It features Trafalgar Square (comprising the entrance to the National Gallery, the fountains and Nelson's Column), "Big Ben" (actually Elizabeth Tower and a small section of the Palace of Westminster, the same as is depicted in the previous two Big Ben LEGO sets), the London Eye and Tower Bridge with a boat sailing down the Thames. I asked Rok if he alone gets to choose the landmarks or if it is decided before he starts any work. "It’s a back and forth, it’s quite a dynamic process," Rok explained. "For example, if [a certain landmark] just doesn’t work and you just can’t design it at certain scales, no matter how much Marketing want it, it’s no good. But also vice versa; no matter how much I love a certain landmark and am able to capture it, if it doesn’t have the same visibility as Tower Bridge or Big Ben, you won’t see it in the final product."
The Skylines sub-theme began in January 2016 with three neat, classy sets that introduced a fresh approach for the LEGO Architecture series: multiple landmarks in microscale, compressed into one long thin display model. 21034 London is a little wider — 29cm compared to 25cm for the first three Skylines — and significantly deeper at 8.6cm to accommodate the London Eye at the rear. This additional layer of depth alters the feel of the model, and the shape of the Eye also gives the composition more balance overall, as does the rectangular shape of Tower Bridge. This cluster of icons is beautifully arranged. In the earlier sets, each building has its own distinct place along a line whereas this one feels closer to the kind of compressed, overlapping skyline much like you would find on a souvenir, which is presumably the primary market for these sets, so this is no bad thing.
Before I discuss the build process in more detail, let’s look at the interesting parts that come in this set. There are no brand new parts, of course, as Rok explains. "We’re proud of that in the LEGO Architecture line: that we don’t go creating those specialised elements that could solve any of our issues." A couple of parts are rather new though, and they are in new colours.
The base has two projecting arms, to fit the National Gallery and the London Eye.
Six 2x6 SNOT plates range along the front so that tiles can be placed sideways at the front of the model, as is usual for Skylines sets. Rok explained that they include this long line of tiles not for aesthetic reasons, but structural. Anyone who has built a LEGO Architecture set (or built large areas by sandwiching multiple layers of plate) will have probably experienced 'plate bending', which I think occurs due to minute differences in the dimensions of differently sized plates. This is especially a problem in these sets because the bases are so long and shallow. Adding a line of pieces along a different plane cross-braces the structure.
'legal' by the LEGO Group, for two reasons. One is that you place the Erling down first and then the Technic brick, so the protruding stud of the Erling gets nudged ever-so-slightly. It's not a problem, and clearly would not have been approved if it were; it's just unusual. Secondly, the Technic System is fractionally different to regular LEGO System, in particular that the height of Technic pin holes are not the same as the height at which side-studs are positioned on SNOT bricks. You'd never notice, but they are, and so it is for example not permitted to connect a regular 1x1 SNOT brick with a Technic brick. That's why the Erling surprised me, but as Rok explained, the microscopic geometric differences permit it in this instance. Technic holes have a groove around them to accomodate the ticker middle section of a Technic pin, and the side-stud of the Erling just sits inside the space of that groove.
The completed arrangement is connected with Technic pins at the top, which unfortunately cannot be provided in White to match, as Technic pins are one of the elements that the LEGO Group have 'colour-locked' to avoid confusion during building. Rok pointed out this would not have been necessary had the flex tubes been twice as long to create a full circle, so if it bothers you, you could buy long white flex tubes to achieve this. It was not possible to do it in the official set because they would simply be far too long to fit in a box! "It’s a small compromise; far from being a dealbreaker," said Rok. Ah, the myriad of problems LEGO designers have to consider.
Having a whole chunk of an official set based upon flex tubes is highly unusual, as Rok confirmed. "This is not something that crops up in every set! We did quite a bit of work proving that it actually works, that people are able to put it together — and by people I mean regular people, not lovely LEGO designers." The target age range for this theme also helps unusual building methods to be approved. "We are a bit more focused on the more mature market with the LEGO Architecture line. We can push the envelope, but this doesn’t make us an exception within the LEGO Group; there are of course many things that we all have to do."
Butts", tee hee) are an inventive way to represent the turrets.
ConclusionAs a fan of LEGO Architecture who has lived in London for over two decades, my expectations were high. My first look at the box filled me with more excitement as the way these landmarks are arranged is a really beautiful design. On closer inspection I felt disappointed as it seemed the build was less complex and more "tourist souvenir" than the earlier Skylines sets. Then, upon building it, I was struck more than anything by the wide and original range of techniques and styles offered in the set.
The London Eye will likely prove the most controversial aspect to this model among AFOLs and indeed the OCD gremlin inside of me finds it hard to get over the fact it's not perfectly round. However, the London Eye is a structure that falls into the category of "well, it's a hard thing to represent in LEGO form". The solution here is unusual, original and makes use of the less-traditional connections available in the LEGO System which is to be applauded. Whether LEGO customers actually enjoy building like this remains to be seen. "I’m looking forward to the feedback", Rok told me. "My hope is that fans are looking forward to the advancement."
Overall, this is a nice piece of design and satisfies the target market extremely well. It's a fun and extremely varied build, but might not be to everyone's taste. For those of us aching for "proper" LEGO Architecture sets, the release of 21030 United States Capitol Building earlier this year suggests the line will continue to provide both 'scale model' sets and 'souvenirs'.
Products mentioned in this post were kindly supplied by the LEGO Group. All content represents the opinions of New Elementary authors and not the LEGO Group.
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