Barnes and Noble LEGO Architecture Building Event

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So last night I participated in my local Barnes and Noble’s LEGO Architecture Building Event. Not as one of the attendees, but as one of the “special guests” doing the presentation. Apparently they were doing this same event across the United States — at least I assume it was only in the States, let me know if it was else where — to promote the newest LEGO Architecture Set that is now available at both Barnes and Nobel as well as LEGO Stores nationwide.

Via The Brick Blogger

From what I’ve heard from my friends in various locations around the country the event went from fair to decent to being cancelled (due to lack of enough participants) depending on where you were. Ours was actually standing room only, but I think that was mainly due to both David Parker, a local Architecture College Professor, and my (being a former Master Model Designer) involvement. It of course helps that the event was held in Oceanside, California which is literally minutes away from LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad so there are a lot of local LEGO lovers in the area.

Now as I’ve done dozens and dozens of different types of LEGO building events over the years, I feel that I can judge on how well an event is organized and run.

First off — since I was given the talking points that were handed down from Barnes and Noble corporate, I could tell that whoever wrote said talking points knew nothing about LEGO, the LEGO Architecture line, or how to run a building event. It was set up as an hour long event, which is fine and doable, but it was not set up very well.

Second off — Barnes and Noble didn’t think to get the local LEGO LUGs (LEGO Users Groups or Clubs) involved. The only reason I was involved with mine was due to my own initiative in contacting the store and saying I was interested in doing the event. I’m not sure how the in store contact got the college professor involved, but even that only sort of worked. Yes he knows about architecture, but he didn’t know anything about LEGO Architecture or building LEGO buildings, kind of a key point when you are doing a LEGO building event.

He kept trying to stick to the “script” they had for the event, which is my third off (or point) — I took one look at said script and kind of ignored it. I knew that it wouldn’t really work in the real world. Sure it sounds great to talk about scale, reference photos and modularity. But frankly, when you have over twenty kids all they really care about is playing with the LEGO bricks.

Fourth off — This wasn’t supposed to be a kids event. Now think about that for a moment and process it. I don’t know who up at corporate had the brilliant idea that this was for teens and adults only. I mean sure, the set is designed for that age group and at $150 USD its not exactly a cheap set. But really? You honestly don’t think kids aren’t going to show up?

DSC07440 David (the professor) is the tall one in the middle.

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As you can see from the photos, our event was packed. I didn’t count, but I would guess we had at least 40 people at the event. Way more than they expected and there weren’t enough spaces for all the participants to build.

The event went pretty well, considering that David kept trying to stay on script, and I just kind of loosely did. I mean lets face it, in the script you are supposed to give the bricks to the participants after a little intro and talking about scale, then after they’ve played with the bricks for about 10 minutes we were supposed to have them focus on modular building. Well that’s all fine in theory, but once you give people bricks, they stop listening to you. ;)

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It ended up being a fun event for all the participants, in spite of the poorly planned event, and I enjoyed doing it. One of my fellow SandLUG members showed up with some of his modular buildings, which I forgot to take photos of and another member who also runs thebrickfan.com showed up to blog the event.

For the fun of it, I actually went the day before and built a quick replica of the store front.
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I’m pretty happy with the results, considering I had only parts available in the set — albeit more than what is available in a single set — and I did it in 3 hours. Its not perfect, but decent. I haven’t built like that for a long time. Taking only parts available from a constrained amount of bricks and free building with very little reference.

Of course I have to admit I did have a little bit of an ulterior motive to doing it — I wanted to see what parts were in the set and how they worked together. The set itself is pretty good, if you don’t have a lot of white bricks. If like me you do, the set is just okay.

Sure there are over 1200 parts for $150, which considering its part of the Architecture line is a much better value than any of the other sets in the theme. It is a major departure from other Architecture sets being more like a grown-up’s creator set.

I personally don’t need that amount of white at this time. That isn’t to say I may need it in the future, but I have a lot of white elements, so I won’t be getting this set anytime soon.

You can read a great review of the set itself on The Brick Blogger.

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All in all, I had fun, got to play with the set, and help others build. A good day’s work in my book. :D

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21 Responses to “Barnes and Noble LEGO Architecture Building Event”

  1. Levi Says:

    Thanks for the coverage. Very odd that it was an age-restricted event. Difficult to do that when you add the word LEGO to anything.

    • Mariann Asanuma Says:

      Levi,

      It wasn’t specifically age restricted, but for some reason B&N thought that gearing it towards teens and adults meant that there wouldn’t be kids involved. There was a 17 year old that did a very nice water fountain design, but other than that they were all kids. There were some adults that were interested in the set, one that looks like he’s going to join my LUG and he walked away with 2 of the sets, but again, he just started getting back into the hobby.

    • Purple Dave Says:

      There’s pretty much only three possible venues that would successfully keep out the kids: bars, strip clubs, and casinos. Doesn’t mean they wouldn’t still _want_ to participate, just that they wouldn’t be allowed in. Of course, neither would the teens…

  2. sharon faulk Says:

    Your even sounds much more organized than the one I went to. Only 4 participants, 2 of them were kids. But we all play with the bricks and we all had fun.

  3. TheBrickBlogger Says:

    Mariann, it’s great that you were able to get involved in this! Thanks for sharing! I really wanted to go to the event to incorporate my experience in the set-review, but I live in a small town and my B&N didn’t run it. The end models look great! (Love your B&N!) There is something beautiful about all white LEGO bricks! :)

    • Mariann Asanuma Says:

      Thanks Brick Blogger! I had a lot of fun doing the building and the event. I really enjoyed your review too, it was very insightful ;)

  4. bricktales Says:

    Hey,

    I decided not to go because my wife is away on business and it’s me and the three kids (all young). Since it was advertised as being for teens and adults I figured it wouldn’t work out. I suppose if my wife were home I might have taken one of the kids to check it out.

    On the set, I went through and priced the parts list vs BrickLink (I limited myself to only US stores that could get me large amounts of the desired parts), and the price comes out about right -ONLY IF- you take into account that 1×1 trans clear tiles are incredibly expensive on BL. In any quantity I could only find them at one Dutch store for $0.97 each, and this set has 40 of those. If you replaced the 1×1 and 1×2 trans clear tiles with 1×1 and 1×2 trans clear plates, you could get everything in this set for around $82.

    So, as I wrote on Classic-Castle, I’m baffled as to the audience for this set. Kids? No, too expensive, and not ‘fun’ (that is, you don’t get either figs or vehicles, and not even bright colors like the basic bricks sets). Collectors? No, no movie or comic tie in. AFOLs? No, we can get lots of basic white bricks plates and slopes via BrickLink or the PaB walls for much less (aside from someone who really needs 1×1 trans clear plates). Non-FOLs? No. I realize that the Architecture sets get marketed to non-FOLs in places like museums, bookstores and souvenir shops, but it’s one thing to get a $20 or even $50 set of that famous site, but triple that on a box of white bricks? Really, the only customers I see for this set are institutional – I could see museums, schools, maybe design schools, architecture firms getting this.

    Personally, the one thing I want from this set is the book. Mariann, did you get a chance to flip through it at all?

    Bruce

    • Mariann Asanuma Says:

      Bruce,

      No I didn’t get a chance to go through the book as they didn’t have one of the actual sets open. Only the parts from the sets in a big tub.

      The other thing I think is weird is that there is no brick separator. Very strange considering that its specifically for building and it seems that all $50+ sets have them these days.

      Oh and they are not 1×1 clear tiles, they are 1×1 clear plates, so nothing special at all. I don’t really see the point of this set either personally except for a newly starting out AFOL or TFOL that needs lots of white brick. But as you said, we can get the parts for cheaper than what the set is offering. Now if the set were on 50% off then I would consider getting it. Otherwise, no.

    • Purple Dave Says:

      I can’t find the article anymore, but a week or two ago I read an article about this set where the author had also priced the parts out on Bricklink and claimed that the BL cost _before_shipping_ actually came in somewhat higher than the MSRP for the set. Now, that could be the difference between lowballing the pricing (which would really only work for the first person to take advantage of the circumstances) vs. using average pricing, assuming your number came from sourcing parts in New condition (doing so for Used parts would be a bit deceptive, considering purchase of the set would only yield you New parts).

      Regardless, availability of this set is unlikely to lower the prices on any of those parts, but it does mean that rare stuff like the 8×8 white plates will be available in large quantities through other means.

  5. bricktales Says:

    One other quick question. Does the book reference the Collectivity Project by Olafur Eliasson at all? With a big pile of white bricks, the comparison seems inevitable.

    • Mariann Asanuma Says:

      As I didn’t get to see the book I don’t know Bruce.

    • TheBrickBlogger Says:

      I can answer that question as I have the book, if it is okay with you, Mirriam. ;)

      The book doesn’t reference the Collectivity Project. Perhaps it could have been included, but really the only similarity between the two is that both use only white LEGO elements.

      The real value of this set is in the book. Each chapter features an architecture or design firm, introduces a concept used by architects and designers, then there are lessons and workshops to explore the concepts with the included elements.

      While in sets like LEGO MBA the focus is on learning how to use LEGO elements to their full capacity, here it is the other way around; you are learning real-world design and architecture concepts, and LEGO is simply used as a medium to achieve that. No different than architects and designers using paper maquettes, or foam or clay.

      We shall see how this set will perform, but I can see it being a big hit with designers and architects, both for their own projects, and also as a teaching medium.

      And yes, not including a brick-separator is a very surprizing mistake! That was my only complain about this otherwise very well thought out set.

      • TheBrickBlogger Says:

        Gosh, so sorry about that Mariann, calling you Mirriam and all. To my defense I’m under an allergy attack and haven’t been thinking straight, not to speak of writing! Going back to my box of tissues now… :?

      • Mariann Asanuma Says:

        Oh that’s okay, you’re not the first to mess up my name :D

  6. bricktales Says:

    Hey BrickBlogger,

    Thanks for showing some images from the book on your review. I do want the book, and as an academic I’m used to books running quite expensive (the textbook for the class I regularly teach sets my students back $200, and specialized books written for academic researchers can run even more) (I do always point my students to craigslist or other outlets to look for used versions if they can find them), but I’d rather buy the book as a stand alone, even if expensive, than packaged with a lot of bricks that I can fairly easily find on a PaB wall.

    It seems to me that if they really wanted to go this way, they could have done a series of smaller sets rather than one big one. It would basically being like ordering bulk bricks, but you could imagine a store shelf with the books and then a bunch of, say $20 sets, focused on different types of parts (a brick set, a plate and tile set, a slope set), all with the same white and clear color scheme, all with the same Architecture branding. People might even end up paying more as they decide to come back and get another ‘brick’ box or another ‘slope’ box, as their building progresses, but they would probably be less likely to come back and plop down another $150.

    Oh well, I suppose i’m not the audience for this set, and I’m assuming their market research suggested to them that this set would find enough buyers to make it worth their while.

    Bruce

  7. Kevinhink Says:

    Really neat model of the Barnes & Noble Mariann! Great recap of the event, thanks!

  8. Phil Says:

    When I originally commented I clicked the “Notify me when new comments are added” checkbox and now each time
    a comment is added I get several e-mails with the same comment.
    Is there any way you can remove me from that service?
    Thanks!

    • Mariann Asanuma Says:

      I honestly don’t know. I think it has to be on your end.

    • TheBrickBlogger Says:

      In the emails that you receive there should be a link at the bottom to unsubscribe. ;)

    • Purple Dave Says:

      When you receive a comment notification, there are two links at the bottom. One is “unsubscribe”, which might do more than you expect, but should certainly stop you from receiving further notifications for that article. The other one is “subscription options”. Click that one to bring up a list of every article that you are set up to receive comments for. You can either check the boxes on the left side and pull the “Bulk Actions” field down to click “unfollow” to nuke more than one at a time, or you can click on the “unsubscribe” link on the far right to drop that single article from your list.

      But tell me, this article was originally posted on July 27, 2013, and every comment before yours was made on that same day, so why the sudden urge to prevent new comment notifications? Age of the article will usually be enough to prevent new comments from being added, once it goes about a week without any new activity.

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