This is why LEGO ditched its classic baseplates in 2021’s CITY sets

The LEGO Group has revealed the real reason for replacing its classic baseplates with a new road plate system in this year’s CITY sets.

Vacuum-formed baseplates have been in use in LEGO products for generations, including specialised plates with missing studs and printing to mimic roads and pavements. But in January this year, the company decided it was time to pave over that longstanding legacy.

In their place came 60304 Road Plates, a brand new system of brick-built roads that’s also popped up in other LEGO CITY sets including 60292 Town Center and 60306 Shopping Street. As far as the LEGO Group is concerned, this is the future of city layouts – and with good reason.

“The LEGO CITY buildings are built on regular plates which are not easily compatible with the vacuum-formed plates,” the company’s Element Design and CITY teams told New Elementary. “On top of this, it has always been a challenge that you could not build across a vacuum plate and a normal plate.”

LEGO 60306 Shopping Street pose shot featured

However, those aren’t the only reasons baseplates have been slowly but surely phased out of most LEGO sets over the past few years. According to the same teams, it’s also a result of the company’s move towards more environmentally-friendly packaging, as decreasing box sizes meant the huge 32×32 baseplates could only be included in the largest sets.

In the eyes of the LEGO Group’s designers, the new buildable road plates – which took a full decade to develop – are an all-encompassing solution to each of those problems.

“The new road plates offer greater opportunity and more flexibility for layout and scaling of a cityscape,” the CITY and Element Design teams explained. “Considerations that led to the final format were proportions and playability in the context of LEGO CITY models, but also versatility and scalability within the LEGO System.”

We’ve already seen some of that versatility in the reconfigurable 60304 Road Plates, but the new elements will go one step further in this summer’s sets, which recolour them to portray sand and water.

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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. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

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