Lego #21013 The Big Ben

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With the addition of this set to my collection I am hopeful that you will recognize how my interest in Lego from the design and architectural aesthetics is demonstrated.

Key Statistics

Official Page: Lego Store
Brick Instructions: Link
Pieces: 346, 34 unique parts & 2 rare
Mini Figures: N/A
Age group: 12+
Date assembled: 15 February 2015
Assembly duration: 45 min
Main steps: 52
Total steps (includes repetitions & sub-components): 167

Selection & Theme

The discover of the Architecture collection/theme within Lego appeals to the latent designer callings within my personality. The assembled models have a great detailed finish, and from a distance look very realistic as miniature models. Being reasonably priced, I took the plunge with The Big Ben, the smaller of two models purchased at the same time (heads up on the next Lego set theme…)

Having selected the model, the educational value has affirmed by decision. The booklets that are provided with the set are not just for providing assembly instructions, but also contain a wealth of information in the earlier sections covering a core description of the landmark, history, construction details, key facts (see below) and the architects.

Location: London, Great Britain
Architect: Charles Barry & Augustus Pugin
Style: Neo-gothic
Constructiontype: Clock tower
Materials: brickwork, stone cladding & cast iron
Date: 1843 – 1859
Height: 96.3 metres (316 feet)

Build

Generally, the architecture sets have one long run through of the main steps. The first five steps complete the base, which is two 6 x 10 plates, with the black border fully assembled – along with the nameplate piece. Unlike the main themes, in the architecture sets there are no stickers to fix to lego pieces; instead nameplates are flat-faced pieces with the model/landmark name pre-printed. Step 6 adds on the first outer border of grey flat-faced pieces, resembling an exterior path around the building. Steps 7 & 8 see a total of 16 plates (1×2) with 1-stud groove added to the rear and far right sides of the base. In Step 9, the final pieces are added to the second layer – creating a small grass patch in the front left corner whilst blanking plates fill out the remaining gaps. The purpose of the 16 plates (1×2) 1-stud groove is to shift the upper layers in by half a lego stud. Step 10 lays the first building foundation in a cream-colour sandstone style of 3-length flat pieces.

In Step 11, we are introduced to the unique building style that will apply to the Lego bricks/pieces: we affix single stud flat parts in single-stud intervals along the rear and far right sides of the building. We then complete this pattern with the building sides nearest the garden corner. Step 13 helps to explain a bit more – we now fill in the remaining rear studs with the single round brick/open stud part whilst the front right uses single square bricks. Step 14 adds in the central building support in the form of a seamless, continuous middle single-stud width wall that intersects in the rear right. The first of a handful of interesting fun facts is present here on the page of Step 14:

There are 334 steps to the belfry of the Clock Tower and a total of 393 to the lantern (the Ayrton Light), which is illuminated any time Parliament sits after dark.

Step 15 completes the layer with single round or square bricks, the round ones mirroring the rear section whilst the square ones mirroring the front right section. We start building the next layer by extending all single brick units up one brick height. We do this in stages, first with the rear (#16) so that over steps 17-18 the middle wall bricks can be slotted in easily. The middle wall bricks are no longer long pieces either – instead we alternate single-width bricks with side studs. The single brick at the front right utilises a three stud side part. Step 19 completes the front and left facing extensions. The use of the side-facing studs becomes apparent in Step 20 when we insert into each space the “windows” or “doors”, each of the 10 units comprising a rear/bottom 1×2 plate attached to a front/front 1×2 grill tile. The effect is immediate and gives you a good contrast between the pillars. Step 21 holds all these assembly together by covering it over completely.

In step 22, we see the same recurring pattern of alternating slots emerge. At Step 28, we see a slight divergence in the fact that one of the four-sided stud units being attached with a brown 1×2 flat plate. At step 29, two flat-faced plates form the far left support and rear/right support, extending out from the middle wall side studs.

Aston stone from Yorkshire and granite from Cornwall were used on the exterior of the tower to clad the brickwork core.

At step 30, another 10 window/door units are added to complete the side faces. Step 31 sees the remaining pillars – square and round – added to complete the six layer of bricks. At this stage, the entire structure has an even top, with the one exception of half a brown flat plate protruding from the middle of the building. We now define three sets of chimneys which are added to the the left roof and the rear right side of the building, These three chimneys have a single conical chimney on one side, a double layered black square chimney in the centre and a single stud chimney completing the last available slot on the 3×1 foundational part. In step 33, a double conical chimney roof piece is assembled and added to the central part of the building, which leaves space for the clock tower on the front right side of the building. Four sets of roofing pieces are assembled to slot in between the chimneys.

Step 35 provides a flat structure to cover the clock tower part of the building. Step 36 sees the familiar pattern of single-stud flat pieces added to the four sides indicating where the “window” parts will eventually be added; this process occupying steps 36 & 37. Repeating this cycle thrice, takes us all the way to Step 47, by which time the clock tower is nearing completion. Step 48 sees the entire 3×3 footprint covered with single stud pieces. Added to this is another layer of flat bricks which creates a nice ridged effect at the base of the clock faces. Step 50 sees the four single-stud sided brick added along with the edge square bricks; we now can see where the clock faces will be added. The clock spire is assembled over the only mini sequence which is 10-steps long. Finally, in Step 52, the four clock faces are added to the model; the time frozen on the model is 2:57…

Statistical Analysis

I suspect generalisation for the architecture series/theme will be quite challenging since each landmark is uniquely different. For the Big Ben, a heavy use of Brick Round 1 x 1 Open Stud along with the recurring patterns for the “window” pieces made this set quite repetitive. The 167 total steps reflects 115 additional minor steps, which was in the majority of cases a repeated sequence of first fitting two parts together. Personally, I wish the model scaling was larger since the precision required for the single-stud brick parts is not the easiest from an assembly perspective. The age framing of the set as being 12 years and older is appropriate given this kind of precision required, but the final model is well worth the patience and effort.

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