Architects attract cliches. They wear roll-neck sweaters and round, wire-frame glasses. They drive a Saab. And almost every one will have a LEGO Architecture set on their desk. The earliest sets could have been made for them. Minimalist, monochrome designs that looked perfect on a Scandinavian designer table.
Soon the theme evolved, highlighting the very best that 20th century architecture had to offer. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater and Guggenheim Museum sat alongside the Farnsworth House by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. And next to that, possibly the epitome of ‘futuristic’ house design, the Villa Savoye by Le Corbusier. Intertwined were iconic landmarks like the Brandenburg Gate, The White House and the Sydney Opera House.
These were all sets aimed squarely at adults, and often adults that would have little or no interest in a traditional LEGO set. These were designs that could sit on a desk in an office and attract admiring glances, where a CITY Police Station would only get raised – and puzzled – eyebrows.
Then along came 21028 New York City. Rather than an individual building, it was a Skyline, incorporating a number of famous buildings, each created out of a handful of bricks, each one a suggestion of the building rather than an accurate representation. At less than £50 it was an ideal souvenir of a holiday to the Big Apple, and it was soon followed by others. Berlin. Venice. London.
And since then, those detailed models of architectural icons seem to have been sidelined. These days, gift-shop friendly, unit-shifting designs are the order of the day. As far as ‘proper’ Architecture sets are concerned (no offence, Skyline team), we’ve only had three sets in the past three years, with 21058 The Great Pyramid of Giza following 21056 Taj Mahal (itself arguably a remake of the two Creator Expert versions) and 21054 The White House from 2020.
Why we see so few models from this theme is something of a mystery. The LEGO Group has been actively courting adults over the past few years with the 18+ branding and the ‘Adults Welcome’ tagline. So for a line that is aimed squarely at that segment of the market to receive so little support is puzzling. Chances are the answers lie buried in a sales report somewhere.
We can but hope that the line gets a little more attention paid to it, and that the designers seek out genuine examples of cutting edge architecture rather than tourist attractions. There are countless options, such as the Millau Viaduct in France, the Cube House in Rotterdam or the Isokon building in London. All would make for builds that were both interesting and aesthetically pleasing.