Lego Architecture’s Robie House: My Favorite Lego Kit Yet

Geek Culture

Image: Lego

When I was a kid, my lack of imagination always steered me toward building houses out of our piles of Lego bricks. I never built airplanes or spaceships or any of the other things kids usually built. I built houses. Pretty much the same one each time. Boooring. I know. But no other ideas seemed to occur to me. And my first significant Lego kit that I asked for and received as an adult was even a Lego Creator set for building different houses.

So you could say I was thrilled when Lego came out with their Architecture line of kits. Last year I got the White House kit for Christmas. This year, to review, I got the Robie House. This is the most ambitious of the Architecture line so far, and it is one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic designs.

After opening the box, I was immediately drawn to the instruction manual with its thick and glossy pages. I had to get right to building, but I also wanted to read through the other information. In addition to the many, many steps for building this model, the manual includes plenty of history and background about the Frederick C. Robie House and about Frank Lloyd Wright to put your build in context. It includes some detailed description of the design and construction of the house, and plenty of photographs and copies of the house plans.

The actual Robie House. Image: Wikipedia

The actual house was completed in 1910. The manual also describes the life of the house from then until the present, including who owned it and what it was used for. There is also a short biography of Frank Lloyd Wright. The rest of the book contains the 141 steps to building the house, plus plenty of sub-steps, along with an index of pieces, some information about the Lego Architecture line, and a letter from the designer of this model.

The Robie House was considered to be part of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Prairie style line of homes, of which I’m a huge fan. I had considered visiting and touring the Robie House in Chicago this past summer during our road trip across the country, but instead contented myself with a self-guided walking tour of his home designs in Oak Park, Illinois. (We did do a formal tour of Wright’s Fallingwater in Pennsylvania, however.)

Perhaps not as quirky or interesting as the recent Lego VW T1 Camper Van kit, the Robie House was much easier to build because so many of the pieces were the same, and it inspired me in a different way. Some people might really enjoy searching for unique Lego pieces in a haystack, but I prefer to spend my time on the actual task of building and figuring out where to put the pieces. We just used a few bowls to organize the pieces in a logical manner, which made searching for them so much easier. A few types of pieces were in large numbers, so they got their own bowls. It was fun to concentrate on the building aspect, and to see it literally take shape.

In the instructions, many of the pages had arrows pointing to where the new pieces went, which was helpful because so many pieces are the same and it is hard to spot where the new ones go. But some of the pages didn’t have any indication of where to put the new pieces. For those, it was a fun challenge to determine what had changed in the diagram.

The completed model. Photo: Jenny Williams

When I got the White House for Christmas last year, I spent several hours one day putting it together alone, while watching a couple of movies. It was great fun, and I had complete control over the process. I loved being completely systematic, and taking my time. But I mostly assembled the Robie House with an awesome friend, and that was definitely much more enjoyable, especially since it is such a large building project. We could joke around and ponder the wisdom or reasoning of the method of packaging all the parts. (Side note to Lego folk: I would love to interview someone about how Lego kits are manufactured and assembled into kits!) My friend and I were an unbeatable team when finding the pieces for the next step, and then snapping them into place, taking turns placing each piece. That is, until he caught a wrong one that I put on, or I caught a wrong one that he put on. Then it was always a challenge to remove the offending piece(s). Which makes me wonder, is there an official, sanctioned Lego disassembly tool? Especially for those really thin pieces?

In the end, we assembled my favorite Lego kit yet. It took us several hours to complete, but I loved every minute of it. I especially like how the roof portions fit on top securely but also come off very easily, without snapping into other pieces, so you can see inside the house.

The Lego Architecture Robie House retails for $199.99. It is an incredibly enjoyable kit to build, especially with a friend. Its low and long profile looks great on a bookshelf, along with your many books or all of your other Lego kits. I highly recommend this kit to anyone who enjoys architecture, Frank Lloyd Wright, or lengthy Lego projects in general.

Note: I received the Lego Architecture Robie House kit for review purposes.

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