So, senatus populusque romanus, let us now delve into the actual model and the building process.
Act II. – The Build
Bags 1 to 9 build the foundation of the Colosseum, the base plate, and the hypogeum – the underground basement of the amphitheater with a complicated system of ramps, shelters, cages, and lifts in which gladiators, criminals or animals were kept before their ‘show’.
The base consists of two identical halves, which are connected in the middle by several Technic pins. You need a lot of finesse, fine motor skills and patience to connect these halves due to their length.
At a later point you need to get some reddish-brown pin clamps in position, which was exceedingly difficult for me as I found there was not enough space for my fingers. Given the significant frustration, I recommend lifting the base and clicking the clamp from above and below.
After the first bag you can already estimate the size of this model, just by looking at the rudimentary base still missing its rounded edges.
Next are the edges that form the rounded frame, fixed with brackets – a lot of brackets! The frame consists of many different types of slopes and brings me to two further points of critique. One is minor, the other (at least for me) significant.
Regarding the minor one: the rounded shape which imitates the oval footprint of the Colosseum appears somewhat blocky at some points. This is an issue one could only solve by using a larger number of different slopes and a more complicated ground construction of the base.
The major issue for me: the edges of the frame. They are constructed with tiles, and are not aesthetically pleasing to my eye. At the beginning, when the model consists of just the base, this issue is not that grave but when gazing at the finished model, this immediately becomes apparent as it distorts the harmony of the otherwise well-designed oval shape. This issue could be solved easily by using curved slopes, as I show below left.
Nonetheless, there is a remarkably interesting and clever use of slopes at the edges of the long side of the ellipse.
I was initially perplexed by this design choice but soon recognised its function as a handle: it makes grabbing and lifting the model much easier.
Instantly practical for the finished base, this handle becomes a necessity for the finished model which is immensely heavy.
If you are wondering what those Tan round plates are supposed to represent, they appear to indicate the location of arches of the outer wall / arcades now no longer in existence.
I would have preferred them to be square to achieve a better transition to the still-existing arches.
It is finally time to turn to building the first real parts of the Colosseum. The stands of the inner wall come in bags 10 to 21.
The inner wall is constructed as 2 quarter-ovals, consisting of 9 elements, which are connected in the middle and the ends. Except for some minor details, there is not much variety between these elements; there are basically just two different, alternating sub-models.
This scheme is repeated on the outer wall segments, bags 22 to 38, with its arcades on the opposite side as well. As a total of 29 bags follow a similar basic structure, the steps you must take to grow the model are repetitive. This comes as no surprise: everyone who is acquainted with the original and looks at the box knows what to expect. However, through repeated following of the steps of each segment – between 20 and 40 times – you soon feel like you could build it in your sleep (in my case, the fact I built this model in 20.5 hours over just a two-day timespan may have contributed to this).
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed building the outer wall, not only because of the many aforementioned details but also because you get a real feeling of just how majestic this model is as you connect one segment to another.
Like all other individual segments, those of both the inner and outer wall are connected by Mixel-joint elements. Once more, TLG shows how versatile these elements are. I nevertheless would second the remarks Jonas Kramm made a while ago in his Monkey King Warrior Mech review that Mixel-joints in other colours would be a really great addition.
On most parts of the assembled Colosseum, these Light and Dark Bluish Gray elements blend in well with the overwhelming amount of Tan and Dark Tan: those colours go well together. Only on the arcades and on the inside part of the top attic can you swiftly spot them, which slightly disturbs the eye of the viewer.
While, as mentioned before, the outer wall with the arcades is built upon the same schematics using two alternating segments, the redundancy factor is not that high due to the larger individual segments and the increase in various details you have in each of those segments – e.g. the different styles of columns, the variation of patterns on the top attic or the many individual ruined edges you can spot at the top or the inside of the top attic wall.
As I already mentioned in my parts review, one of my personal highlights are the columns – especially the Ionic ones on the second story of the arcades. It is as if the minifigure roller skate part had been moulded specifically for this purpose!
What I also like is the use of the window panels, placed sideways, in the top attic. Though you do not really identify these as arches on first sight, it creates a very subtle effect.
Nonetheless I have to make some minor remarks about the arcades, with the fair warning that this is merely a nitpick coming from me as a historian and someone who has dedicated a lot of time to transferring the Colosseum from reference into LEGO form. The first, and minor of both points, is that I am not 100 percent satisfied with the design of the Corinthian column on the third story.
|Right image: Converted to PNG and optimised by w:User:stw., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons|
Of the three classical column orders (Doric, Ionic and Corinthian), all of which are represented in the Colosseum in its three stories of arcades, the Corinthian columns are the most ornate. One major characteristic is the elaborate capitals, decorated with Acanthus leaves. These leaves are not visible in the LEGO version, but could have been easily represented.
Instead of using 2x Plate Round 1 x 1 with Open Stud, a recolour of the 1x1 flower plate (the 4-petal 33291, or its 5-petal modern replacement 24866) in Dark Tan would have achieved this look.
|Right image: Carole Raddato from FRANKFURT, Germany, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons|
My second remark on the arcades may also fall under architectural nitpicking but is more obvious upon a closer look. The inside width of the arches on the three stories is too narrow, at just two modules. The margin from arch to arch, with the column in the middle, at three modules is too wide. In the scale used in the model, the ratio of 2:3 should be reversed to be faithful to the original.
On the finished model, this has the effect that the side with the arcades appears a bit bulky and blocky and does not exhibit the elegance of its original counterpart. Nevertheless, it is a clean and aesthetically pleasing solution either way.
I previously made the remark that the Colosseum is just a bunch of arch bricks. Each segment is constructed by multiples of various arch elements and about half of them constitute the arches visible on the outer wall or inside the arena. The other half are used, as in the original Colosseum, as stabilisation of the structure.
They are visible during the construction of the individual segments, which gives the impression of a cross-section. One also gains a deeper appreciation of the craftsmanship and elaborate architecture of the Roman Empire.
Once assembled in the finished model, you may still find these arches if you look closer into the inner wall or the arcades on the outer wall.
This is most evident at the transition from inner to outer wall / arcades – the stage side in particular shows this most clearly. This is also my favourite perspective of the LEGO Colosseum and in general a very popular angle of the original for photographs. Truly the Roman amphitheatre its best!
What I really love is that regardless whichever perspective you are gazing from, you always see one, two, or seemingly countless arches. Aside from the fact that it is true to its reference, this aspect provides you with an immense feeling of depth and truly underlines the colossal effect of this model!
The last two bags, 39 and 40, bring in some final details, the platform above the hypogeum and the trees and cars outside of the Colosseum.
Though neither trees nor cars are to be found directly outside of the real Colosseum, it adds a genuinely nice touch to the finished model and emphasises the scale.
If I were to describe the building process in one word, it would be ‘repetitive’; if I should describe the outcome, it would be ‘colossal’! With this recent addition to the world building series, the Colosseum can rightfully claim its place as the largest LEGO set ever released.
In conclusion, this set delivered pretty much all that I expected from it. The booklets have a good introduction into the historical matter, but the instruction design is in some points difficult to read. The edge of the base plate looks unpleasant to my eye, because of its blocky character. My biggest criticisms are the Corinthian columns and the column-to-arch ratio on the arcades. I am well aware that due to my background as an ancient historian and AFOL who dedicated a lot of time to an Architecture-style version of the Colosseum, I am probably just biased and nitpicking, but these points mean my overall impression is not 100 percent happiness.
Even though the finished product is beautiful in its own right, I am not sure if I will keep this model on display forever, as I initially intended. Maybe I will sort the parts into my inventory to use for other historical models; a thought I honestly did not expect to have, because I was very excited and eager to have this model.
This brings me to a final point: For many AFOLs out there this set may be more interesting to buy just for the parts. Though there are not many new recolours and no new moulds, the staggering amount of Tan and Dark Tan in various moulds is tempting to use in any way you can think of.
Though it is repetitive for most of the construction process, if you bring the patience required to the task you will be rewarded with an absolutely beautiful model! Perhaps if I had built it over a timespan of several days, this may have helped to dissipate the feeling of repetition.
Through a lengthy service in this arena with some occasional struggles and fights here and there, you will prevail and earn victory, glory and a favourable turn of thumb from your emperor!
|©2020 The LEGO Group|
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