I've enjoyed my two purchases from the LEGO Architecture Architect Range, so I thought I'd give the Landmark Series a spin, and what better way to start than with 2009's Empire State Building? It's one of the best known tall buildings in the world, after all... and I was surprised to find it hadn't yet been reviewed here on Eurobricks.
I was also interested to see how the simplified, micro-scale Landmark range compared to the detailed, often quite complicated designs of the Architect series, and how the Landmark range is a whole might appeal. Read on, to see what I found.
Review: 21002 Empire State Building
Name: Empire State Building
Theme: LEGO Architecture (Landmark Series)
Release Year: 2009
Price: UK £19.99 | US $19.99 | EUR 19.95 - 19.99 | DKK 199.95 | CA $26.99 | AU $29.99
The Empire State Building joins the LEGO Architecture Landmark series of real-world construction models! Standing 7.4" (188 mm) tall, New York City’s famous skyscraper is built from tan bricks on a striking 3.1" (80 mm) gray and black base with printed name label. Includes a booklet with details about the building’s history and creation. Perfect for any New Yorker, world tourist or architecture fan!
- Replica of real-world architectural landmark Empire State Building!
- Booklet included with details on design and history! (English language only)
- Measures 7.4" (188 mm) tall and 3.1" (80 mm) wide!
Click the picture to zoom
These Architecture boxes are really smart . I love the minimalist, unpretentious black which serves to highlight the model as the only image on the front (a few technical drawings notwithstanding). They also make a lovely collection; all the Architecture boxes - to my knowledge - sport the same design. On this European release, the 'Landmark Series' subtitle is repeated in several languages; the piece count is absent, and the designer - Adam Reed Tucker (ART) - is relegated to the bottom; compare this to the US release on Bricklink.
Let's take a closer look. Immediately the tallness of the box is apparent: measuring 14 x 26 x 4.7 cm (W x H x D), it's nearly twice as tall as wide, echoing to an extent the model building it contains. It also, therefore, can be displayed on the shelf at the LEGO store in a way that maximises the model image in the front...
Click the picture to zoom
... an image which, as you can see, is stylised rather than a plain photograph: the gaps between the bricks are emphasised in black. On the side, ART gets to scrawl his monicker (or John Hancock for our US readers), and we are reminded that the Empire State Building is located in New York, NY. The rear again gets the multi-language treatment, and some nice landscape photographs of what the building should look like. As you can see, the card of this box is relatively flimsy, bowing out around the sealing tape at the side. Despite this, it's a lovely box, and I'm delighted that The LEGO Co. has gone the extra mile on the packaging.
Opening the box requires rotating it through 90 degrees. No tearing is required; just cut the seal and lift the lid Indeed, no glue is use in the box at all, so it can be folded flat and kept for all eternity with no damage required.
The inside is also smart and black; the contents - despite their relative paucity - fit quite snugly.
Out of the box fall two polybags, an instruction booklet, and a flier.
The last is presumably a European-release initiative - I don't recall there being one in my US-bought White House - and contains a link to an online survey, probably to help ascertain whether there is a future for these sets oustide the US. Here's the link (takes about 5 mins):
I'm delighted that the instruction booklet - despite being loose in the box; no wrapping or cardboard - came out of the box absolutely pristine. These instructions are worth keeping that way.
The booklet cover itself gets the Architecture treatment . There's no filling the empty space with extraneous pretension (Rufus glances rather self-consciously at his title picture). And if we don't want to get coffee or red wine stains on our delightful manual, LEGO kindly directs us to the online instructions at Architecture.LEGO.com.
On the back, other members of the Landmark Series are represented in line diagram form:
Obviously they don't all fit to the same scale. I'm sure Chicago's Willis Tower (more commonly known as the Sears Tower) isn't taller than the ESB. In this view, the ESB looks built incorrectly, but if you look closely you can see a faint shadow to the right indicating that it is in fact shot at an oblique angle. It's more obvious in the flesh, as it were.
The twenty-five instruction steps are simple, neatly arranged against the same smart background, and have piece call-outs in case you're overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of pieces .
With only three colours in use in the set, of course there are no colour-differentiation issues, but there are a few tricky areas and opportunity for mistakes if you're building this whilst watching television or browsing Eurobricks.
After the build instructions, we are treated to a few information pages, including another landscape photograph of the New York skyline; unlike in the Architect series, there isn't the in-depth article about the building itself and its architect, but there is the usual profile of the set designer:
Here's Adam, without his Brickworld 2011 fauxhawk, tweaking a much larger-scale (and better) MOC of the ESB in an environment which looks suspiciously like the Ravinia Ballroom at the Westin North Shore, Chicago, IL - the home of Brickworld. Adam is both an Architectural Artist and founder of Brickworld, so fair enough. You can read more about him on the Brickworld site.
Here are all seventy-eight pieces in all their glory:
Well, I guess you'd be unlikely to buy this a parts pack , and though the tan tiles and jumpers might well be useful, I have little use for the larger tan blocks except as filler. The obligatory Architecture printed tile is great, but it's a rather specialised piece.
Starting at the bottom and working up, the overall build process is logical and hardly surprising, but there are one or two interesting techniques.
The base is formed of two tile-rimmed plate layers, on inside the other, which is sturdy and secure. Next, some blocks are topped with a plate, some tiles, and plates and jumpers, which is where we encounter the first interesting technique (and my first mistake: the jumpers are the wrong way round - quickly corrected, but I forgot to retake the picture)...
... The 3x2 tan blocks connect through their central tubes onto the 1x2 plates from the previous setp; the 1x2 brick sits between them with a half-stud offset via the jumpers:
This forms a section with a nicely-recessed central column, and is finished off with a further plate-jumper arrangement, this time resolving the offset.
Onto this is placed a 2x4 block, again via its central tubes, and again achieving an offset. Some more jumpers create a further offset into the next section:
Next, the height of the building is greatly increased, again with a central recess. Note the use of a 1x1 technic brick - 1x2 brick with frictionless pin arrangement, which secures one of the sides to the central section. The other side could have been attached the same way in the layer above or below, but isn't - it is unattached at the top. Surprisingly, this doesn't overly weaken the structure, but I imagine that the whole would fall apart easily if neither side were so attached.
The next layer uses another - unpinned - 1x1 technic brick, rather than a regular 1x1 brick. This is because the open stud is required in order to connect the 1x2 brick above, again via its central pin. Owners of the White House will be very familiar with this part usage.
The overall effect - of half-stud steps at each layer - is pleasing to the eye, and interesting to build; it's quite a relief to encounter these advanced techniques in such a small and traditional build.
All that's left is the conical 'cap' and mast, and we're done! The seventy-eighth piece is the set's lonely leftover:
I'll never complain about 1x1 tiles, especially in tan.
The Complete Set
And here's the finished building:
Despite the plain colour scheme and lack of any window detailing, the model is instantly recognisable for what it is, so fulfills the 'Landmark Series' objective nicely. The half-stud offsets create a lovely stepped contour which isn't too abrupt, and the central recess too is lovely.
From the front, the tapered, iconic shape is even more recognisable. It's a shame that the 100 micrometre gap between the bricks is so apparent (bricks are 7.9 mm wide, dontcha know), but hey.
From the side, the model is a little plain - there is less contouring. The visible gaps between the tiles could be a little unsightly, but I think they actually help to break up the otherwise blank wall of tan here.
Here's a bird's eye view of the model:
This shot reduces the skyscraper into more of a pyramid It is, though, a good opportunity to admire the smartly tiled base, without which the model really would be simply a heap of tan.
Let's compare to what the building should look like:
As you can see, the model at this scale ignores some of the smaller steps in the building, particularly around the base section, and towards the top. I don't see how this could be rectified at this scale. Additionally, some may question the tan colour; however, light bluish grey would have been too ... bley; another solution might have been a whole load of sticker decals to give the appearance of windows, but I'm sure that would get a whole load of AFOLs complaining, and printed parts would surely have driven up the price way too high. So I'll settle for this reasonable representation.
The Empire State Building rises majestically into the sky, towering above the already monolithic skyline of New York... well, this model - at a mere seven and a half inches - struggles to rise above the vast majority of LEGO models in my display, whatever their genre. But what should you expect for a mere 77 pieces? Apart from a lower price, perhaps...
Yes, at £20 for 77 pieces this isn't the best investment you'll ever make in terms of parts per price. But that, in my opinion, isn't really the point of these Landmark sets - you'd hardly be likely to buy this as a parts pack, after all. Instead, you get an experience: just look at the lovely packaging, and the thought that has gone into making the manual more than just an instruction book. Clearly this is meant to be a collectors item, a display set or a talking point, and as such I'm sure is meant to appeal not to the usual target of kids, even older ones, or even just to the typical AFOL market, but perhaps to a wider audience.
My own theory is that the Architecture range - particularly the smaller, simpler Landmark series - is meant to appeal to 'casual' LEGO fans - perhaps parents who remember fondly their childhood LEGO collection, and wish to indulge in a little nostalgia when at the LEGO store with their kids, whilst avoiding the uncomfortable conversations they might have if they buy something which is obviously a toy. Certainly, during a recent-ish experience of a packed-out LEGO store on its opening day, I saw lots of adults indulging themselves as well as their kids, and these Architecture sets were flying off the shelves.
As such, 21002 Empire State Building achieves its possible objectives well - it is a collectable package, an instantly recognisable recreation of an iconic building, and a reasonably interesting building experience. Whether this will appeal to the average AFOL or not is debatable.
Design: 8/10 Recognisable, with some great use of jumper plates to achieve the stepped contours of the original building, the design is a valiant attempt to recreate the ESB at a challenging micro-scale. It suffers from a little tan-blandness, which was most likely unavoidable, and much detail is lost at this size.
Build: 7/10 Surprisingly interesting for what might otherwise be a stack of bricks, it's ten minutes well spent.
Parts: 5/10 A few tan tiles and jumper plates stand out, but I'm sure you won't be buying this for the parts.
Price: 6/10 For a beautifully presented collectors' item, the price is fair. Viewed from any other standpoint, it's extortionate.
Overall: 65%. I give it 8/10: For a collector, or a casual dabbler looking for a little adult-orientated LEGO fun, I could recommend it.
Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review.
The LEGO Architecture Site
The official Empire State Building Site
Empire State Building on Wikipedia
It's been done a gazillion times, but no Empire State Building model is complete without at least one King Kong shot:
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