World’s largest LEGO store opens in London’s Leicester Square [News]

Today the world’s largest LEGO store opens in Leicester Square, within the bustling heart of London. The Brothers Brick were invited to an exclusive pre-opening event to take a tour of the new store, preview an exclusive set, and talk to Glenn Abell (LEGO’s Vice President of Direct To Consumer) about the future of LEGO’s retailing.

The London flagship store is the largest in the world, covering 914 sqm over two floors, and features a number of signature brick sculptures — all themed to the City of London. The doors open onto an archway with the classic London Underground sign stating “Leicester Square” and a map of the London Underground lights up one wall.

There’s a life-size brick-built Tube carriage, 2m high and 5m long, made of over 600,000 pieces where you can have your photo taken seated between a Grenadier Guard and William Shakespeare.

A stunning 6.5m model of Elizabeth Tower and Big Ben dominates the main window. This huge model is made from over 350,000 bricks and tips the scales at over a ton. The model features a working, backlit clock which chimes with a replica sound of the real Big Ben.

Upstairs there’s more sculptural fun with a giant version of Brickley the dragon weaving his way through the wall, and a life-size classic red telephone box with larger-than-life telephone inside. Tantalisingly, the phone rings but the receiver cannot be picked up. A huge London skyline mosaic also adorns the wall of the store staircase (which apparently took over 90 hours to build).

The new Architecture skyline set 21034 is exclusive to this store for the rest of 2016, and will undoubtedly be a popular set along with the 40220 Creator London Bus, 21029 Architecture Buckingham Palace, and 10253 Creator Big Ben. TBB were kindly given a copy of the new London skyline set from LEGO and you can find out more about it in our forthcoming review.

The store also features a Pick-a-Brick wall with Pick-a-Model section, a brick play area, Build-a-Minifigure station, and a touch screen catalogue. One press of the ‘Assistance Required’ button on the screen and a helpful Apple Watch-wearing LEGO store employee comes scuttling over.

The London store is also the first in the world to offer a completely new experience — Mosaic Maker. This offers the opportunity to purchase your very own, one of a kind, personalised LEGO mosaic portrait. The machine captures your image and in under ten minutes printed instructions and the bricks required to complete the LEGO portrait are supplied to the customer. This new technology essentially looks like a photo booth but rather than a photo, a 48×48 stud baseplate and a couple of bags of 1×1 plates come out of the slot. Mosaic Maker costs £90 a set.

Lester, that quintessential English gentleman, a tea-drinking, bowler hat-wearing chap appears throughout the store as a slightly eerie talking minifigure, and a larger-than-life sculpture ready for his photo opportunity. The Lester minifigure has been released as a scratch card prize with only 275 made — rather disappointing for those who expected the minifigure to be available as an in-store purchase.

 
During the buzz of the pre-opening event we caught up with Glenn Abell, LEGO Vice President for Direct-To-Consumer for Europe, Middle East and Africa. We quizzed him about the importance of brick-and-mortar stores, the theatre of good retailing, the Daily Mail, and his fondness for the 2×4 brick…

TBB: Here we are in your new flagship retail site in the centre of London. How important is this sort of store to LEGO?

Glenn Abell: It’s very important to us to present the LEGO brick in a different way. We have 131 stores around the world and the retail side of our business is very important. A store like this offers us the opportunity to build a 600,000 brick Tube train, or a 350,000 brick Big Ben. These are unique features to London – we always want to be part of the community wherever we open. And these big stores allow us to present innovative new ideas like the Mosaic Maker – a booth that takes your photo and prints it out in a LEGO mosaic pattern, then you can buy a set and create your own personalised brick portrait. This store is special, it’s our largest store ever, and it’s an engaging place for people to really immerse themselves in LEGO bricks. We have building opportunities, big “wow” models, and the largest assortment to choose from. And a lot of exclusive models you can only find here. We want this to be an experience for our visitors and fans, and that’s why the retail arm of LEGO is so important – walking into a store like this makes you feel like you’re part of the LEGO brick, which is cool.

TBB: There are obvious profit margin differences between in-store and online sales. Does LEGO believe the theatre provided by brick-and-mortar retailing will always be worth it?

Glenn Abell: There’s a balance to be struck between the commercial side and the experience. We have to be mindful of that – we need to pay the rent and keep the lights on to make sure people can come here. But most importantly, the money we’ve invested in this store is designed to delight people and to give them an experience they can’t find anywhere else.

TBB: What’s the most important element in giving people that experience?

Glenn Abell: Our staff. The people we have in this store, their passion and knowledge about the LEGO brand, the brick, and our products. If visitors see and feel that they’ll leave with a positive experience and they’ll come back. Maybe they come back to this store, maybe they buy online, they may even buy somewhere else – but they’re buying bricks and enjoying building with them. The staff in our stores are crucial in that recipe we’re trying to get right here.

TBB: LEGO has been in the news in the last week, particularly in the UK, regarding its ending of the promotional relationship with the Daily Mail newspaper. Like with the Shell campaign, this seems to show LEGO changing policy in response to online pressure. Where does LEGO draw the line? There’s always someone complaining about something online. At what point does the company decide to respond?

Glenn Abell: It’s difficult to get the balance right in these things. These sorts of decisions are taken very thoroughly, and at very senior levels in the company. I can’t add anything beyond what’s already been said in the media on this particular issue.

TBB: I notice you’ve been holding a red 2×4 brick all the time we’ve been talking. What’s that about?

Glenn Abell: I’ve been with LEGO for 14 years now and I find myself carrying a brick around with me a lot of the time. I’m sure you know the stats about how many ways a couple of regular bricks can be connected. It’s a good reminder. When I talk to people who sometimes ask me if LEGO is really making sets which drive creative building any more – this brick reminds me of the amazing things people build, particularly the amazing models I see when I attend fan events.

TBB: Thank you for your time. And good luck with the London opening!

Sleek cruiser hides a dark side

John Moffat‘s latest build is the Marie Curie, the first of Earth’s Manchester class attack cruisers which sailed out of the Lagrange shipyard in 2380. What a sleek beauty she is with her subtle dark red highlights and that smooth aerodynamic upper hull covering the intricate ‘greebled’ inner workings of the ship. The little touches of dark tan and yellow add interest and draw the eye to the darker greebled areas — a great way to ensure that all those subtle details are appreciated.

UNEN Marie Curie

Now, I wonder if John built two Marie Curie attack cruisers or if there’s a clone in our midst?

LEGO lighthouse shines brightly

Kołobrzeg Lighthouse is located in Kołobrzeg on the Polish coast of the Baltic Sea.  Piotr Machalski has build a very nice rendition of this landmark in LEGO, capturing its curvaceous architecture in brick form.  The real lighthouse is is a red brick cylindrical tower that emits a light that can been seen nearly 30km away.  There are lots of techniques for creating curves from LEGO, many of which hail from builders who favour castle-themed creations, but it’s always nice to see similar techniques used for other types of building. The main central portion uses a mix of round and regular bricks but the outer wall is all about the power of bending LEGO.

Kołobrzeg Lighthouse

This lighthouse we blogged previously uses a similar technique as the main tower in Piotr’s build.

This LEGO drone cannot wear skinny jeans

This LEGO drone by Guy Smiley has the build of a machine aimed at impact and intimidation rather than agility and speed.  It bears a resemblance to the drones in the awesome short film Keloid, a source of inspiration for LEGO  drones since 2013.  Those thunderous thighs would make a grown man quiver, not to mention the weaponry carried in its arms.  I’m not exactly sure what type of weapon is in its left arm, but it looks like some sort of futuristic chain gun with a handy supply of rounds in the chamber.

Keloid Drone

I particularly like Guy’s colour blocking technique, the use of two main colours nicely highlight the shaping of his drone.  There are some clever parts in there if you take a closer look, it’s not often cupboard doors form the head of a drone!

If you liked this build, Check out this previously blogged Militech Weapons Platform and drones by drone builder extraordinaire, Devid VII which were also inspired by the film Keloid.

It’s dangerous to go alone! Take this…

Link is the main protagonist in the best selling roleplaying-puzzle-action franchise The Legend of Zelda. This LEGO model of Link by Nathanael Kuipers accurately depicts him characteristically wearing a green tunic and pointed cap. The shaping is excellent, especially the facial features and his green tunic.  Nathanael has also taken the time to build the details into Link’s shield and sword using bricks rather than any printed parts – nice attention to detail. It’s a perfect use of the Nexo Knights blade for Link’s sword in this build.

Link

This links nicely on to another LEGO version of the same Zelda character. In this version Koen has rebuilt his previously featured Kirby, the eponymous character from another Nintendo videogame series. Kirby has the in-game ability to inhale enemies, thereby gaining characteristic abilities from them. Clearly by inhaling Link, Kirby has gained the ability to wield a huge sword and wear a green pointed hat without looking like one of Santa’s elves! A lovely fun build.

Sword Kirby

Poland’s tallest building created in LEGO

The Palace of Culture and Science is the tallest building in Poland and dominates the skyline of the Polish capital, Warsaw. Łukasz Libuszewski has not only recreated the building in LEGO but has also managed to capture his creation in a beautifully atmospheric photograph.

pkin3

The building’s art deco style is achieved with clean lines, grille tiles for the tall windows and some lovely detailing using texture bricks. I particularly like the seemingly simple parts used by the builder to represent the decorative masonry atop the walls, the original architect purposefully copied this from Renaissance houses and palaces of Kraków and Zamośćthat – a tile with clip and technic gear rack.

PKiN

The full sets of photographs and views of the Palace of Culture and Science can be seen on Flickr.

Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet in LEGO

Tyler Halliwell is a guy who knows definitely knows his way around a bust! Renowned in the LEGO community for his amazing bust creations, Tyler’s latest character is Thanos together with the Infinity Gauntlet. Thanos is a Marvel Character who appeared in both The Thanos Quest and The Infinity Gauntlet series of Marvel Comics back in the 1990s. As a Marvel ‘baddie’, Thanos’ character has been depicted in the brick build featuring an evil grin and penetrating stare. Tyler used Lifelites (micro LEDs suitable for use with LEGO) to add a little more bling to the Infinity Gems.

Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet

If you are a fan of busts…ahem…then check out some more that we have previously featured:

Miyazaki bust by TBB’s own Iain Heath
Julius Von Brick self-portrait bust
Sandman and Anubis busts both by Tyler Halliwell
Predator bust by Misterzumbi
Paleman and Faun from Pan’s Labyrinth by Tyler Halliwell
Captain America bust by Fredoichi

 

LEGO Concorde cuts away from the runway as 65,000 bricks take flight

LEGO Certified Professional Ryan McNaught has been busy unveiling some fantastic new creations at Brickvention Australia. We showcased his incredible LEGO minifig-scale 120,000-brick sinking Titanic, and now we take to the skies with LEGO Concorde.

Ryan has chosen to build the iconic supersonic aircraft Concorde in miniland-scale. Building  Concorde in LEGO is cool, but it’s only when you see the other side of the build that the really impressive details emerge.

LEGO Concorde

While one side shows the complete aircraft, the other is an ingenious cutaway view that shows a slice through Concorde.

 

LEGO Concorde

At just over 4m long (over 13 feet) and some 65,000 bricks, Concorde took Ryan and his team 188 build hours to complete.  The cutaway view includes all sorts of great touches; the cockpit with knobs and switches, a galley area with croissant ready to serve, a jumble of luggage in the cargo hold and the inner workings of the landing gear.

LEGO Concorde

Check out the massive engines on this supersonic beast.

LEGO Concorde

I couldn’t spot any snakes on this plane…