of real note are the 30 Flat Silver [BL]/Silver Metallic [TLG] grille tiles but you may be happy about the 12 Dark Green [BL]/Earth Green [TLG] 2X2 tiles as these are still uncommon. There are 24 1X1 plates in Light Bluish Gray which I know is hardly big news, but I'm always glad to see these in good quantities, since square 1X1s are often rejected by set designers in favour of the round versions (as they're simpler to apply and remove).
As for rare elements, part 32200 in Flat Silver is rarest having only been in three previous sets and not seen since 2005. That's the curved soft flexible hose in the shape of an axle, with bars as connectors at either end. More on these later.
Next rarest is the solitary 4X4 round plate with a 2X2 hole in Light Bluish Gray, which is also my favourite element in the set. It's only appeared in this colour in three sets prior to this one. At first it seems like a strange inclusion because a 2X2 round plate is placed in the hole - why not just use a regular 4X4 round plate? Because of course those have a round hole in the centre, whereas this arrangement has an axle hole, required here for stability.
There's also two Black 2x14 plates which, it may surprise you, only came into being in 2012 and have been in just four sets prior to this one.
If there was an awards category for Most Appropriate Use of an Existing Element, in this set it would go to the Dark Bluish Gray [BL]/Dark Stone Grey [TLG] 8X8 grille plate. Although this part was designed in 1989, it feels like it was born to be used as the first floor of the Eiffel Tower. Magnifique!
Dalek bricks are set at 45° so that the plates with clip can be attached sideways. It's fun to see this all come together section by section.
The arches at the base of the tower are represented with the aforementioned flexible hoses which, visually, I wasn't keen on as they merely seemed a glib stab at suggesting the required shape. However, they do actually perform an important structural task by significantly reducing the looseness caused by the turntables. Without them, the Tower is highly bendy...
And who said Architecture sets don't have play features.
Naturally, the finished model is not highly accurate... because it's about a thousandth smaller in scale and made of LEGO bricks. Replicating real things in microscale presents many challenges and tough choices have to made. For example, you may be choosing between a few different elements to represent a certain architectural feature, none of which are perfect. Should you choose the one closest to the correct proportions? It might not actually capture the right 'feel'. Perhaps the one that gives the best overall look is best - but proves to cause you some tricky connection issues. (These often crop up when you're working in such a small area.) It's all a very tough balancing act, and for those designing an official set, probably the toughest challenge is that it also needs to follow TLG's (secret) rules around legal connections, stability and ease of construction. Not to mention hitting a price point.
So hats off to the Designer, because the finished product is instantly recognisable. Whoever the Designer may be... their name is not given on this set, which is unusual for the Architecture line. Normal LEGO sets do not include the Designer's name because often several will work on one model, plus of course there's a lot more to a set than the person who designed it. But for the Architecture line, the Designer's name was always given and they wrote a few words for the booklet. This is because the Architecture line began life as a special co-production project with an AFOL called Adam Reed-Tucker, who suggested the line to TLG and designed most of the first sets. After Adam (or the later freelance Designers) complete each build, TLG review the design and make the required changes to ensure it fits LEGO's standards, and of course then go on to produce the sets.
So, it's a little puzzling and sad there's no Designer listed on this set. Perhaps there were several... perhaps someone within TLG designed this one... perhaps the line is now successful enough that TLG are bringing it wholly in-house sometime soon? I hope this isn't a sign of things to come as I enjoy the copy written by the Designer, it gives a little insight into the challenges they faced. Which in this case, must have been achieving those clever connection points with limited elements in a small model. It is unusual to see in official sets and finding ways to get that geometry right whilst staying true to the form of the original Tower has translated into a very enjoyable building experience for me. Damn, commercialese works.
My thanks to LEGO's Community and Events Engagement Team for providing this set, and to Ongoose for twerking the Tower.
21019 The Eiffel Tower retails at GB£29.99 / US$34.99.