Price: $US99.99, UK GBP74.99
Resources: brickstructures, brickset, bricklink, Shop @ Home
Based on Frank Lloyd Wright's famous Pennsylvanian house designed and built in the 1930s, 21005 Fallingwater was the first Architecture release to break out of the small-scale and monumental sets produced earlier by brickstructures architectural artist Adam Reed Tucker. I was never particularly interested in the earlier sets, although I liked the concept, but Fallingwater seemed to be a more interesting and detailed design than the silhouette approach of smaller models like the Empire State Building or Space Needle. Since these sets are not available in Australia, even via S@H, this was a special purchase directly from Adam's own website. It was certainly one of the most striking and original sets released in 2009, even nominated by designer Jamie Berard as one of the must-have sets of 2009 in an interview here on Eurobricks. Read on and see if it lives up to its reputation in this Reviewer's Academy 2nd anniversary special!
The box front:
A box signed in silver Sharpie by designer Adam Reed Tucker himself! US citizens complain about the high price on these sets generally ($US99.99 for this one) but what many people don't mention is the extremely high quality and luxe packaging which make the opening and building of these sets such a tactile and gratifying experience. The Fallingwater box isn't some cheap collapsible cardboard - it's reinforced with an opening flap and the inside is a matt black to match the outside. It really takes you back to the days when opening a new set was like being an archeologist gently prying open a tomb of mystical delights!
The rear of the box has lots of information, a line drawing plan from Frank Lloyd Wright, and a diagram of how the puzzle box model splits apart. The inclusion of Frank Lloyd Wright's signature suggests that part of the cost of the set is also due to licensing arrangements between LEGO and his estate - licensing isn't just for Disney and Star Wars, kids!
You lift the front flaps and open the lid to reveal a matt black inside finish on the cardboard and a secret message on the outer rim when you open the box Stylish!
This isn't a booklet - it's a spiral-bound tome! Again, the quality production values add to the high-end feel of the total package for the Architecture line.
Inside the manual:
Instead of warnings not to shoot yourself in the eye, or mix bricks on grass, the instructions contain a very detailed precis of the original building, including photos and design notes from the original architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. It's like Wikipedia in paper form! (Yes, that was a joke.)
Message from the artist:
Adam Reed Tucker provides his own message explaining the inspiration and challenges behind the decision to add this set to the Architecture line. Like a bley ninja, Adam's sweatshirt blends seamlessly into the storage buckets of his Chicago LEGO lair! There's also a flyer with a link to an AC Nielsen survey which seems to pre-date the other survey LEGO did and the subsequent launch of these sets for some countries in Europe.
The parts include a 16x32 baseplate, an 8x16 dark bley brick, lots of tan, a touch more dark bley, a splash of dark green, and loads of 1x2 trans-clear tiles. There are 52 of the latter in this set - prior to its release, you could only get a miserly 1 per set from the 2003 Coastguard HQ set (although in 2010 you can get 4 from the 5893 Creator set Off-Road Power.)
Tantastic! This set is full of very useful small tiles and pieces and would make a great parts pack... if the price was a little lower.
Parts of interest:
A sample of the more 'interesting' parts - the trans-clear tiles, dark green plates and 1x1 bricks, and a printed tile with the building name, as per all the Architecture sets.
The build, part 1: The base
The first part of the build constructs the natural landscape base which the house sits on.
The sparkly waterfall is added and the footprint of the building takes shape.
With all the small, intricate and repetitive colour-work, the instructions helpfully outline the new parts to be added in each step in red. Here, the insta-forest is added!
The base section is complete!
The build, part 2: the mid-structure
Next to be added is this extraordinary concoction of plates and tiles to form the bulk of the building, including the glass-enclosed interior staircase (represented by the trans-clear plates). This set is really very interesting design-wise since it isn't just a solid structure, but takes the form of an interlocking puzzle box, where this mid-structure (and the later upper floors) lock together, not via a studded connection but through tiled angular fingers. It means you can quickly take out sections of the set and see how they fit together. It's a fun and clever building conceit, although whether this reflects anything integral to Lloyd Wright's actual building design is more doubtful. It definitely adds to the unique feel of the build.
Here through all the insane platage you can see how complicated this apparently simple part of the build looks!
The view of this midtrsucture from the other side looks totally different - this is true of the model as a whole, which is wonderfully complex and unique.
The build, part 3: upper floors
The third part of the build is to add all these mini-floors, which stack on top of each other when placed in the mid-structure, to build up the bulk of the house itself. These all slot on top of each other and into the mid-structure like pieces of a three-dimensional puzzle.
Here's the next one.
The small roof section is the final part of the puzzle.
Assembling all the small structures
Finally we can assemble the entire model! We start with the finished base. Note the little bridge and the SNOT waterfall.
The middle structure sits snugly in place with the cantilever supports overhanging the river.
The middle floors are added.
And voila! The wonderful Fallingwater is complete. As in the spirit of Lloyd Wright's design, the model seems to integrate with the landscape that surrounds it rather than just being a bare, detached silhouette.Colour-wise it isn't at all accurate but 'realistic' colours would detract from the way the eye takes in the overall design.
The finished model:
A close-up of the cantilevered balconies.
Overhead view shows how expansive the house is at the rear.
This model really is a small-scale delight!
Parts: 8/10 - Great for tan enthusiasts.
Build: 9/10 - A fascinating challenge, introducing a whole new system of studless modularity
Playability: 7/10 - The puzzle-box aspect of the separating floors is kind of addictive in itself!
Overall: 8.5/10 - Easily the most appealing of the Architecture sets in terms of design, complexity, and build. If you only buy one Architecture set, make it this one! It makes a lovely display piece and is also tactile and inviting. Yes, it's pricey but it's also surprisingly hefty with all those teensy parts and definitely a deluxe item - like a fine wine, or couveture chocolate, you get what you pay for
Edited by WhiteFang, 24 August 2010 - 02:47 AM.