LEGO Icons 10315 Tranquil Garden [Review]

I’ve been excited and encouraged by LEGO’s latest push for sets that feature natural forms. Their botanical collection, specifically the 10281 Bonsai Tree, has embraced this concept deftly. And 10315 Tranquil Garden, releasing on August 1st, follows in that same vein, featuring the plants and structures of a Japanese garden in brick form. But will this set lead to serenity and peace-of-mind, or will it be a high-maintenance plot in need of constant pruning? Consisting of 1,363 pieces, the Tranquil Garden retails for US $109.99 | CAN $139.99 | UK £94.99.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

A primer on Japanese gardens

Before diving head-first into the review, I wanted to cover some of the basics on Japanese gardens. As we’ll cover later in the instructions section, LEGO intended this set to borrow from these concepts via the design. Therefore, I see it as an excellent rubric with which to grade. Based on my research, a Japanese garden is made of some combination of four elements: rock, water, vegetation, and ornamentation. Rock can mean actual rocks or sand. Water can take the form of a river, pond, fountain, etc. Vegetation is the plants contained within the garden. And ornamentation refers to lanterns, bridges, or other structures within the garden. Just from the front of the box, LEGO has all four of these covered.

Of a less tangible nature, a Japanese garden also reflects these five principles or themes: asymmetry, enclosure, borrowed scenery, balance, and symbolism. While borrowed scenery might be a bit difficult to capture in a LEGO set, the other four concepts should be within the grasp of this model. Finally, and borrowing from LEGO’s own instruction manual for 10315, the build should be immersive like tending a garden. Page 5 of the booklet encouraged me to find something warm to drink, something calm to listen to, and to “enjoy your mind’s space” during the build. After heating up a kettle and putting on some George Winston, I did just that.

Box, instructions, and bags

The box’s layout is no surprise given other LEGO Icons offerings. For the front, the model sits on a black background with a gold ribbon of brickery at the south end of the container. In the upper right corner there’s some koi iconography along with the set name. The box’s back has a rear shot of the model, play features like the removable roof to the tea house and the interchangeable plants, and a line drawing of the model.

After punching two tabs and inverting the box, out spills 11 numbered bags, an additional unnumbered bag of big parts, and the instructions. There are no stickers in the set. The 128-page instruction book contains an intro by Hoichi Kurisu, a Japanese garden designer and builder consulted by LEGO for the creation of this set. We also have an image of set designers Michael Psiaki and Carl Merriam enjoying the model, plus plenty of lifestyle images of the creation.

The build

And so the building begins. The first section, bags 1 and 2, assembles the tea house. It’s a wonderful little creation on its own, sporting a natural color scheme that feels perfect for its intended setting. The interior has a table full of matcha tea-making accessories, including two bowls each holding a loose 1×1 round tile of the stuff (more on that later). While no minifigure is included in the set, it still feels like things have been built to that scale. Perhaps a wonderful opportunity to drop your sig-fig (a unique minifigure crafted in your image) into the scene. The pair of white shoes sitting on the front stoop of the tea house is an inspired touch!

With the next series of bags, we begin the surrounding garden. Bags 3 and 4 lay out the base of the model, including all the detail of the water feature. I find the technique of placing transparent tile over a layer of different-colored slopes and plates to be quite effective for LEGO pond/river designs. I think I first spotted this technique in 70620 Ninjago City, and then later in 75330 Dagobah Jedi Training. Once again, it’s employed here to great effect, but now utilizing 1×2 tiles with koi printed on them.

Bags 5 and 6 finish out the terrain, adding depth to the creation and clearly defining the locations of the 6 interchangeable plants. My immersion takes a hit at this stage, however, as the lotuses added in the last step frequently get in my way. All too often, one would get knocked off and tumble to the floor. At this stage, the layout also looks less natural than expected. The squares set for the plant inserts look too cookie-cutter, with only the upper left corner offering any real variation.

Taking a break from the landscape, bags 7 and 8 flesh out the base of the model and give it some feet. This look is identical to that used in the Bonsai Tree, and is a theme I’m happy to see return.

Bag 9 provides the last of the immovable features, adding some toro (stone lanterns), some trees, a bridge, and a place for the tea house to sit. It was at this bag that I had to set aside the tea, turn off the music, and act like the 30-year builder that I am. Dropping that bridge in place was hard! The spacing of the pads on the base was difficult to maintain while bending it into shape, and the clips holding it in place didn’t want to cooperate. With that in place, I attempted to drop in the tea house per the instructions. But the combination of placing the house in at an angle, affixing 7 exposed studs within tubes (not anti-studs) on the underside of the plate (see pic below), and trying not to spill the matcha in those two cups was an ordeal! While the finished product looks absolutely gorgeous, and I’ve got enough experience to power through such setbacks, I’m also not your average adult looking to build a set to relax.

Finally, bags 10 and 11 create the six swappable features of this build. Consisting of two cherry trees, a fir tree, a smaller dark green tree, a large toro, and bamboo stalks, this sextet features some admirable features. These cherry blossoms may be the most organic trees I’ve seen in a LEGO set so far. The planar nature of the leaves always hurts such designs, but having them sit at odd angles adds to the heterogeneity. And I love the use of the ball joints at the base of the bamboo stalks. And with such a simple base, it should be easy to add my own custom plants into my Japanese garden should I desire. Below, I have them on their own and added to the finished build.

The parts

The Tranquil Garden offers a smorgasbord of new and interesting parts. The drill bit in dark green, the Technic double pin-holder and 2-long bar in reddish brown, the crown in lavender, the whisk in tan, and the robot arm in red are all the new recolors I could find. The set also features the new upturned roof corner in dark brown and dark gray (see also: Himeji Castle). From what I can tell, the interior of the lotuses is also a new part (if I’m wrong, please tell me in the comments). And the two variants of koi on 1×2 trans-blue tiles are gorgeous!

Conclusions and recommendations

I’ll start with the good news: I think this is a unique, beautiful, challenging set that explores new territory with LEGO and provides a wealth of excellent parts for the money. The color scheme is brilliant, it achieves interesting angles and forms, and the customizable nature of the set is a great play feature that fits well into the principles of Japanese gardens outlined above. I can definitely see this leading to custom versions by the adult building community, taking the footprint and concepts here and making them their own with additional pieces.

However, this is not a set for beginners. I don’t recommend this set to any adult exploring the hobby for the first time, or coming back to the hobby after a childhood of LEGO building. Get some simpler builds under your belt before tackling the Tranquil Garden. However, if you’re wizened in the art of the brick like me, this is a must-get! Steel yourself beforehand, for this set isn’t a walk in the park, ironically.

10315 Tranquil Garden is composed of 1,363 pieces, and goes on sale August 1 through LEGO stores and their website for US $109.99 | CAN $139.99 | UK £94.99.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Here’s a gallery with all the pics:

3 comments on “LEGO Icons 10315 Tranquil Garden [Review]

  1. Johnny Johnson

    Wow, deceptively simple-looking for an expensive set. It’s quite justified, though… man, it’s lovely. I’ll have to pick this one up.

  2. Josiah Swartz

    Good looking set, might pick it up with a discount.
    Also the part used for the interior of the Lotus flowers is was originally used in black as Otto’s the Minion’s hair.

  3. Ja

    Looks great value proposition here is lacking. Being generous, looks like a $100 at best. Botanicals+Star Wars diorama overpriced hybrid.

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