The best LEGO architecture sets
Almost every child that picks up LEGO bricks starts making a house. It may be mismatched, with few features and have a lot of colors, but it is a step in a particular direction. LEGO Architecture emerged from the immense success of the LEGO company. It has grown to become a learning tool that has revolutionized architecture through its simplicity and innovativeness.
LEGO is a way of showcasing the architect in us, but what has architecture inspired in LEGO?
To go straight to our list of the best LEGO architecture sets, skip to the end of this article… and to find out more about LEGO architecture and where is has come from keep reading…
What is LEGO?
Almost everyone has heard of, or owned LEGOs at some point in their lives. They are among the most popular toys of all time. LEGO is the name of a company that makes interlocking plastic blocks that can be assembled into almost anything, including buildings, vehicles and even action figures. The LEGO is a toy format that has been passed down from generation to generation without becoming obsolete.
LEGOs were first made with the sole purpose of being toys that target learning through play, and today, they have more than achieved what they were intended for. This is the main reason why LEGO has managed to become the most powerful toy brand in the world.
A brief history of LEGO
Lego was founded by Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1932, when he began making wooden toys. The name ‘Lego’ has its roots from the Danish phrase that means ‘play well.’ The company first started making plastic toys in 1947, and in 1949, they made the first version of the now extremely popular interlocking blocks.
In the early 1960s, many people developed an interest in modeling and designing their own homes, so LEGO introduced “scale models” to take advantage of this rising interest.
Around 50 or so years later, Adam Reed Tucker, an artist from Kansas State University revived this form of architecture combined with play in a different way.
His LEGO designs formed skyscrapers from Chicago. This is how LEGO architecture started.
LEGO architecture, however, is not the only product range from LEGO to deal with architecture. Here is a closer look at how it developed.
How LEGO Architecture developed
As mentioned earlier, LEGO was founded in Denmark in 1932, but its connection to architecture was only established much later in 1957. Back then, the first product range was called “Town Plan No.1”, and it allowed kids to make hotels, gas stations and other simple buildings.
LEGO then gradually started capitalizing on buildings. It designed some pieces that targeted architects in around 1961, but these were unsuccessful. The company quickly shifted their focus back to kids with pieces that featured spaceships, Star Wars, and even cars. These were meant for boys aged about 12 years old.
The next versions appeared in 1978. They were based on a few buildings in small towns like police stations, firehouses or dungeons in Castle series.
In 2008, Adam Reed Tucker, an artist from Kansas State University revived this form of architecture by conceptualizing miniature models of famous architectural buildings, designing them and packaging the pieces with instructions on how to assemble them.
The first designs were of skyscrapers in Chicago. This was the beginning of the LEGO architecture brand.
As LEGO’s sub-brand, it has released over 32 world famous models since 2008. The models are for landmarks from various eras, like the Big Ben, the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Villa Savoye, along with a series focusing on the works of famous architects.
LEGO Architecture series
The first 6 sets were released in 2009. They came in two series:
The Landmark Series and the Architecture Series. The Landmark Series featured 4 US skyscrapers: The John Hancock Center in Chicago, the Empire State Building in New York, the Sears Tower in Chicago, and the Space Needle in Seattle.
The Architecture Series featured famous Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces: The Falling Water building and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
LEGO Architecture crossed the US border in 2011 and went global. At this time, LEGO released the Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate set and the Burj Khalifa set as part of its landmark series.
LEGO further became even more popular globally with the release of the Sydney Opera House in 2012.
The Skyline series was added to LEGO architecture in 2016. It featured Berlin, New York, and Venice. Sydney, Chicago, and London got their models in 2017.
Lego Architecture Studio
LEGO launched the LEGO Architecture Studio in 2013 as an independent product from the LEGO Architecture series.
The Studio set has 1,210 transparent and white Lego bricks which come with a 272-page guidebook for instructions, design techniques, tips, and exercises.
These tips are made and supplied by professional architects from world-class architectural firms such as SOM, Sou Fujimoto Architects, MAD Architects, REX Architecture, Tham & Videgård Arkitekter, and Safdie Architects.
Lego Architecture Studio is adult oriented, lacking the famous LEGO color palette. It also comes in many forms and sizes, giving users room for innovation or creativity with minimal restrictions.
Online LEGO Architecture
LEGO has not stopped there. Today, there are several downloadable LEGO products that can be found on their official website. Some of these products are free, such as downloadable booklets which are available in many languages. These booklets have the histories of the buildings in the LEGO sets, and interesting facts about the buildings and their Architects. There are also posters of the buildings, which you can download, print and color for fun.
What do LEGOs teach children?
Unlike other toys, LEGOs have remained popular for years. They have become a kind of childhood milestone; playing with them is more than just entertainment. They teach kids several lessons and impart useful skills, including:
Creativity: LEGOs help kids become creative and think outside the box.
They help them develop problem-solving skills. This comes naturally as they follow the directions of a specific set of LEGOs.
LEGOs are a good foundation for better comprehension of STEM areas like science, engineering, technology, and math.
Kids also get a chance to develop their spatial skills, which is a good foundation in advanced concepts in engineering and architecture.
LEGOs also serve as educational tools. For example, with LEGO Architecture, children get a chance to recreate famous landmarks. This is a good start towards learning design and architecture. It introduces kids to the concepts behind the design of important buildings in the world.
How can it help with creativity?
LEGOs can also be really useful in the entrepreneurial world. This is because its tenets, which include playing, building, designing, wrecking and redoing, are inherently relevant and very applicable in almost any industry.
For architectural firms and architectural practices, they play an even bigger role. In fields where creativity is important to the business’ long term health, LEGOs foster a culture of innovation through continuous designing and prototyping.
In short, LEGO habits nurture more creativity than any other learning and designing methods. They also instill a divergent thinking mindset, forcing you to seek solutions among items people would rarely place together. This is how you get to understand how spaces are connected.
Designing impressions from spaces can be fun, affordable and ideal to connect people through interaction. It also boosts innovation and stimulates broader conversations among designers.
How can it aid the design process?
LEGOs are a perfect match for architecture because they have the ability to showcase the conceptualized product while allowing you to tweak and transform it in reality.
Losing sight of reality can be easy, especially when you work within a large and well-distributed company. Your ideas become entwined with your company's requirements, especially when things move from one assignment to another, and time for reflection becomes limited.
LEGOs are the perfect tools to counter this.
LEGO habits nurture more creativity than any other design methods. If you build things freely, you are bound to reap more creative benefits than when you are restricted. However, keep in mind that when you build models with a well-defined model kit you'll be less creative than when you build with a random selection of parts.
The beauty of LEGOs is that they were made with every effort to display products to customers in reality. They are easy to assemble and can fit any design possible, provided they are to scale.
LEGOs also have consistency, especially in functionality. Therefore, with LEGOs, designers are able to display a lot by doing less work. This way, they achieve more. They are an easy fix, and a quick way to model and test ideas that you have.
Reasons why people collect LEGOs
They are a great investment
LEGOs are like stocks: they appreciate in value. They are almost indestructible, and many people from all over the world collect them. These people are always looking into expand their collections and as years go by, these collections appreciate in value.
LEGOs are timeless
The LEGOs you played with as a child are the same ones being produced today. Many people are genuinely interested in them because they are instantly vintage. Even after a very long time, say 40 years, if they still have their sets, people will still use them the same way they did back then.
They are interesting and fun to tinker with
The fun never ends because there are so many outcomes. Your inner child will always want to discover what other things you could make. There is no age limit to using LEGOs; adults love playing with them just as much as children do. You can therefore buy them for your children, grandchildren, or for yourself.
They are ornamental
Creating a complex LEGO piece is a source of thrill and joy for many enthusiasts. You can relive this thrill and joy by decorating your room or home with the finished piece. Legos have a way of bringing a unique aura of coolness into any room, which is why many people decorate their spaces with them.
A lot of people collect LEGOs as a hobby
Collecting LEGOs is fun and thrilling. Hobbyists collect special sets and pieces to put them in their personal collections. They probably do so because it brings them a lot of joy, apart from the obvious financial collectible value the sets have.
To finish up and as mentioned above, here we have created a list of the most interesting and what we consider to be the best LEGO architecture sets currently available, covering most if not all the genres of the built environment.
…as usual Amazon tends to offer the best deals and so this is where we have focused our links for quick reference:
- Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum
Discover the architectural secrets of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. This accurately detailed LEGO model faithfully recreates the curves and distinctive lines that have made this building an architectural icon for the last half-century. The simple, grid-patterned facade of the annex tower complements the main building with its circular rotundas, while buildable exterior elements depict a section of New York City’s 5th Avenue Museum Mile.
- Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye
Situated on the outskirts of Paris, France Villa Savoye was designed by Le Corbusier in the 1920s as the perfect embodiment of Le Corbusier’s 'Five Points' construction principles. This fusion of modern architecture and nature was intended to create harmony with Villa Savoye’s woodland surroundings. Just like the real thing, this set features columns, functional roof space, open floor planning, long horizontal windows, and a free façade.
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa
The Leaning Tower of Pisa has a trademark tilt that has seen it reproduced on postcards and souvenirs all over the world. Construction was started over 800 years ago when the Widow Berta of Bernado left 60 gold coins in her will that paid for the first stones and started the building of the Tower. Now you can build history’s most famous bell tower and learn how the famous lean started. The enclosed booklet tells the story of the Tower’s history and how the 56 metre building began its journey into architectural history.
- The Eiffel Tower
Designed and built by French entrepreneur, Gustave Eiffel, the original 324-meter-tall masterpiece of wrought iron engineering formed the grand entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair, held in Paris to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. During construction, the 18,038 wrought iron elements making up the tower’s lattice structure were bolted together at Eiffel’s factory on the outskirts of Paris, before being transported to the site, hoisted into place by steam-powered cranes operating from the elevator shafts, and assembled using no less than 2.5 million individual rivets.
- Seattle Space Needle
Built in Seattle, Washington’s famous Space Needle was created for the 1962 World’s Fair, this sweeping futuristic tower is the fourth in the LEGO Architecture Landmark series. Built out of gray bricks, the assembled Space Needle stands 8.7" (222 mm) tall on a 3.1-inch (80 mm) base with a printed label and includes a booklet with facts about the building, its construction and its history.
- The White House
There are few structures in the United States with the history and reverence of The White House, designed by James Hoban. On July 16, 1792, President George Washington chose this James Hoban design from six competing designs from renowned architects. This six-story Sandstone structure was meant to command respect for the nation from citizens and foreign visitors. Construction took place from 1792 - 1800 and it was rebuilt by Hoban following the fire of 1814.
Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1934, Fallingwater is perhaps the most famous residential home in the world. Open to the public since 1963, this masterpiece exemplifies Frank Lloyd Wright's organic architectural style by intimately merging man with the surrounding landscape. This highly-detailed LEGO model, co-developed and designed by architect Adam Reed Tucker, captures all of the distinctive features that make Fallingwater an architectural landmark.
- United Nations Headquarters
Standing on the banks of New York City’s East River, the United Nations Headquarters has become one of the world’s most iconic buildings. Designed mainly by Le Corbusier and Oscar Niemeyer, the cornerstone was laid in 1949 and it was completed just three years later. This soaring architectural triumph is part of the LEGO Landmark series that pays tribute to some of the world’s greatest buildings and makes a fine addition to your desk, office or playroom
- Arc de Triomphe
This detailed model faithfully reproduces Paris’ iconic masterpiece, with statue-adorned pillars, sculptural reliefs and subtle colouring that adds warmth while emphasising the model’s bold lines, curves and contours. It also includes a golden plate to represent the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a LEGO interpretation of the eternal flame and a decorative “Arc de Triomphe” nameplate.
- New York City
Celebrate the architectural diversity of New York City with this detailed LEGO brick model. This set features the Flatiron Building, Chrysler Building, Empire State Building, One World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty, and is finished with a decorative “New York City” nameplate. Includes a booklet containing information about the designer, architecture and history of each building, as well as historical facts about New York City and its architectural heritage
- Flatiron Building
Rising up from a triangular wedge of land between Broadway, Fifth Avenue and East 22nd Street, the ‘Fuller Building’ – as it was originally named – became one of the city’s tallest buildings at 20 stories on completion in 1902. A penthouse, built three years later, added an extra story. The locals’ nickname for the building was later officially adopted, and the ‘Flatiron Building’ has since been officially recognized as a National Historic Landmark.
This LEGO Architecture Skyline Collection features the Willis Tower, John Hancock Center, Cloud Gate, DuSable Bridge, Wrigley Building and the Big Red, and is finished with a decorative “Chicago” nameplate.
- Farnsworth House
Few one-room homes are as strikingly modern and instantly recognizable as the Farnsworth House, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. This single-story steel structure with floor-to-ceiling glass walls was meant to open a minimalist interior to nature in an extreme way. Construction took place from 1945–1951 on a 60-acre estate beside the Fox River in Plano, Illinois, where it still stands today.
- Big Ben
The Big Ben Clock Tower, one of the world's most instantly recognizable landmarks. Standing at the northeast corner of the Palace of Westminster in London, England, the Big Ben Clock Tower was erected from 1843–1859 following a fire that burned down much of the original palace. The clock tower features classical design with a distinct gothic influence. The clockwork itself was designed by Edward John Dent shortly after construction of the tower began.
- Trevi Fountain
Designed by Nicola Salvi, the ‘Fontana di Trevi’ took 30 years to build and was completed by his friend – the sculptor, Pietro Bracci – in 1762, 11 years after Salvi’s death. This stunning Baroque monument carved from Travertine stone has been the backdrop for many classic movies, including Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. And, today, over 250 years later, the 49-meter-wide fountain still draws thousands of visitors to the small Trevi square.
- Sydney Opera House
This masterpiece of expressionist architecture was the vision of a young Danish architect, Jørn Utzon, whose unique interlocking vaulted ‘shell’ design beat 933 competitors from 28 countries to win an international design competition held by the New South Wales government in 1959. Combined with the beautiful setting of Sydney Harbour, the opera house has become a true symbol of late modern architecture and one of the most iconic buildings of the 20th century.
- Brandenburg Gate
Commissioned by King Frederick William II of Prussia as a sign of peace, the Brandenburg Gate has been one of Berlin's most important monuments for over 200 years – both as an architectural landmark and historic symbol. The grandest of a series of 18 gates circling the city, the Brandenburg Gate was constructed between 1788–1791 from the Propylaea-inspired designs of architect Carl Gotthard Langhans. This sandstone gate consists of twelve Doric columns that combine to form five passageways, topped by the imposing Johann Gottfried Schadow statue, Quadriga – a four-horse chariot ridden by Victoria, the Roman Goddess of victory.
The Louvre, the world's largest museum of art. Located in the heart of Paris on the bank of the river Seine, this magnificent structure, renowned for its striking blend of Renaissance and Modernist architecture, welcomes over 9 million visitors a year and houses over 35,000 works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa. The Louvre started life as a fortress, built by King Philip Augustus in 1190 to protect Parisians from foreign invasion, and has since undergone a number of renovations.
- Empire State Building
The Empire State Building joins the LEGO Architecture Landmark series of real-world construction models! Standing 7.4" (188 mm) tall, New York City’s famous skyscraper is built from tan bricks on a striking 3.1" (80 mm) grey and black base with printed name label. Includes a booklet with details about the building’s history and creation. Perfect for any New Yorker, world tourist or architecture fan!
- Architecture Studio
Bring your architectural creations to life with LEGO Architecture Studio. In this amazing set you get over 1200 LEGO bricks and an inspirational guidebook filled with 272 pages of tips, techniques, features, and intuitive hands-on exercises endorsed by leading design houses. LEGO Architecture Studio gives you everything you need to create your very own unique buildings.
- Burj Khalifa
This 2016 reintroduction of the popular Burj Khalifa model stands over 15” tall, making it the tallest LEGO Architecture model to date. Consequently, the model has been designed with a focus on rigidity and strength—retaining its distinctive flower form when viewed from above—while delivering an interesting and rewarding building experience.
- Willis Tower
This striking black-and-white replica of the famous Willis Tower in Chicago, U.S.A. measures 9" (228 mm) tall and 3.1" (80 mm) wide at its labeled base, and includes a booklet full of details about the building’s design and history, plus facts about the real tower. A creative and eye-catching accent for any desk, shelf or mantelpiece!
- Lincoln Memorial
The Lincoln Memorial, national monument to the 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln. Designed by architect Henry Bacon to resemble a classic Greek temple, the Memorial was officially dedicated to the American people at a ceremony on May 30, 1922, 57 years after Lincoln’s death. Today, it remains a hugely popular tourist attraction and is open 24 hours a day to the public. Just like the actual building in Washington D.C., this detailed LEGO set incorporates 36 Doric columns, which symbolize all the states within the Union at the time of Lincoln’s passing.
- The LEGO Architect Book
Travel through the history of architecture in The LEGO Architect. Learn about styles like Neoclassical, Art Deco, Prairie, Modernism, Brutalism, Postmodernism, and High-tech. Find inspiration with LEGO reproductions of buildings from around the world. Follow simple instructions to build 12 models that explore each architectural style