LEGO reveals why Barad-dûr was the obvious choice after Rivendell

The LEGO designers behind 10333 The Lord of the Rings: Barad-dûr explain why Sauron’s fortress was the obvious choice after Rivendell – and why the eye was core to everything…

10333 The Lord of the Rings: Barad-dûr will enter the wider canon of huge LEGO The Lord of the Rings sets in June, some 15 months after the LEGO Group returned to Middle-earth for 10316 The Lord of the Rings: Rivendell. Speaking to Brick Fanatics last year, lead designer Antica Bracanov reveals how and when Rivendell’s successor started to take shape.

“Rivendell was already out when we started [designing this set],” Antica says. “I believe that we didn’t know yet if there was going to be a next one, but after Rivendell came out, we started to talk [about] doing another one. And this one was pretty much on top of everybody’s list. We have a lot of fans around the building and whenever we asked, ‘What do you think should be the next one?’, everybody said Barad-dûr.”

That mention of a list isn’t by accident, because Barad-dûr wasn’t the only candidate the designers mulled over for their next LEGO The Lord of the Rings set… but it was the most obvious.

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“We had a list of things that we would like to do, but we were also considering different factors like what makes sense to follow Rivendell?” Antica explains. “[With Rivendell] you see the beginning of the journey and a nice, colourful, bright space with certain characters, and then we said it would be nice to actually have a contrast to that – so new characters in a completely different setting, with different and darker colours. It just made sense in so many different ways to actually go with this one.”

While the LEGO Group initially tossed around the idea of making Rivendell microscale, to the point that an entire sketch model was drawn up, making that set minifigure-scale locked in the direction for Barad-dûr immediately. This was always going to be hooked to minifigures, as will presumably be the case for any LEGO The Lord of the Rings sets that might follow in the years to come.

That gave Antica and graphic designer Ashwin Visser a solid foundation for the set’s proportions, but the real starting point was the last thing you build in the set: the Eye of Sauron.

“The eye was the first thing that we designed,” Antica says. “We started from top to bottom, because the eye is the most iconic part of the model. We were talking a lot about how it should be done. We had most of the designers in my team working on their iterations of the eye and then we were just trying to see which one works the best. And once we found the shape and the size, we started to work on the platform and everything surrounding it.

“We had different sizes and shapes of everything around [the eye] and were just figuring out what works the best. So that was the first thing, and then we followed by finding the silhouette of the model and shaping the rest of the fortress.”

The eye was ultimately the determining factor in the scale of Barad-dûr, and it’s ultimately why the towering model reaches a colossal 83cm in height. If Sauron’s disembodied eye had been any bigger or smaller, everything would have changed – but the designers are confident that everything lines up neatly at this size and scale.

“If you made the eye a couple of millimetres bigger, it would affect everything,” Antica adds. “It would affect the space that it needs between these little support pillars. And I think it did turn out really well when you compare it to the fortress that we see on screen. I feel like the silhouettes and proportions are very close to each other.”

10333 The Lord of the Rings: Barad-dûr launches June 1 for LEGO Insiders for £399.99 / $469.99 / €469.99, while 10316 The Lord of the Rings: Rivendell is available now. Check out more designer insights from Ashwin and Antica in our full interview over on YouTube.

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Author Profile

Chris Wharfe
I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then.

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