It’s been ages since I last reviewed a LEGO Architecture set, which is not least of all related how few there are overall and this severely limiting the scope of what I might even be interested in. That and of course the ridiculous pricing of these packages. Only now that the Singapore (21057) skyline has come out I got interested in it again.
As far as that goes, my knowledge of the actual location is limited to what you can see during the annual Formula 1 broadcasts and some documentaries, but my impression that on some level I might actually like to visit it. At the same time I’m not too sure about that “golden cage” thing with their very, very regulated daily life and strict rules for everything plus the tropical climate is probably also another thing you would have to get used to. Either way, there’s certainly some intriguing aspects to that big city/ island/ state all rolled into one.
Pricing and Contents
As already mentioned, I find the price point of the Architecture sets highly questionable. You pay a lot of money for a big pile of mostly 1 x 1 and 1 x 2 elements. Even if the result may turn out nice, after all, this always feels like LEGO are really milking it due to the adult target demographic for these sets. This is not much different for this outing with its 827 pieces at a whopping 60 Euro suggested retail price. It’s really no wonder they are breaking new revenue records every year.
Given this, it is even more advisable to look around for good discounts and this isn’t even my usual “I’m on a budget.” excuse. I really mean it when I say that you should really try and avoid paying full price. I got my package for 43 Euro during some Amazon promo, but even that still feels steep. Ideally this would sell for somewhere around 45 Euro MSRP, so it could come down to 35 Euro with discounts.
One of the reasons why I’m so adamant about not paying too much here is the sheer audacity with which LEGO cheapened out here. For starters they didn’t use one of those nice foldable boxes with a lid as has been common for most Architecture sets, but rather a standard push-tab box as used in other series. This will of course limit the value of keeping it around, even more so if you damage it while attempting to crack it open.
The other thing why I’m more than slightly unforgiving of the hefty price is the rather generic nature of the content. Sure, there’s quite a few printed pieces, but except for the new 2 x 3 tile on the OCBC Centre they’re not exclusive to this set. The same goes for the recolored elements. In my opinion these items do not offset the cost enough to justify such a price, nice as their inclusion may be. Am I being to picky? Perhaps, yet I really feel the price/ value proposition is not the best, even if I got attracted by some of that in the first place.
A glance at the model as a whole from a more human-sized eye level shows how crammed everything is. This is in a way true to the original, with space on an island being an expensive premium, but I feel it is not ideal to overstuff a smaller rendition of the same thing just as much. Everything looks rather distractingly noisy and is of course overshadowed by the behemoth that is the Marina Bay Sands hotel, not only a very large building in the general sense, but one of the world’s largest hotels indeed. Compared to it, most other buildings look tiny, including other skyscrapers and high-rises.
This becomes even more of an issue due to the base having been kept narrow to be in line with other models from this series. There’s no genuine depth here and especially the smaller elements don’t have much room to breathe. the geographical layout in the real world is apparently also quite different with individual buildings existing in different districts of the city quite a ways apart.
With the Marina Bay Sands hotel dominating everything and drawing all the attention, we have to address the elephant in the room: The color of the windows/ glass front. This has caused quite some debate on the internet at large. Apparently at one point there was a predecessor to this set released as an exclusive only in Singapore that had them in the standard Trans Light Blue instead of Trans Dark Blue and it looked better. Was it correct, though? Probably not. This is a bit of a multi-layered problem, so here are my thoughts on it.
First you have to ask yourself how these windows look in reality. If you look up photos online, you can find a multitude of colors depending on the angle, time of day and other factors, making any interpretation as to what the actual color might be difficult. This is of course inevitable with the panels themselves being high-tech products sandwiched together from multiple layers of glass and foil and covered with special coatings to reflect UV and Infrared light to support rooms not getting too heated or their occupants suffering eye damage. In turn, the complex physical interactions cause huge shifts in how the color is perceived. A lot of that is also simply affected by the water surrounding the area reflecting in the windows.
The other problem is that the windows are directly built onto White bricks due to the constraints of the scale. This makes everything look shallow and lacking in depth. They would have to have chosen a completely approach to the construction of the model to put some dark plates underneath. Could they have done things differently beyond that? Yes and no. I tried to “fix” things by applying a few Satin Trans Black (Trans Black with the iridescent coating) tiles I had floating around in my stock, but it doesn’t really solve the problem, either. On the other hand I’m pretty confident that LEGO could have mitigated this somewhat by printing on additional fine horizontal lines in Silver or White. the point here would have been that this would have better represented the actual number of floors in the building and distracted from the studs underneath peeking through.
The back side of the hotel is covered in 1 x 2 modified grille tiles, which is an adequate representation of the window shades, balconies and protrusions, but similar to the front it looks rather flat due to being White on White. Apparently it’s less of an issue, though, since you’re not going to see it as often.
An interesting tidbit is hidden inside the hotel’s towers where some pistol handle pieces are creatively used to connect the front and back plates in order to reinforce the overall connection. To me this almost feels like an admission that in the end LEGO may need simple direction inverter pieces, after all. Most of their competitors have something along those lines and as e.g. the Mega Pokémon figures prove, it makes life so much easier and opens so much more options, especially in such tight and restricted spaces.
Moving on to the rest of the model, there is a selection of skyscrapers. I already mentioned the OCBC Centre and the tiles that come with it. These no doubt will be useful in the future to emulate all sorts of grates in situations where you can’t actually use other pieces to create them. Heck, this even could be used to simulate some basket weave on chairs and other furniture. There are also a ton of the newer 1 x 1 x 2 brackets, both in the up and down versions in this building along with some 1 x 1 x 1. They’re all in Tan, which is a new color for these pieces. They’re included out of sheer necessity or else it would be nearly impossible to build this just one brick thick overall.
Similarly a result of need are the new 1 x 4 x 1 rounded pieces on the edges, used here to connect the brackets and stabilize what otherwise would be a rather fragile stack of bricks. This piece will likely be very popular to simulate fake relief columns on facades and similar. The just released Real Madrid – Santiago Bernabéu Stadium (10299) also has 80 of them to simulate some exterior supports. On that note – this particular building is clipped onto the base at an angle only by ways of two actual clips, which makes it a rather wobbly connection. Most of the time it will look like it’s tipping in one direction or the other due to how thin it is nothing acting as a stopper.
The large white thing in the middle is supposed to represent One Raffles Place. This was easily the least satisfying build in the whole set as you essentially layer a ton of 1 x 2 and 1 x 1 plates in Trans Black for the windows which are then framed with a few white elements. It just felt tedious. Next to it is Lau Pa Sat, which if it wasn’t for the unique octagonal shape would be barely recognizable. This is clearly a case where LEGO would have needed to create a new piece to represent the spokes and roofs or just left it out. The Fullerton Hotel fares slightly better, though the similarities with the actual thing are not really recognizable, least of all by the uninitiated that never have seen it for real or researched it intensely. Again a case where they could just have done away with it.
Doing so would have freed up more space for the Gardens by the Bay, which thanks to their unique artificial trees and the way they are represented here adds some interest. With the other buildings out of the way they likely could have spread things out and even added some hint at the skywalk or added another building like the blossom-shaped ArtScience Museum.
The Boat Quay is represented by a bunch of tiny huts, which is okay, but if you didn’t look it up, you almost wouldn’t know what it’s supposed to be. The waterline is way too narrow and of course there is not a single boat or landing bridge to be seen anywhere. No doubt this is one of those quarters that would be bustling with activity throughout certain times of the day and might have deserved some more love. The nondescript building in the background is likely a reference to some of the living quarters outside downtown, but nobody really seems to know for certain. Anyway, be careful to pre-sort the printed bricks (also used on the Fullerton) to prevent things from looking crooked. There are ever so slight variations in each print that can disturb the pattern’s regularity.
On thing that has irked me are the “palms”. It’s just the same triple leaf piece we’ve seen so many times and at the very least I would have hoped for a color like Dark Green and perhaps a few more to really hint at the luscious tropical environment.
For fans and collectors of the series this set will be perfectly fine, but as an occasional buyer I feel somewhat unsatisfied. There’s just not much here that would compel me to keep the model around assembled, so I’m going to dismantle it and scalp it for parts. I’m not going to pretend that this wasn’t the plan, but I always leave room for sets to convince me otherwise. I still think the biggest issue is that they tried to cram in too much and in the process none of the elements present really shines, not least of all due to the Marina Bay Sands towering over everything. Perhaps they indeed should have just created a “Marina Bay Sands with Surroundings” package instead and foregone the other stuff…