Review Review: 21015 The Leaning Tower of Pisa


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DO NOT ADJUST YOUR SCREEN! The tower is meant to be leaning. Well, actually, it isn't, but it does, and it's why it is so famous that even Americans have heard of it! ( :snicker: ) Although, that may be in part due to Superman III.

I can now officially reveal that 21015 - the latest LEGO Architecture set, coming (in a numbering system of which George Lucas would be proud) immediately after 21017 - is not 'Eames House' as previously thought, but is instead the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa. Actually, it's the Campanile (bell tower) of the Duomo di Pisa (Cathedral of Pisa), but what has really put it (and Pisa) on the map is its rather jaunty angle. It is one of the most famous landmarks in the world, and despite Italy's abundance of Roman, mediaeval and Renaissance architecture, it is the obvious choice for the Italian entry to the LEGO Architecture Landmark Series.

I'm sure its architect would be rather chagrinned to know that his creation is more famous for its lean than for its architectural merit, especially as the tower itself has merit aplenty, and might even deserve a place in the LEGO Architect Series if anyone had seen fit to remember the poor blighter's name.

Anyway, we're here to discuss the Leaning Tower in official LEGO form, and so I'm proud to announce another Eurobricks Exclusive Architecture review, with thanks again to The LEGO Group!

Review: 21015 The Leaning Tower of Pisa

Informazioni sul Set

The Leaning Tower of Pisa


(Landmark Series)

2013 (May?)

(including Brick Separator)

472 grammes


Disclaimer: At the time of writing, the set isn't listed anywhere, and I don't even have a price for it yet. As such, I'm not able to comment on the set's value for money; but there's still a lot to talk about!

Links ... LEGO Architecture Site ... Shop@Home ... Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron

La Scatola


Click the picture for a larger full-frontal

Once again, the latest LEGO Architecture paperweight demonstrates its abilities on another smartly austere all-black box. The LEGO logo really stands out, yet the beauty of the design of these Architecture boxes is such that you forget that LEGO usually stands for a toy. The picture is - I believe - a render, but it's wonderfully done, and captures the tower from its best angle. Interestingly, this set carries the name of the tower in Italian - Torre pendente di Pisa - in addition to its location; I haven't seen that before on Architecture sets from non-English speaking countries; but then for most of them the name is the same.

We can also see that Adam Reed Tucker returns to the helm for this latest voyage into LEGO Architecturedom.

Round the back, we are treated to the usual picture of the 'real' building and a composite render/line-diagram of the model with dimensions. I always like the splash of colour that the 'real' photos afford. My box has got a little scratched on the bottom, probably because it was rattling around alone in a box large enough for two; the photo has unfortunately highlighted this.


Click the picture for a larger image

Interestingly, the Italians, having been afforded second billing on the box front, are relegated to last place in the pecking order of European languages, behind English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Similish. (Google Translate thinks the last is Hungarian - did you know Hungarian doesn't capitalise place names? I didn't. :look: ) The Italians are, however, the only nationality to be told that the included booklet is in Italian. Well, also in Italian ...

Having seen a picture of this model from a toy fair, I was expecting a smaller set, and was a little surprised by the size of the box. Measuring H 260 x W 190 x D 59 mm, it's the same height as the Big Ben and Willis Tower boxes, but considerably wider.


I wasn't sure whether to include this box comparison picture, but it does show how wonderfully collectable these sets are!

The sides of the box are identical, save for the designer's name almost lost beneath a weight of languages on the non-flap side:


The picture is the same as the box front, minus the paperwork. If the orientation of this picture offends you, click here.

A 1x1 round brick is THIS big! According to the box top:


Yet more languages! And no, ghosts aged 0 to 3 cannot play with these parts.

I still appreciate the feeling that a lot of attention has been paid to these Architecture sets, and the ever-present command to 'Enjoy your building experience' is welcome as always:


Inside the box are four polybags, the Booklet, and a flier inviting you to take part in a survey to try to win the Farnsworth House (one of the few Architecture sets I don't own - how did they know???). I think that flier has been in every Architecture set I've opened - they must have given away quite a few Farnsworths by now. :look:

Il Manuale di Instruzioni

How cute! :wub:


This little book measures 125 x 170 mm, a little over A6 size, and perhaps its orientation favours the dimensions of the model itself. Despite its diminutive poratrait, it is quite a chunky tome, with exactly 100 pages including front and rear covers.

As now expected for the Architecture line, extensive information about the tower - including the reasons why it leans but hasn't fallen down - occupies the first twelve pages ...


Click for a larger picture

... and all accompanied by some wonderful pictures and some wonderful Italian. Pass the Pinot Grigio, darling! I've said it before: the care and research that has gone into producing these Architecture booklets is outstanding, and help make these sets far, far more than simply a construction model.

Did you know, for example, that the tower started leaning during construction, and that the architect attempted to compensate, so that the tower is actually curved? (To be fair, I think I did know about that, but now I know it in much more detail. :blush: )

I won't take away one of the major selling points of the set by showing pictures of the entire content of the booklet; however, it usually becomes available on the LEGO Architecture site before too long, albeit not in English.

The downside of the pretty booklet's dimensions is that it is stupendously difficult to photograph, particularly if you're trying not to damage the book. Several attempts later, I was able to capture a sample of the instructions themselves:


Little factoids appear in the corner every four pages, and add further delight to the experience. :thumbup: The inset shows a close-up of this one (see! I told you the tower is curved!), and conveniently obscures Rufus's hand, which was a necessary prop after the Blu-tac didn't work. :hmpf_bad:

The instruction steps themselves are, not surprisingly, a little repetitive; however, there is a twist which may cause problems for anyone attempting to speed-build the set. But why would you do that? You'd miss out on all the little snippets! :distressed: The 'twist' will be revealed later.

The manual concludes with the Inventory, but not before the usual 'Word from the Artist' spiel, and the History of LEGO Architecture, with which any Architecture aficionado will be well acquainted. The former is noteworthy for a little picture of Adam Reed Tucker with a couple of prototypes of the LEGO Leaning Tower, showing that he experimented with various widths of tower.

Le Parti

A surprising flash of orange breaks the monotony of the Larger Parts selection, but it's only a Brick Separator. They get everywhere these days, like cockroaches. I'm sure that after mankind destroys itself, the post-apocalyptic world will be littered with both of these.


Looking at the round parts in the top right, you'd be forgiven for thinking you're about to build a Wind Turbine. Most interesting here are the nineteen 2x2 plate hinges, useful for anyone building a (properly) round tower, and the large quantity of white 1x3 arches. I remember being excited to encounter one of these when I reviewed 5771 Hillside House; now I have another thirty-five of them.

Architecture sets don't generally make great parts packs due to the relatively high cost, but if you're looking for certain white parts in large quantities you might be tempted.


In particular, the forty-eight 1x1 plates and eighty-six 1x1 round bricks could be very useful indeed. Aside from the large quantity, there aren't any particularly rare parts in this set (excluding the printed Leaning Tower plate, which is of course unique); the selection is however remarkable for the small number of types of part used: there are only forty different parts in the set, including different colours of the same part and the brick separator.

La Costruzione

We start with the base... or do we? Clearly this ins't the whole base. Actually, this is just the bit that tilts; whoever made the instructions clearly thought it wise to spare us the horror of trying to build the entire tower whilst it is leaning.


In the second pane we see already how the tower will be constructed. In case you hadn't worked it out already, the LEGO tower has five sides; it is built via a pentagonal arrangement of 2x2 plate hinges around a round 4x4 core. At the moment, the pentagon is only attached via the two jumper plates in the first frame, and - when the small sub-build in the right frame is attached, will be open at the furthest point from the camera.

This brings us to an important point, which I think should be made now as I will refer to it throughout the build.

The LEGO Pentagon

When building a ring-structure from plate hinges, usually you can create a 'complete' ring from two layers of plates. It is the key step to building a 'round' tower, like Derfel Cadarn's. However, if building a ring with an odd number of sides, where the length of a side is less then four studs, you need three layers of plates to complete it:


In fact, in this tower, in any one layer of plates only two sets of adjacent sides can be joined. This is important, as we shall see.

A third layer of plates is indeed added at this point, completing the ring, and a 2x2 pin-brick - 1x1 technic brick connection further secures the ring to the central core. This is the only attachment between walls and core above the base, and helps to prevent the walls coming off if you lift the set by grabbing the tower.


Some 1x1 bricks and plates build up the centre of the walls here. In case you're wondering about the black plate on the left of the picture, it will be covered up eventually. I guess it helps you to orientate the nascent model easily during construction.

Next, a clever use of technic connectors atop 1x1 round bricks forms the columns:


On top of these are placed the first of the many 1x3 arches, and they are covered with a layer of plates. Note again that some of the sides are connected together with hinge plates, but it's not possible to connect them all. The core is built up with half-cylinders and round plates, very much in the style of a wind turbine, and a further layer of 1x1 rounds and arches goes on.

Now things get a little repetitive, as we start to add layers to the tower. However, if you were thinking of pre-fabricating the walls, think again: you can't.


At each layer, two different sides are connected. Going clockwise with the 'front' (black plate) being 1, in the first frame sides 2 & 3 and 4 & 5 are joined; in the second, 1 & 2 and 3 & 4 are linked. The side which is 'left out' gets a 1x3 plate instead.

It helps to follow this 1x3 plate: as we work up the tower adding layers, the side with the 1x3 plate moves around anticlockwise: sides 4, 3, 2, 1 respectively. This is how strength is achieved without a bulky 3-plate high ring at every level. :thumbup:


At intervals, an extra layer of central 'core' is added. Although it is a little repetitive here, watching which sides get linked keeps you on your toes. It helps to build a lot of 1x1 round brick - 1x3 arch arrangements in advance, though.

The walls are topped with some 1x1 round plates, which can be a little fiddly. The narrower topmost layer is built directly onto the central core:


Note again that there's nothing connecting the walls to the core above the base.

A cute little flagpole tops off the roof ...


... and that black plate is finally covered. Now to make it lean!

For this, we need a little clicky-hinge arrangement, and the rest of the base:


The base is 14x14 studs, made from a square of 2x12 plates. Note the light bluish grey 4x4 mostly-tiles, which will support the lower end of the tilty bit of the base ...

... like this:


Aside from a few more tiles, we're done. All your base are, finally, belong to us. :grin:

Il Modello Completato


Leaning Tower, you're ... taller than I expected. At 259 mm tall, she's the second tallest of the entire Landmark Series; only the Burj Khalifa is taller, but that is the tallest building in the world, so that's to be expected. Only the 'real' Leaning Tower is actually the smallest of all the Landmark buildings: its scale is determined by the design.

Interesting construction aside, the decision to build the tower as a five-sided polygon has its drawbacks. I guess it is the smallest scale which produces an approximation to a 'round' tower, without resorting to round pieces, and allowing the inclusion of arches; however, some of the 'roundness' is lost from some angles:


These four views - shown against a black backgorund for emphasis - demonstrate the difference in profile caused by the pentagonal cross-section. Viewed square-on, there is a 'flat' side apparent in the two views perpendicular to the 'lean'; in the views parallel to the lean, you're facing either a side or a point of the pentagon.

The base level of the 'real' tower has a number of 'filled-in' arches producing slight alcoves, with a rhomboid design at the top. The model replicates the latter with round plates in the arches; it's probably the best that can be achieved at this scale.


The downside is that the recesses of the alcoves are lost, but there probably isn't a better way to achieve this. The use of the technic connectors to make smooth columns is rather effective here. :thumbup:

And now for the obligatory gratuitous close-up of the printed tile:


It's interesting that the set name (according to the box) is The Leaning Tower of Pisa, while the 'The' is omitted from the tile. Of the other Landmark sets, only (the) Empire State Building is habitually referred to with an article; however, in that case both tile and box say simply, 'Empire State Building'.

The tower looks quite pretty from above! Note that the top of the utmost layer is 'closed off' by the 4x4 round plate; the real thing is open to the air up here.


This aerial shot highlights a slight anomaly of the pentagonal design. The inside 'radius' of this pentagon is wider than that of the 4-wide cylinder which makes up the core, but the two are attached at the base on the leftward face in this view. Thus, the origin on the pentagon doesn't sit in the centre of the the circular core.

This produces an interesting but unwanted effect: the walls, attached to the core only at the base, 'wobble':


I've tried to illustrate this photographically; it's much more obvious 'in the flesh', and you'll notice it whenever you pick the model up. Since it'll spend most of its time on the shelf - an isn't especially obvious visually - it isn't a big deal.

Rispetto alla Torre Reale

We've seen the model; now for the reality check. Here's the real Leaning Tower, picture courtesy of Wikipedia:


Firstly: the angle of the tower. You can't judge the angle by comparing the two shots; they are most likely not taken from the same direction. We'll deal with that more 'scientifically' shortly.

Obviously, the LEGO tower isn't round enough; you could argue that a larger scale model (eg., six sides) would produce a more realistic approximation, but I guess there's a cost/benefit ratio to take into account here, and I would wager that TLG wouldn't want to risk losing sales to a much more expensive and only slightly more authentic set. In the booklet, you can see that Adam Reed Tucker experimented with various sizes. I think the five-sided result must have been a necessary compromise.

Clearly, at this scale, much detail is lost; in particular, there aren't nearly enough arches. The real tower has some thirty arches per level; a realistic model would perhaps have to have fifteen sides to even approximate to this number. I think the ideal compromise would perhaps be an eight-sided tower, but even this would be monstrously big, and perhaps prohibitively expensive for many. I can live with LEGO's 5-sided compromise.

There are a couple of things I'm not so keen on. One is the use of 1x1 round plates to top off the walls, and the 'roof' (which shouldn't be a roof: you can see sky through the arch on the topmost level, or you can look here). They 'round off' the top too much, when you can see from the picture that there should be a slight overhang at the top. I think even tiles would have better here; for the top layer this piece would have been ideal - but maybe it wasn't yet available when the set was designed.

The second is the topmost level itself - it isn't wide enough. The top of the real tower is like a crown; that of the LEGO tower looks more like a pimple. :grin:

Now let's return to the angle of the tower's lean. Beware: this section contains mathematics.

According to the booklet, the tower leans at an angle of 3.99 degrees, but prior to restoration work between 1990 and 2001, the angle was 5.5 degrees. What angle does the LEGO tower lean at?

Let's see. The tilted part of the base is 8 studs long, and its lower end sits 2 plates lower than the higher end. A 1x1 brick is 8mm in length (actually 7.9, but there's a 0.1mm gap between bricks to take into account too, so we can safely assume 8mm), so an 8-stud gap would equate to 64mm. A 1x1 brick has height:length ratio 6:5, so a plate height is 8mm x 6/5 = 3.2mm; two plates are therefore 6.4mm. The angle formed is TAN(6.4mm / 64mm) which works out at 5.7 degrees. Close enough for me! I'm impressed at the work that must have gone into getting the angle correct (assuming, of course, that it isn't a lucky coincidence).

La Conclusione


When pictures of this set first appeared, it was greeted with a degree of scepticism from some, who pointed out the many MOCs of this building already in existence, including the diminutive but clever CUUSOO entry by moctown. I have already pointed out that a number of compromises have had to be made to recreate the Leaning Tower at a scale which provides a degree of accuracy without being prohibitively large and expensive; even larger MOCs such as this one by torgugick have had to reduce the number of arches on each level.

The decision to build the tower with five sides - whilst producing asymmetry in the profile - does lead to a more interesting build, and the overall effect is still pleasing to the eye. It is perhaps a little too narrow, and I'm not keen on the rounding at the tops of the walls and the summit, but I'm very impressed by the correct 'lean' angle. It is also considerably larger than I expected, and dwarfs the majority of the Landmark Series, despite being in reality quite a small tower (56 metres compared to Big Ben's 96m):


It is useful to compare the Leaning Tower to Big Ben here. Ben crams a huge amount of detail into quite a small model: look at all the lovely SNOT grille tiles. In comparison, the Leaning Tower is really rather plain. And monochrome too: the area immediately round the real tower is paved, but it's almost impossible to find a picture of the tower without the grassy area around it; I really would love to have seen some green on the base. Easily modded, I guess.

I punteggi

The tower is recognisable and not just because it leans! The five-sided design is intriguing and original, and produces a reasonable degree of authenticity whilst keeping the size (and, presumably, price) down; kudos to the designer for getting the lean angle spot on. However, the appearance is marred by a lack of colour and texture; the too-narrow top section, and the rounding of the tops of the walls.

You might expect a huge amount of repetition, but the build process is refreshingly interesting and surprisingly pacey. Seeing how the five-sided construction is realised is fascinating, especially how strength is added with hinge plates around the walls. Plus you get to learn stuff while you build!

With only forty different parts in the set, the selection is limited, but there are large quantities of certain useful parts: 1x1 round bricks, 1x3 arches, and 2x2 hinge plates, all of which might well prove useful for your own architectural designs; however, you would perhaps be unlikely to buy this or any other Architecture set purely as a parts pack. (I say that, but I bought
as a parts pack, and it's what got me into the range in the first place.

Now here we have a problem: we don't yet know the price!

Overall 76% My score 7/10 If you are angling towards perfection, the Leaning Tower falls a little short; it is however an interesting build and its lean alone will make it stand out from the rest of the range. It's perhaps one for the collectors, or a souvenir. Some sets are must-haves at any (reasonable) price; this set probably isn't one of those, and I suspect the price tag will turn out to be a deciding factor for many.

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review. Please comment!


Many thanks to Kim Thomsen of The LEGO Group for providing this set for the early review.


The Leaning Tower of Pisa on Wikipedia

Tower of Pisa information site

LEGO Architecture Site

LEGO Architecture on Shop@Home

My flickr Set

My other LEGO Architecture reviews:

7876055044_827231d932_m.jpg 7094636169_b23b96c7f8_m.jpg 6056626099_5828f100cd_m.jpg

And Finally ...

I can make them all lean!


And of course ...


Setting this picture up was a lot harder than it looks. Thank you, CopMike! :wub:


Join the Reviewers Academy to learn how to make great LEGO reviews!

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Wow! A very nice set and review! Congrats, Rufus!

The Architecture sets are favorites of mine because they are so challenging to design well, and the buildings are real. We have seen many of these in person, and that brings them to life.

It is wonderful to see an famous Italian building as a set. This baby really does lean, and it gets to you after a while....making your neck ache and your body a bit dizzy.

The angle of the building's tilt is important, and it looks as if the designer nailed this right on.

Rufus asks the right questions....why not do it this way or that way, ...which helps us understand just how difficult the design was and why the tower is so interesting and such a challenge to build well.

(A review of the history of its leaning and all of the measures taken to stabilize it also is fascinating for those interested in architecture.)

This looks like a must have set to me. Thanks again for posting so much helpful info!

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Another incredible Architecture review, Rufus! These are always such a pleasure to read.

Upon seeing the first images of this set, I was pretty disappointed. It looked small and ugly. Two days ago while at my local Lego store, I saw the model on display alongside some of the other sets from the Architecture series and I had to do a double-take. The Leaning Tower actually looks really great in person. As you mentioned, it seems significantly larger than you'd first expect. While it certainly isn't round, the pentagon shape doesn't seem all that bad. Sure a larger model would be more accurate, but you'd have to throw way more parts at it, and I ultimately don't think it would be worth it. This is already a pretty repetitive build, and a larger model would only make things more tedious. At the current size, the model captures the essence of the tower pretty well.

I won't be running out to buy this one right away, but I know I'll be tempted enough by it in the future to pick it up.

Edit - In Canada this costs $45. $5 more than Big Ben. This seems pretty reasonable considering the size of the model.

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Rufus, i have to say it is fun to read every of your well written and most entertaining reviews.

I think your reviews become reference for effort somebody put into them and how entertaining and easy readablemit is at the end, even it is a small or less intersting set.

I also like how you are balqncing your reviews. You really discover a sets strengths and weaknesses - no simple applauding like many other reviewers do. Sometimes i wonder why we have a 1-10 rating per section if a "5" is really bad.



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Love this set, though I expect it to be not-very-popular and therefore going cheap soon. Perhaps that's just wishful thinking, as I think it's a great parts pack too.

As for the wobble of the inner cylinder, that can be greatly reduced by squishing the outer bits.

Also: we know the price: US$34.99, right at the popular $0.10 per piece price point.

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I've always thought of the age warnings as sad onions, but ghosts works just as well. I'm impressed by how the base allows the tower to lean - is the bottom solid, or if you picked it up, would it be free to tilt even more?

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Nice review Rufus! :thumbup:

I love the techniques on this set, but it looks off to me.

I've always thought of the age warnings as sad onions...

Ashens? :wink:

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I've always thought of the age warnings as sad onions, but ghosts works just as well. I'm impressed by how the base allows the tower to lean - is the bottom solid, or if you picked it up, would it be free to tilt even more?

It will not tilt more, there are plates under the lower side, but it is not a solid bottom.

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Mama mia! E lo che se dice, what a set, and what a review! I don't know about you, but to get my paws on one of these, I'll have to give somebody an offer they can't refuse. :devil:

Who wants to trade for a Willis Tower? :blush:

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Was this set under some NDA ?

I remember this review was on EB frontpage more than a month ago and I commented on it but it vanished the next day.

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Great review! I would have liked to see a comparison with the Cuusoo project and your opinion on it but I can understand that you left it out due to the "Official" character of this review. :classic:

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Great review :thumbup: I quite like the set, even if it's a bit plain. Also, you've taught me a new bulidng technique: odd number sided towers, awesome :classic:

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Was this set under some NDA ?

I remember this review was on EB frontpage more than a month ago and I commented on it but it vanished the next day.

Must be. I remember reading the review some time ago and vanishing the next day, including all traces in the forum. Luckily the internet remembers everything ;-)

But besides that, nice review! Always a pleasure to read!

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Interestingly, the Italians, having been afforded second billing on the box front, are relegated to last place in the pecking order of European languages, behind English, German, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Similish. (Google Translate thinks the last is Hungarian - did you know Hungarian doesn't capitalise place names? I didn't. :look: )

I didn't, because Hungarian does capitalize place names.

"Pisa" - capitalized

"pisai" (meaning "of Pisa") - not capitalized

Also, I must have read this review before. Was it pulled and now put back up?

Edited by Nagyzee

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Hmmmm, that's a lot of arches. i'm not about to rush off and buy it though as it is rather lumpy from some angles and stupid looking from others.

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