When I think back to the LEGO sets I loved most as a kid, two come to mind: 6075 Wolfpack Tower and 6048 Majisto’s Magical Workshop. What made them special? Well, perhaps it was the opening functions they both had, so that I could have both a fully-enclosed building and a fully-accessible interior for my characters to live in. That, and I loved both wolves and dragons, so they had cool shields. Some castle builders (myself included) generally just build an interior room or exterior tower or wall from a particular angle, with a rainbow of parts behind the scenes. It saves time and bricks to do so. But when Isaac Snyder constructs a building out of LEGO, 99 times out of 100 it includes a full interior. Every part of the build is playable, accessible, and carefully thought through. It is like the sets of my childhood, only a billion times cooler and more detailed.
I adore roofs made from cheese slopes, and surprisingly for someone as prolific in the castle genre as Isaac, this is his first use of the technique. The chairs on the waterwheel look perfect, and everything has the polished Snyderian look one expects from Isaac; nothing seems out of place. Inside the structure, several things stand out, the first being that every level is accessible via a ladder or stair, with specific holes in the floor to move minifigures around. Kid me would have had a heyday making characters go up and down the stairs, falling through the holes, and so on. Second, there are beds and other practical furniture, which castle sets seldom had. Friends sets do, but not castle. Third, and perhaps most excitingly, the mill really spins! The gears connect to the grindstone, so you can make your very own ABS flour. Play functions and aesthetics. What more could one want?
My wife calls me a hobbit because I like spending time in the great indoors. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy getting out for some fresh air and delightful scenery, but inside the house is where it’s at for me. It comes as no surprise, then, that I enjoy interior LEGO builds, too. Take this one by Hoang H Dang, for example. It’s a home all ready for the Tết Holiday. The warm colors, the charming furniture, the trees indoors…I mean, with trees indoors, why ever go outside, right? Sure, the walls are a bit decrepit, but that’s to be expected when it is the 1990s in Vietnam, and the buildings haven’t been repaired since the colonial days. Perhaps if one of the larger pictures on the walls were moved over the cracks, it would hide the exposed masonry. That’s what I would do in my own house, at least.
Of course, this is a LEGO model and not the real thing, so everything is where it is intended to be. Plus, there are some elements in this build that are fantastic in their usage. The upside-down DUPLO crates as tables in the back are brilliant, and a DUPLO swirl element forms the top of the vase for the tree on the right. And there is still more DUPLO with the purple Winnie the Pooh arch as a TV stand. Gosh, I love DUPLO elements used in regular System builds. I also love the eclectic mix of trophies and dolls on the shelves, along with the Mirror of Erised as a family picture on the wall. And then there are the rock star Friends, too. And yet, despite all of the odd places the parts are gathered from, it makes a beautiful home, perfect for celebrating the Lunar New Year with family in Vietnam.
There is something beautiful in simplicity. How few parts can be used to still capture the essence of a thing? For Grant Masters, the answer is approximately twelve. It is an eclectic collection, from Belville doll feet to a white phone receiver, to a bandana and scarf. Capping it all off is the face from the new Chinese New Year set printed on the BB-8/porg head piece. The bamboo in the background, the dynamic pose, and the hat perfect it, making it a true work of art.
With the recent release of The Rise of Skywalker, Star Wars builds have been multiplying faster than Star Wars spin-offs and sequels. For me, none of the sequels/prequels/spin-offs comes close to the magic that is the original trilogy, though I am always happy to see more of the galaxy far, far away; yet the builds inspired by it all are getting better and better. Take this microscale build of Jabba the Hutt’s sail barge from The Return of the Jedi by Okay Yaramanoglu. It captures all of the essential details, from the sarlacc to the bantha and the smaller skiffs, all within a 16×16 stud footprint. Some true fans may object to the beak on the sarlacc, but it is still well done. Perhaps we can edit it out later, when the special edition is released.
The rowboat is an inspired touch for the sail barge, recreating the hull shape so effectively I am shocked to have never seen it done before (or perhaps I’ve just been living under a Krayt dragon skeleton for too long, and it has been done before). The red sails could use some dust or sand on them, since everything on Tatooine is dusty and sandy, but the simple pieces imitate the shape perfectly for this scale. The old Technic toothed plates give some clever connections for the skiffs, and the hair for the bantha is amazing. All in all, I think this is a great Pit of Carkoon.
When it comes to medieval buildings, builders sometimes go all out on texture. Pieces end up being used every which way, with studs facing all directions, and random parts thrown in there just to show how clever the builder is. It doesn’t always look good, though, since it can appear too busy. That’s not to say that I think every surface needs to be smooth and flat and all lines need to be clean and straight. Quite the contrary. Ralf Langer is one of the builders out there who manage to balance irregular surfaces, crooked lines, and clever parts usages with cohesive structures and a strong visual presence. The ground in his latest creation is a perfect microcosm of what I mean: he blends smooth bits, heavily studded bits, and interesting parts to create something appealing and delightful, and I haven’t even looked at the buildings yet!
If you are wondering what the part in the ground is that gives it the baked-clay or tiny cobblestone look, it is a Technic drive chain. And by a Technic drive chain, I mean about ten billion And they’re not just in the ground, but also in the walls of the buildings, forming some of the wattle in the classic wattle-and-daub medieval look. Minifig legs create some fun decaying shapes in one of the buildings, and flex tube ends make for some clever windows. But best of all is Ralf’s use of stud shooter triggers. I see at least four different uses for those in this build, showing once again that all pieces have uses in custom-built LEGO models. I’m always a sucker for immersive builds, and Ralf is one of the best at them. Look through the arches and you can see more town beyond, promising a bigger world out there. Just not for the figure on the ground, since the standing one is Death.
Ah, Christmas morning. Is there anything more magical as a kid? I argue that there is not. And architeclego captures the feel perfectly, as a child ventures into the living room to see the presents left by Santa Claus. The lighting is beautiful here, mingling the warm, gentle glow of the tree lights, the strand over the window, the lantern, and the fireplace with the cool moonlight streaming through the window. Perhaps the kid got up right after midnight, because Saint Nick is still on the premises, peeping through the panes to see the presents being received. The immersive scene is delightful, with a tiled ceiling with exposed rafters, bare brick walls, and well-varnished hardwood floors. Here’s to all Christmas mornings looking this good!
Now, I’m ordinarily a purist when it comes to everything LEGO. But the inclusion of some evergreen sprigs and an LED string here improve the presentation so much that I can hardly object. The Dobby socks over the fireplace look great, and that is probably the best use of a bow I have seen; I mean, it’s a bow on a present, but still, it looks much better than it does as a hair accessory. The best part, though, is that the kid is getting a vintage LEGO police car for Christmas. He must have been a very good boy this year.
When LEGO created their in-house Indiana Jones character, they gave him the same characteristics as the original: rugged good looks, iconic hat, and a predilection for grave robbing. Indy always insisted that relics belonged in his university’s museum, as opposed to remaining with the peoples from whom he stole them, or at very least in the territories of origin (the Sankara stones being an exception, since his mission was to restore the stones); not that he succeeded often, since the Ark and the Grail eluded him. But nothing eluded Johnny Thunder. He got all of his relics, and not just his own, as WerferOfFlammen shows us. While the build is not very technical, the display is jaw-dropping, and hugely satisfying. Every LEGO collectible is there, from the Infinity Stones to the Elves keys, from the Atlantis rings to the Ninjago Time Blades. That’s not all, of course, as everything is there. Everything. And Johnny Thunder doesn’t put anything in a museum, just his personal study.
Walls can be drab. I don’t know if you have ever had to stare at a wall, but I spent my fair share of time as a kid in time-out, sitting in a chair in the corner, examining the minutiae of the paint texture of the wall. Since then, I have stared at many walls, from cinder block to stylish shiplap, in doctors’ waiting rooms, my old calculus classroom, and many other places. They all look more or less the same. And the same thing can often be said of LEGO castle walls. Seen one castle, seen ’em all. But Marcel V. provides a break from the monotony by spicing up the grey with nice texture, but even more importantly, fun accessories. Because you know what makes a wall worth looking at? Family pictures, or a clock, or a piece of art hanging there.
The art of Marcel’s build is in the clever piece usages. There are paintbrushes and minifigure hands in the roof frame on the small tower. Unikitty tails give a delightful decorative detail on the battlements, and pistols provide support beneath. I also enjoy the wheelbarrow from a catapult and the vulture made from orc ears. All of these fun features make this wall lovely to look at, not drab. Add to that the fact that it is shown under construction, well, that just makes it better and more interesting. I’ve already stared at it for a while, and will continue doing so with pleasure.
Like the build? We covered an earlier part of Marcel’s brick adventure here.
Most builders seem to gravitate towards the unusual when crafting their LEGO creations, from fantastic castles to spaceships, perfectly maintained and bustling historic downtowns, or superheroes. We all know those things don’t exist. But sometimes a builder builds something mundane, commonplace, and knocks it out of the park. Take this watch by Andreas Lenander. I think the results tock, er, speak for themselves, but I especially love the presentation with the brick-built box and the delightful band that looks properly wearable.
Built for a challenge over at New Elementary, the hands are neatly crafted with a new Batman accessory, though as a result the watch can only ever tell times that have the hands at 90 degrees from each other. Not that a LEGO watch actually tells time, of course, unless we are talking about the line of watches that TLG has released as gear. Rounded 1×2 plates with holes make the band seem supple, and the 4×4 round tile looks like a watch face when inverted, with a little line for 12 and 6 o’clock. This is an ordinary object, perhaps, but the build is extraordinary.
Love LEGO watches? Check out this Rolex from a while back.
When I think of castles, I usually think of a grey structure, especially when the castle is built from LEGO bricks. There are only so many LEGO colors that look like stone, after all. Perhaps something tan would work, or black if the castle is for bad guys. And then comes Anthony Wilson, building a castle out of red and dark red. Those aren’t stone colors! What could he be thinking? It is called outside the box, I believe, and sometimes it even works. Given the Ninjago figures with multi-tailed canines and the transparent blue crystals, the red creates a beautiful fantasy atmosphere.
I’ve always admired builders who can do excellent round towers, and this is no exception. Someday I’ll have enough 1×1 round bricks to play like a big kid, too. The variation in colors is just right, and a 1×2 plate here and there creates a refreshing change in textures from the smooth 1×2 tiles. Don’t miss the stud shooters serving as broken crenelations at the top, or the wheel arch over the window. The slick round black base ties it all together and makes the presentation oh-so-sharp. Almost as sharp as those magical crystals look…Almost.
I love books. In fact, I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany. Ok, perhaps I was just imagining the mahogany, but I do have lots of books, and some are leather-bound. I don’t own an e-reader of any kind, and hope never to do so, because the magic of holding a book, especially hardcover, is irreplaceable. People give me strange looks when I pick up a used book at a store and give it a sniff and say, “Ah, that’s a proper year 1900 binding…a good vintage.” Builder Lego_nuts must have a soft spot for books, too, because this build evokes the magic of literacy, the opening of portals to adventure. Dorothy looks worried, unsure if she should continue on with the story, but the Cowardly Lion and the Tin Man are encouraging her to journey to the next page. Will she go on? Like, seriously, isn’t there a movie version she can watch instead?
The build is beautifully executed, utilizing a clever camera angle to capture the scene on the right-hand page. The foliage and warm lighting from the doorway are stunningly inviting, drawing the viewer deeper into the moment. The left-hand scene is lovely, too, in a bas-relief kind of way, though far fancier than the house that Dorothy is described as living in (if you don’t believe me, read the text on the pages in the picture). I am impressed by the photography and setup that went into this one, making me want to swing from that rope and journey on with my fellow adventurers.
Santa Claus, despite his media persona and the products he is implied to endorse, is not the consumerist type. Sure, he brings presents on Christmas to children, but not the max-out-the-credit-cards-and-refinance-the-house pile of presents that parents are somehow expected to provide. He lives a life of humble solitude, somewhere up in the frozen north (though not the North Pole; what responsible person would build a house on seasonally variant ice?), where he prepares for his annual journey of beneficence. At least, that is what this build by Andrea Lattanzio (Norton74) seems to imply. A delightful cabin, similar to Walden but much redder, rests in a peaceful snow-covered clearing, with deep snow on the roof and a sled ready to go (even though the sled is pulled by huskies, rather than reindeer).
The most impressive part of the display might be the collection of parts used to create the snow-covered foliage, from levers and megaphones to minifig hands and everything else white. However, I love the cannon as a chimney — topped by pots, even more. Unicorn horns make for lovely icicles on the eaves (if only they were available in transparent colors!). My one quibble is that the woodpile looks far too sparse to make it through the winter in conditions like that. Santa will freeze to death. Unless he isn’t watching out for the polar bear lurking behind the cabin, in which case he’ll be devoured before freezing. And before bringing me LEGO for my stocking.