6 May 2014
House of bricks
Today I cracked open 4000010 LEGO® House and figured I'd review it - given that the set is not readily available, has a rather interesting inclusion, and of course to shoehorn in a reminder that New Elementary's LEGO House competition closes in 9 days! Fret not - I didn't open the copy sent by the Community and Events Engagement Team which remains safely mint in sealed box for the winner. It's another copy I bought on a recent trip to Billund, which is the only town on Planet Earth where the set has been made available for sale. This limited release is a gesture from The LEGO Group (TLG) to local businesses, in light of the disruption being exacted in the centre of town to construct the real LEGO House which will be a museum, or rather an "interactive experience centre" in modern-day parlance. When I was there, the last of the existing buildings on the site were being torn down.
The concept, design and packaging of the set all mirror that of LEGO's Architecture theme, however it isn't branded as such. That's good news for any of you completist Architecture fans out there unable to get hold of a copy. The other major difference is the inclusion of a minifig; clearly aimed at making the set attractive to a wider audience as - being taller than the building itself - it's wholly out of scale! It's a basic white minifigure, the only exclusivity being a torso with the building's name on the front and a LEGO logo on the back.
Architecture sets of this size typically focus on famous buildings, so given that LEGO House is virtually unknown, this build is more about discovery than wallowing in nostalgia about that nice expensive holiday you went on.
Like Architecture sets, the build commences by creating a custom base from large plates, with a row of black tiles around the edges. Unusually this set doesn't create the entire base immediately; it gets added as building progresses. That certainly made the initial handling of the model easier for me, since I tend to build in my hands rather than on a flat surface! The final base measures 18X20 studs - larger than I was anticipating for a 250 piece model; but then it isn't very tall, being shaped more like a ziggurat.
As you might expect, the build is not at all challenging - no SNOT work needed - but I found it very pleasant. The interesting aspect to the build is learning some of the ethos behind the building's concept. The architects are called BIG, founded by Bjarke Ingels; a 39 year-old architect from Copenhagen who is a self-professed LEGO fan (and has even used it to illustrate conceptual buildings before). Aside from topping LEGO House with a "keystone" in the shape of the classic 2X4 brick, he and his team avoided going down the route of shaping the whole building precisely like LEGO bricks. Instead they ran with the more generic concept of interlocking, and have designed a complex made of 21 intersecting blocks of various shapes. This becomes apparent in the build as you begin to realise parts of the building overhang empty space and that there is a large interior public square; something which was not immediately obvious from the box art. So building this set actually taught me about the building. Which means, not only is this a model made of LEGO bricks of a museum about LEGO bricks, but you're also "learning through playing" with a model of a museum dedicated to learning through playing. This is so meta.
The finished model is not a stunning display piece, although is far more attention-grabbing if you rest it tilted against a wall. The nicest thing to do with it is peer at it up close and rotate in your hands. The building's design is slightly asymmetrical and the structure clearly permeable, the latter being a stated aim of the architects so it's nice to see that the model reflects this.
Overall, the interest in this set lies in its place in LEGO's future history and its exclusivity, so I imagine it will largely appeal to one's desire to collect. The set costs 149 Danish Kroner (about US$27.70/GB£16.50) but of course, secondary market prices are vastly higher. If you're simply after the experience of building it from your own bricks, that's quite possible if you're happy to supplement the printed and the Trans-Clear tiles. Only problem being, the instructions have not (at time of writing anyway) been added to TLG's online repository of manuals. But CopMike's review on Eurobricks has many pictures of the build steps, the inventory page, and you can also enjoy his pictures of the detailed blurb in the instruction book. Brickset's inventory for the set lists all the parts except the special torso.
It's unknown how many copies of the set will be made available, and I guess it's possible it will also go on sale in the gift shop of the finished LEGO House in 2016. Or perhaps the rumours that a larger version will be released are true - although presumably not as big as this seemingly minifig-scale version of LEGO House that lucky members of Dutch fan club De Bouwsteen got to see on a recent trip to Billund!