Monday, 6 January 2014

Tossed Salads & Scrambled Eggs. Review : LEGO Architecture 21003, Seattle Space Needle

Christmastime, Mistletoe and wi…  Hang on, we’ve already done that, haven’t we?  But as well as plants and plonk, Christmas also means pressies!  And I was fortunate enough to get a Lego shaped gift this year.

In the online world, my favourite hangout for the past decade has been the gaming site,, or more specifically, the forum of said site.  For some years now, we’ve run an EG Secret Santa, whereby you get given the name and address of another forumite and depending on how much research you put in, either send them something that suits them down to the ground, or something wholly inappropriate.

I think some some people take ‘wholly inappropriate’ as a target, rather than something to be avoided...

Anyway, I took part as I usually do, and in mid-December a parcel arrived at Chez Boo, which rattled in a most promising manner.  When I finally opened it on the big day, as well as a pile of sweets (always appreciated), I was delighted to find a couple of items - one was the 21003 LEGO Architecture Series model of the Seattle Space Needle, the other, which baffled me for a while, was the soundtrack to Frasier.

Don’t get me wrong - I was very pleased with it.  I’m a fan of the show, and this was music from the series, interspersed with clips of dialogue, so good stuff all round.  But while I spend a lot of time in the LEGO, LEGO, LEGO thread on Eurogamer, I don’t ever remember mentioning an admiration for this particular show.

And then it dawned on me.  Where is Frasier set?


So with a big thank you to Ignatius_Cheese (1), I put the CD on and settled down to build myself a Space Needle…

The box is of the usual Architecture Series quality (2), and has a picture of the model on the front, while the back also has a couple of images of the actual building itself.  The side panel notes that the set was designed by Adam Reed Tucker, who coincidentally designed my first Architecture set, Fallingwater.

LEGO Architecture Series, 21003 - Seattle Space Needle

...and the back of the box

Opening the box reveals a nice glossy manual, and in addition to the build instructions, it gives a short history of the Needle, plus a few words from Adam Reed Tucker.

A manual of the glossy variety

There’s also a facts and figures page.  I can only presume the they chose this particular Pinnacle type as otherwise the rod would have been too heavy! (3)

Pretty sure it should be Lightning Rod

The other things we find in the box are two bags of parts and four flexible rods.

The management would like to apologise for the poor quality
of some of these photographs.  Steps have been taken to ensure
better quality in future.

It’s a modest set at 57 pieces, so with the dulcet tones of Dr Frasier Crane in my ears, it’s on with the build.  Pretty soon we have a 10 x 8 base and the bottom of the tower…

The actual Space Needle has a 30 foot thick slab of concrete
underneath the base to lower the centre of gravity, fact fans!

The main ‘stem’ of the buidling soon goes up…

And then I turned the page of the instruction book over…

In the LEGO community, there are a great many people who would consider that they fall into that group often referred to as ‘purists’.  In essence, it means that if you want to build something out of LEGO, then that’s what you do.  You don’t build it ‘mostly’ out of LEGO, and then finish of a tricky part with something else because there isn’t an appropriate LEGO part.  Other crimes against LEGO include glueing pieces together, cutting them, painting them, melting them and so forth. (4)

So I wondered what had happened when Adam Reed Tucker took his Space Needle prototype into the boardroom for a final sign off on his design.

“Hello Adam.  What have you got for us?”

“Well, this is the Seattle Space Needle, for the Architecture line.”

There is much nodding of heads and appreciative noises at Tucker’s simple, clean design.

“Very nice, Adam, that will make a great addition to the series.”

Meanwhile, one of the head honcho's has picked up the model and is taking a closer look.

“Say, Adam.  These three flexi rods that you’ve used on the main structure.  I don’t believe we make any this long.  How have you made them fit?”

“Ah, yes…  Well I’ve put in the instructions that the builder takes the rods that we supply and er…”


“Er…  cuts a bit off with a pair of scissors.”

Cue that noise you get in films where a needle is dragged across a record and suddenly everybody in the bar goes silent and slowly turns round to look at the hero who's just said something inappropriate to the baddies girlfriend.

It’s certainly not what I expected to find in an official set.  Everything that I’ve learnt over the past months that I’ve been back into LEGO, and in particular, with what is and is not acceptable for a CUUSOO submission suggests that any kind of mutilation, or ‘illegal’ use of parts is not tolerated at all by the LEGO group, so this came as a surprise.

I asked the good folk of what they thought about the whole ‘altering parts’ thing, and to be fair, there’s a reasonable split between those who think that there’s always a way to build what you want with official parts, and those who take the aforementioned view, "It’s my brick and I’ll cut it if I want to.” 

In fact I was reading something only this morning, on the very excellent, run by Nerd-In-Chief, Tommy Williamson.  He’d done a review of  the book ‘LEGO Space - Building The Future’ by Peter Reid and Tim Goddard (which incidentally I got for Christmas - yay!), and I noticed the following potentially heretical statement:

“The main difference is what might be called "illegal" techniques. You won't find an official LEGO model using things like the lever base without the lever, or removed Minifigure hands and hooks. But you'll find these advanced and out-of-the-box techniques in this book. It's really when a builder learns to embrace a little "rule breaking" that they take their building to the next level. I'm not talking about cutting bricks or modifying parts, this is just simply pushing existing elements beyond what they were intended for, and Pete and Tim are masters of this.”

Quoted from 

Interesting view.

Anyway, I wielded the scissors (and was grateful for the fact that the set included a spare rod in case you make a mistake).  Fortunately the spare was not required.  Putting the rods into place gave me this…

Nearly finished!

A few more pieces as the job is complete!

It’s a lovely little set.  Not big or complex, but there is something immensely right about it.  Aesthetically it’s extremely satisfying, and the curves of the tower means that it’s very nice to pick up.  Mrs Boo took one look at it and pronounced that she much preferred it to Fallingwater.

Highly recommended.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

(1) I suspect that’s not what his parents named him.

(2) I.e. a cut above most LEGO boxes, and openable without destroying part of it.

(3) I may scoff, but I suspect that broadly speaking, the LEGO designers’ grasp of the English Language is a darned sight better than my Danish!

(4) In the interests of balance, there are plenty of people who take the view ‘They’re my pieces, so I’ll do just what I like with them.’


  1. Does it come with a wee pair of scissors?

  2. No, I'm afraid you have to supply your own!