LEGO 21050 Book review

Create your own architecture. The motto of the book, which is an inseparable part of the LEGO Architecture Studio. What is the purpose of the book? Does it contain useful information? Should architecture students read it? In this review, I will try to answer these question.

But first, some facts. The book consists of 272 pages and includes 6 main chapters, each with a perspective of one architecture company. Each chapter starts with a brief history of the company and some of their projects, which are explored from different views. This gives us unique insight into what is architecture. Each company focuses on different aspects. Some prefer a pragmatic approach to programming and try to find the most efficient way, how the building can work. Some try to harness quality of light. Others focus on feeling from voids and masses. And there are much more to consider. And architecture is all of that. So as many architects are out there, that many opinions of what architecture is. And that is one of the things I got from this book. All must be considered but no all can be focused on at the same time.

After an introduction, each company shares things, that are important in their design. It is basically a small lecture from the architectural leaders from all around the globe. There are no long paragraphs of text, lectures are distilled to its bare essentials. One could say it is the whole architecture school stripped down to bones.

The penultimate part of each chapter is the exploration. There is an exercise with bricks, connected to the world of architecture. During these explorations, we can learn about scale, space and section, modules and repetition, a design toolssurface, mass and density and symmetry.

At the end of each chapter, exploration exercise is given to the design team of each architecture company. This consist of pictures, how different people, given the same exercise, reacted and what did they build. There are also quotes and other reflections about bricks, and how they cdesign tools.

And at the very end of the book, there is a short guide of few brick building techniques. However, there is very few of them and every curious mind can think of much more possibilities of what can be done with that collection of brick, tiles, plates and other pieces.

I would say one of the purposes of this book is definitely to encourage exploring through the bricks. When one sees how architects played with bricks and what they made, the immediate reaction is: oh, I can do that as well. When adults face a creative problem, the often feel fear. What if what I create is not good enough? Small children, however, do not fear, they just create. And we all need to learn how to be kids again. Kids do not see constraints as adults do.

As I already said, the book covers only the essentials, which is both good and bad. It can give you a creative headstart. Then, you are on your own. You are responsible for your creations. Be bold. And if you want to know more, there is huge number of other books which can share more views on a topic of architecture.

I would recommend this set and book for everyone interested in architecture, everyone who likes to make things with their own hands and explore. You are not guaranteed to be next F. L. Wright after reading this, but it is a good start.

Happy reading



LEGO 21050 Architecture Studio review

At first, I wanted to do a proper, objective and non-biased review. I can’t. I am so excited about this set! So many possibilities! And because this is my blog and I can do whatever I want, I will do the review my way.

I spent past few days with architecture studio. And whenever I had a spare hour or two I sat at my table and played with it. I spent a long time sorting everything, and the re-sorting it again and again. No idea why I did it. But that’s how I work, everything needs to have its place. By the way, I am still not satisfied with my sorting system, and the two plastic sorting trays and three cardboard trays are definitely not enough. I had to search through my things, to find as many boxes of different sizes as I could. And I have bricks sorted only to groups (plates/tiles/bricks/slopes etc.).

On the other hand, that is probably the only downside I could find during this review period. I started with reading the book and occasionally stopped to try something that came to my mind or just tried to build examples from the book.

Below you can see the building from the cover of the box. That was one of the first things I made. Just a quick build which outlined one of the possibilities. Massing study. To me, this building looks like a modern villa, sharp and expressive. One can imagine what spaces it contains, who is it for or where should it be located.

Second build included in the book. This exercise encouraged taking inspiration from around you and try to replicate it in a form of a building. Lego team took a bird as an inspiration. And one can really see the birdy nature of this structure. For me, this looks like a restaurant somewhere with beautiful views all around, hence the platforms for enjoying views.

Then, one of the exercises in the book was about the scale. What can one brick represent to us? That is only in the eye of a beholder. One brick can be whole city block, one building or a small detail of a door knob if you have enough bricks. And for this task, I have built one street. At first, one building was made from just two bricks. And there were very little details.

And then I doubled the size. At that scale, one can see more details and the building on the left got two different offsets of the facade. The buildings look very similar as they should. However, one brick now represents half the information contained in the first model.

So I decided to zoom on the building with the grilled facade and made it fifty per cent bigger. At this scale, one can see details of the street, the gaps between grills and penthouse glass facade on the top.

And if I wanted and had enough bricks, I could have made just an apartment or focus on the penthouse on top. We are the masters of the scale here.

One of the possibilities how to represent a building is a section. This can also be done with bricks. Maybe architecture is not about what there is, but what there is not. We occupy the void in space, so voids might be more important than elements surrounding you.

And when I was away, my girlfriend made this playful herd of sheep. She used to build these when she was a little kid. You need five bricks for a sheep. Fair.

And how about to explore the modular design with bricks? The brick itself is an example of module. What if we replicate them several times? Stack them on top of each other? Next to? Module can help with both the design and execution. I made a tower out of nine same modules and then I modified them.

Still same core module. Each of them slightly changed. Structural parts remain, details have changed. Variety in uniformity.

And what about texture? Smooth, rough, bumpy, swirling, soft, sharp. Bricks can do a lot.

Experiment with different textures.

But the question everybody wants an answer to. Can it really be used as a design tool or is it just an overpriced toy? One of my favourite quotes can give us an answer. Every tool is just as clever as is its user. Bricks are not omnipotent, but with the right mindset, they are just as useful as sketching by hand or massing in any 3D software. It can be used as an initial study model just efficiently as foamcore, exploring programming, visualization of ideas or outlet to kickstart your brain into creative mode. I have a sketchbook for ideas, whatever clever pierces my skull, I catch it. And during this playful time with studio, I reached for my sketchbook many times. The ideas were only tangentialy connected to bricks, they were more of a general ideas that might be explored and they were not ntertwined with my models. However, it shows that my brain got into creative mode, and that is damn hard thing to do. Being creative is pretty hard job. New and useful ideas are scarce. Studio can help.

Therefore, architecture enthusiasts, and even architecture companies should get a box. One never knows when it can come handy. It is not for every project and it is up to you to know when to use it and for what. And if you keep an open mind, you might get an interesting answer to your questions from a box of bricks.

Happy designing


LEGO 21050 Architecture Studio – First impression

This week on Life of a Constructing Architect will be focused on Architecture Studio. The set number 21050 has been waiting for me patiently for a month. And now, with the exams behind me, I could finally open it. Architecture studio is not a standard set. The sets are called sets, because it is a collection of specific bricks, which can form what the designers intended. The one official build. You are certainly encouraged to experiment, try your own creations and modify. However this set has no official form. It is like one of those creative boxes for young kids, only this one is for kids who pay bills and taxes.

The first thing that pops out when you open the package is the book. That is another thing that makes this set unique. Some of sets, especially from the architecture line, contain a short booklet about the building, before the building instructions. But here, you are getting full 270 pages long book about architecture. And this book cannot be bought separetely. Edited by Christopher Turner in collaboration with many famous architectural practices from around the world. MVRDV, SOM, REX, Safdie architects, Sou Fujimoto, Tham & Videgaard, MAD and KRADS architects, all of these left a mark in this book. However I will probably make a separete review just for the book itself. So let’s focus on bricks.

You are greeted by 15 bags, which are filled with 1210 bricks. At first it did not look like a big number. And then I started to sort the bricks. When you take each type of brick to your hand, count it and sort it, it suddenly feels like huge number.

I spent around two hours just sorting the bricks. I wanted to know what do I have at my disposal. It was so tranquil just take each brick to hand and relocate it to the box. There are many different kinds and all in them are white. It is important to focus only on the shapes, volumes and textures and not the colors.

And at the end of the day. Every brick was counted and sorted. Now I know what can I use and I can start reading the book and building. And after I will spend some time with it. I will write a proper review both for the book and the set itself.

And here is the whole studio sorted. The only color in the sea of white and transparent is the bright orange brick separator.



Modular Odyssey – LEGO

Loved by both kids and adults, the LEGO is one of the most popular toys in the world. Millions of bricks are sold each month. It is estimated that by the year 2019 there will be more LEGO Minifigures in the world than people.  The LEGO is a phenomenon.

And I have to say that I am glad it is like that. The system of LEGO is spectacular. It is a relatively simple concept. Moulded plastic bricks which interlock with one another. One would say nothing special. However, the possibilities this concept unlocks are endless. And that is why the LEGO is the leader. For young developing minds of children, this is a blessing. They are improving both their imagination and motoric skills. For the smallest children, there is a Duplo line, which features bigger bricks. Followed by LEGO Juniors with easy builds for the youngest, then Creator and other. End the spectrum ends with Architecture and bigger models from Creator line or Technic line, those are suitable for older children and for adults as well.  Everyone can find the interest of their own and if not, they can just build whatever they want. And then disassemble it and build again. Your imagination is your boundary.

And since this post is part of Modular odyssey. I would like to show the most iconic brick. This is a basic 2×4 brick. The measurment in the LEGO world is the stud. This red brick has 2 by 4 studs. The module height of each brick is 9,6 mm and base of each stud measures 8 by 8 mm. This gives the brick the height to length ratio of exactly 6:5.

Slimmer bricks are called plates. They are 1/3 of a brick high. That is 3,2 mm. Therefore if there are three on top of each other, they have the height of the basic module.

The bottom part of a LEGO brick. The three holes in the middle are called tubes.

Because of them it is possible not only to place other brick or plate on the edge according to the module.

But you can also create an offset in two directions. That is an example of advanced building techniques. And there are many more of them.

But are the possibilities really endless? Søren Eilers from the University of Copenhagen made a computer algorhytmn, which task was to count the number of possible combinations of arranging six basic 2×4 bricks. The number is 915,103,765. Therefore given only six most iconic and basic LEGO bricks, the possibilities are endless to human perception. And most of the LEGO sets contain hundreds of pieces. It is impossible to imagine what could be built with those numbers. And yet, there are employees of LEGO who do exactly this. They have access to  myriad of LEGO pieces in many possible shapes and many colours and their job is to invent new LEGO sets, since each LEGO set is only produced for a limited amount of time. There are many new sets each year and many are retired each year. And each of these sets is because there was an idea, how to limit this near-infinite amount of possibilities to create a representation of some particular theme.

Do you have a secrete LEGO stash somewhere? I do!

Happy assembling


Amazing day in LEGOland 

The weather was amazing last week, so my girlfriend and I decided spontaneously to visit the birthplace of LEGO. The birthplace of LEGO is a town of Billund in the middle of Denmark, and that is about 30km from the town we live in. 

When we arrived, we were amazed. So much LEGO bricks everywhere, so much sun and at the entrance, song ‘Everything is awesome’ from The LEGO movie was playing. We were overwhelmed by the beauty. Everything was so bright and amazing. Great place to be even for twenty years old kids as us.

We started our tour at the true heart of the LEGOland. The heart of every LEGOland is the Miniland, park with LEGO models of various sizes. In Billund we have seen Billund airport.

Famous Copenhagen street, Nyhavn.

Port of Copenhagen.

Dioramas from Star Wars.

And much more. There was a Kennedy space center, skyscrapers, few different towns of Scandinavian region and many landmarks from Denmark and various parts of the world. 

Every detail on these models is very carefully executed. The longer you look at the miniature world, the more details you see. It must have taken hours and hours of work, not just the building of these models, but also the maintenance of all of them. There are even miniature bonsai trees and because I tried to plant and keep few bonsai trees alive (unsuccesfully) I know how hard it is. There are even miniature hedges beside tiny parks and promenades and everything is alive. There is also usually some kind of piece count, so you can read how many bricks were used to build each model.

However, that is only a small part of the LEGOland. The whole park consist of different zones which correspond to different themes LEGO released. Some of them are already retired, some of them are still on sale.

One of the zones is for example LEGO Ninjago zone.

Here you can try a ride which uses 3D glasses and motion sensor. When you ride around the complex, there are monsters attacking you and you have to do ninja moves to lunch projectiles to defeat them. 

Or you can try to avoid deadly lasers at Lloyds laser labyrint. The funny part is that some people behind you at the queue actually see when you go to the laser hall and they may judge you. So as a true ninja I was jumping and rolling on the floor and even though I was hit I bet I left an impression with my silly ninja wannabe style. 

The absolute highlight of the visits were the most adult rollercoasters. The Arctic X-plorer and X-treme racers. Both are thrilling and the first time on both of them was quite scary. When we ended the first ride though, we knew we needed to go again. So in the end we went on Arctic X-plorer at least five times. Another great part is the Ice pilots school. The concept is brilliant, you get a card and you scan it at the computer and there you can choose what you want to experience on a giant robotic arm which can spin you around and upside down, sideways or rotate. Your choice and you are responsible for it. I started at level 3 out of five and then went back once again for level 4. And maybe next time I will dare to try some trick from level 5.

Luckilly, the season is just beginning so there were not so many people and we never waited more then 5-10 minutes. In the season I can imagine the park filled with people and the waiting times could probably be much worse.

And at the end of the day, we knew that we would still need at least one more day to fully enjoy everything the park can offer. We haven’t been to all rides and we could ride the X-plorer many times until we would get bored by it. And there were many things we missed, 4D cinema, The Dragen, Safari, Sea life. I could even spend a whole day just looking at all the tiny detail at the Miniland. There is simply so many amazing things to do and see.

Because of all this I really recomand to visit LEGOland if you are either; LEGO fan, kid up to 99 years old. You are guaranteed to experience a lot of fun and you will feel much younger than you really are. Plus the atmosphere is jolly. Everybody aroud you is having fun as well and the collective spirit is great. The employees are supernice and funny and they seem to enjoy the work, even though it must be hard. They are bringing joy to so many people. The LEGOland is a special place and everybody should feel it once in their life.



LEGO 21033 Chicago review

Last Sunday, my girlfriend and I visited Legoland in Billund. As you probably know if you are interested in LEGO, Billund is the birthplace of LEGO and we live only about 30 km from it.

Therefore, it was only the matter of finding a free day in our busy schedules to go and enjoy the opportunity to visit the oldest Legoland in the world.

But today, I would like to focus on a LEGO set I bought there.

This is assembled set 21033 Chicago. I have this particular set in my wishlist for a long time for one reason. Willis tower (formerly Sears tower) is my most favourite high-rise. And on my visit to Legoland, I bought the whole skyline of Chicago. And I think this set is one of the best in LEGO Architecture series.

First, here is a view on the whole assembly. On the leftmost side, we see the striking red facade of CNA Center (or how LEGO called it ‘Big Red’, although I have never heard that name).  Than the tallest one is my all time favourite Willis tower with its dynamic play with floor plates. The tiny silver blob under Willis tower is depiction of Cloud Gate statue. Both sides of the river are connected by DuSable bridge. And on the right bank of the river we can see the Wrigley building and John Hancock Center.

When you open the box, there are 5 unnumbered bags and manual with instructions and short history and facts about Chicago and buildings. With 444 pieces the set took around 2 hours to build, but I was not rushing and also I just spread the bricks all around and did not sort them, so I spent many minutes searching for the right part.

When you open the box, you can also see ‘Enjoy your building experience’ written on a side. This set is clearly marketed for adult builders, who are surely interesting segment of customers for LEGO.

After assembling the baseplate, which is a bit boring I must say, we start with the assembly of CNA Center. The build uses SNOT (stud not on top) bricks on all four sides. Only thing that slightly bothers me is that the facades do not flush at the corner. But otherwise, LEGO designers did a pretty good job, especially the use of red grills to depict the facade creates a unique impression.

The second building is the Willis tower. And I think this is the highlight of the set. Although I am obviously biased about that. One thing is sure. The building and LEGO bricks go incredibly well together. It feels like the building was made for LEGO, since it is basically 3×3 bundled tubes. And that is just like 3×3 baseplate. And the build is incredibly simple. It only consist of black, grey and transparent black pieces stacked on top of each other. The scale of the building is very nice and proportions match with its real life counterpart.

Also I would like to mention little excursion into structural design. The building uses bundled tube system. As you can see on my sketch. There are nine segments, each 25 meters wide, bundled together. These segments support each other and that allows for a  open space inside each tube.

Under the base of Willis tower, we can see a small blob depicting the Cloud Gate statue. This is probably the closest Lego can get from standard part kit and I think everybody who know a thing or two about Chicago can recognize it.

Between the banks of the river, DuSable bridge spans the distance. I especially like the use of transparent blue and green under it, to depict the colour of not so clear river water in big cities. And the bridge itself is also very nice, plus it can be lowered, because it is on hinges.

On the right bank, there is a Wrigley building. I must admit I do not know thins building much, but from the photos, I can say that its recreation in LEGO is fine. The wedge shape was quite a challenge I believe, but the outcome is adequate. I would highlight the use of SNOT bricks on top as a clock tower, that is a very nice detail.

The building also cleverly uses rotating 2×2 to create the angle, which is nice advanced technique.

And the last building on the far right is a John Hancock Center. This build cleverly uses hinges both on top and hidden at the baseplate to create the slight slope on the side facades. And the use of black grills once again visualy depicts the facade. For me, this building is nearly equaly striking as Willis Tower. And it looks much better than older John Hancock center set.

As a conclusion I think this set is a must have for any adult fan of either architecture or LEGO. Architecture enthusiast will enjoy the magnificent outcome, which can serve as a beautiful shelf or office desk piece. And LEGO fans will enjoy clever building techniques which are commonly used in these advanced sets. The price for architecture sets is as usual little higher and many pieces used are small 1×1. But I believe it is worth it.

Happy assembling