Earlier this year, the AFOL Engagement team sent me a copy of Old Trafford for review purposes. This felt pretty great. But I have a problem. I don’t really engage with soccer, or football…or any other team based sporting codes, for that matter. So, when confronted by a set that would have the potential to give a Manchester United Fan goosebumps, I was worried that I might be left cold. How could I possibly hope to recreate the passion of a die hard fan with an epic Creator Expert Set?
Apparently people like football. Or soccer, depending on where you are. Some of these people are LEGO Fans as well. LEGO have taken a punt on the fact that, probably, there are some Football fans out there who would not mind building an iconic stadium out of the plastic bricks they loved as children.
I don’t really understand what it feels like to be passionate for a sports team. Even though I live in Melbourne, where our local football code (Australian Rules) dominates the local news paper 6 days per week, 11 months of the year (they take most of the Christmas break and January off), I just never really got it. I listen to the match results on Monday morning, just so I know how my coworkers might be feeling. But not because I feel any passion for the game.
And so I found myself in a bit of a bind when I opened my shipment from LEGO, and discovered that the new creator Expert set that they had sent me would let me build Old Trafford. Home to Manchester United, a team which seems to polarise people around the world. After a quick tea room poll, I seemed to be one of the few people I know who are completely indifferent to them.
So, how would I approach this set? It is easy enough to build a set, and talk about the interesting parts and build techniques. But New Elementary have probably just published an article along those lines. I certainly can’t talk about it as someone who is a passionate Manchester United fan. Let alone fan of the roundball game. Or any team sport for that matter.
But I know what it is to feel passionate about something; to love it with every fibre of your being; to be so keen that you will miss sleep; stay up all night to catch the latest news; and tell all my friends about it, whether they care about it or not. You may have guessed that it is LEGO. I can’t get enough of it, I have branded clothing and stationary. Even a fan blog. You may have clued onto this. And, just as Old Trafford is the home to Manchester United, even LEGO Bricks have a home. The LEGO House. Opened in 2017, the LEGO house is an experience centre in Billund, which I have had the privilege to visit on a couple of occasions: once before it was opened, and again last year while attending the Fan Media Days. I won’t try to sell it too hard as a concept right now, as it is closed during the COVID19 pandemic. Suffice to say, I think that if you have ever had a passing interest in LEGO bricks, sets or models, you are likely to have a good time visiting get e LEGO House. To say that the LEGO house provides me with just a little excitement might be a gross understatement.
LEGO released a model of the LEGO House, before it opened, back in 2017 , which was only available from other retailers in Billund, during the time the LEGO House was being built. Subsequently, there has been a LEGO Architecture set, 21037, released. It is an exclusive to the LEGO Store located within the LEGO House, in Billund. This new set, is significantly larger, and contains significantly more detail that that original set.
I plan to approach this review much as I approached the build: I expect to appreciate the build of Old Trafford, but I am unsure as to whether or not I will get the same level of emotional fulfilment from the build as a keen Manchester United fan might. So, from time to time, I might turn to building the LEGO house, to get a feeling of what it might be like to be building as a passionate fan. Ideally I will get to the end of the build with an appreciation of its intricacy, and an appreciation of building the home of my passion, through building the LEGO House in parallel with Old Trafford.
At least, that’s my plan. What could possibly go wrong?
Starting Old Trafford
This is a big box. There is no denying it. As a set with almost 3900 parts, it was always going to take a bit of commitment to carry it through the door. Opening the box revealed a white cardboard box occupying about quarter of the main box. Between them there were 21 numbered steps – with a few more bags, some loose green printed tiles, and an incredibly thick instruction manual. Also bundled in with the nicely wrapped manual is the sticker sheet, and it looks like it will provide me with plenty of activity over the coming days.
At this point, I must thank my wife for her assistance with knolling: laying out the elements on a tray, so that we can all see what might be coming up, takes a certain degree of patience.
Given the sheer number of the parts that we have coming up, this may well be a challenge. Any parts dislodged from their rows or columns in the transfer from table to photo box are entirely my fault.
We start off with the main soccer pitch: we have 2 printed 8×16 tiles in bright green, as well as three other printed 6×6 tiles. These go together over a rigid technic under frame. We have some triangular tiles to help with the ‘cut off ‘corners of the field. For myself, the highlight would be the goal nets: using the transparent wall panel, rotated forward, to create a boxed in net. We have previously discussed that squeezing a tile between studs is a legal building technique, avoiding stressing the studs, compared with a plate, and the base of the panel appears to be the thickness of a tile.
Having completed our first bag, we move on to the next: a collection of technic and system elements which come together to build first of several stands in the model. We start off with the East stand.
After the initial frame, our third bag provides us with the elements to prove the outer wall of the East Stand. Lots of trans blue, white and dark stone grey.
As well as the large window at the eastern end of the stand, we start work on the frames that contribute to holding up the roof, in both the LEGO model, as well as the version in the real world. With so many bars and clips, this part of the build was certainly challenging: on more than one occasion, a little too much pressure in the wrong place would send me back 10 steps. Time and again.
Bag four was the final for this stand: as well as completing the glass roof, with some large transparent-clear panels, we also build the seating for the stadium. Seating is built up using the riddlers in red profile bricks, so that the angulations finally look like rows of seats. There are some plain 1x2x2 bricks in here as well, to which we apply the stickers for the team’s major sponsor. After a while, I became numb to the need to line them all up perfectly. This made the rest of the build much easier for me to complete. Otherwise I would have possibly had a minor breakdown, very early on in the build. The 10x4x1 windscreen is a new mould for this set. We get 8 of these elements in this set.
Following on, we move to the Stretford End. After the challenges in putting the Eastern Stand together, the frame for the Stretford End seemed to come together more simply, for me.
Again, we have the cantilever mechanism that is used to hold up the roof.
No real advertising in the stadium this time, merely the acknowledgement that this is, in fact the Stretford End. A few more stickers add to my silent frustration at this point.
At the end of 7 bags, we have the pitch, and the two ends to the stadium. Its taken most of the evening, and I take a break for the day. The gates at the Stretford end are an interesting design, and I’ll have to admit, the technique to put the roof together is clever, if not a little frustrating, with so many identical mechanisms required to be aligned, up the wall, and across the roof. It took some effort to get all of the clips and rods aligned. It is a neat technique, especially the way they attach to the outer wall of the station.
I am still feeling little emotional connection to the build: The repeated application of ‘MANUTD.COM’ stickers has not yet affected me in an adverse manner. But it could happen any time. Aspects of the build are challenging, and finishing a sub build at this stage is quite satisfying. The next stand looks like it might take a bit more work. Let’s see how we go.
The Fourth Bit: the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand
The north side of Old Trafford also represents the largest section of the stadium. We lay down the groundwork of the Sir Alex Ferguson stand with (another) rigid technic base, which we will cover over with tiles, in the next bag…
This stand features a lot of medium nougat bricks – including some with small dark red printed rectangles on, I presume representing doors into the stadium.
I appreciate the way that the light trans blue bricks are used here, and they break up the solid colours nicely. We see some interesting plating with geometry here, as the mount for the corner seating is installed. This will be repeated several times – in both this stand, and also the southern stand as well.
On the north side of the ground, there is a statue honouring Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of the club from 1986 to 2013. We start to build up undercover walkways as well. In the corners, we start to build up short spires, with we shall attach our roof onto in the future. As we set up even more clips and bars, I find myself starting to weary, however. The last bag or two seemed like more of a hard slog. The fiddlyness of the bars and clips were not a reward in themselves. As a set aimed at a fan of Soccer, and especially Manchester United, this might be great, but I wasn’t feeling the love as I built this part of the stadium
Half Time, Change Sides:
I’d built the base and the walls, but still have the seating and roof of the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand to go. But I am not really engaging with this set on an emotional level. As I said back in the beginning, I expected this to happen. There is a lot of building involved, and I’m not really picking up the story of the build. I’m not saying its not there – I’m just not picking up on it. It’s probably time for me to take a break for a while.
The Architecture set 31037 LEGO House was first released in 2017, and can only be purchased from the LEGO store in the heart of the LEGO House. With only 774 parts, it is obviously going to be a simpler build to Old Trafford. And that’s fine. I am looking for something to engage my passion as I build it. I don’t understand football, but I understand the LEGO brick, And visits to the LEGO House have brought me joy.
As with most Architecture sets, it comes in a rigid cardboard box, with a flip top lid, indicating that you are now holding a premium product. Opening the box, is an instruction book, giving some history of the building, as well as several bags of elements. as there were no numbered bags, I opened them all onto my sorting plates, and set to work.
As with all Architecture sets, we start work on the base – in this case a crossed structure. outlined in Medium Stone Grey with black trim, it rapidly becomes obvious where the built up aspects of the LEGO house will go. The LEGO House is designed to look like a collection of interlocked LEGO Bricks, and this goal was nicely achieved by the architects.
This build uses a collection of thin walled panels, surrounding tiles to give the feeling of the coloured terraces, and their surrounding walls in the building. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, but I allow myself to build the Yellow staircase, an iconic part of the building. I have climbed this staircase twice in my life. Most recently, I took some mini figures from my childhood. It felt to me as if they were being taken home. The version in the LEGO House Architecture set is made up of a number of yellow 1×1 tiles, each stack just a little bit higher than the previous.
After pausing to think about the times I had visited this place, the friends I had made on those journeys, and a wellspring of positive emotion, I felt I was ready to return to Old Trafford. I know I have a bit to go in that build, but knowing the joy that just a small part of the LEGO house brought me, I knew I would be able to recover this enthusiasm for the build again, with a quick diversionary trip to Billund.
Back to the Main Game
Lots of Red, a little black and white, and we return to our project, starting with the corner seats, and the main gallery. More stickers complete the look, and I am doing a better job lining them up first time (In my opinion, only. Experts might choose to differ). The corner seating does a great job of taking the build off the typical grid.
Bag Fourteen sees us start work on the upper tiers of seating. There are some clever moments here.
With the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand looking ready or the crowd, the time comes to put the roof together. I’ll have to admit, I like the way that the seating has come together in the corner grand stands in particular.
It might be time for a kick of colour though, and so I return to the LEGO House, and move forward through the buildings on the ground floor. We gain the blue stairs, as well as a number of the terraces, including the green and bright green. we also see the start of the grand staircase, and the Tree of Creativity. If you are looking for a little inception moment, the LEGO Store in the LEGO house is located underneath the yellow staired area.
Starting out at ground level,
I pause at this time, reminded that colours other than red, white nougat and grey exist, and it is through its variation that we can come to appreciate larger areas of blocked colour. this small area of colour was enough to refresh my soul. I remember the time I climbed the yellow stairs to the roof, and think about the parts yet to fill in on the ground floor. My enthusiasm regained, I pause half way through the ground floor and return to Old Trafford
Finishing the Sir Alex Ferguson Stand
I return to the construction of the roof over the Sir Alex Ferguson stand.
Bag 15 contains the bulk of the roof, including both transparent and white panelled elements. The white roof over the corner aspects of the station are gently nudged into shape through some nifty SNOT Work, as well as variation in slope gradient. In fact, I was so excited to get to the end of this section, and move onto the next, I failed to take a photo: I went straight onto the bar and clip work, to recreate the cables and supports for the roof.
This part was relatively demanding, but at the end of it, I think you can agree, the design of the roof is quite clever. But so many clips and bars, and a repetitive part of the build, left me hankering for a quick return to the LEGO House, as a way of celebrating the end of what was truly a challenging section of the built. Time to skip back to Billund
Finishing the Foyer
During this furlough, I took care of the remaining lower levels of the terraces. And I find myself relating to areas I have spent time in: the bright green roof is over the area where I met with the Technic and Games design teams last year; the blue terrace is over the main presentation room, where the Fan Media days were help, including come of the interviews I conducted last year, and the elevators at the red end of the building go down to the historical museum, and up towards the interactive areas of the LEGO House. Under the bright red terrace, we also have one of the cafes within the LEGO House. When I was last at the LEGO house, the Technic Bugatti was parked in the central atrium, next to the small tree.
The Last Stand
And so I set out to embark on the last part of the last segment of the Old Trafford Build: the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand. Again, we start with a collection of technic rectangles, linked together to produce a raised base. After 3 stands, as well as the field, I understand the merit of this as a design technic, and file it away in preparation for my next diorama style MOC that I build. there are two bags labelled ’17’, with very different contents.
Again, we have technic pins to allow this stand to combine with the rest of the model
Moving forward, we build up the walls of the stadium, with the curves enabled through the use of horizontal hinges. Red tiles are also used, in conjunction with SNOT techniques to construct the upper panelling around the outside of the stadium.
I can see that the next bag is going to bring memory seating. I suppose it is a stadium, and I hear that I am part of a minority in my indifference BUT seating is necessary. But I don’t want to face it just yet.
Back to the LEGO House, for the second layer of terraces.
This second (and also the third) layer of terraces enclose the experience zones – where the actual activities within the LEGO House take place. I could go on about them for a bit BUT this might start sounding too much like a promotional post. It isn’t intended to be – not for the LEGO House, at any rate. I acknowledge that LEGO sent me the Old Trafford set for review purposes, and that I attended media events in the LEGO house in May of 2017 and 2019. However, attendance at these events (travel and accomodation) was at my own expense. I also bought the LEGO House set with my own money.
One area where this set does differ from real life, is the absence of sculptures on the terraces, which can be seen if visiting the real thing! You can even get up close from the terraces. I wish I’d taken the chance to do that. I was on a bit of a tight schedule when I visited.
To be honest: I don’t mind the fact that the terraces are unadorned: it returns to the architect’s original ideas, of the LEGO House appearing to be 21 LEGO Bricks suspended in space.
To stretch out the build – and maintain my fannish enthusiasm for the building project, I returned to the stadium.
We build up the seating for the Sit Bobby Charlton Stand. I am grateful that we have very few stickers to apply now: just an ‘S’ that applies to the Stretford End stand. This stand is not as tall as any of the others, and so it is rapidly completed.
I returned to the LEGO House, to build most of the top tier of experience zones. This section of the build drops onto the second layer, and leaves a little room at the top for the masterpiece gallery. As I said earlier, the experience zones are fun, with something for anyone who still regards LEGO as something that can be a bit fun. While wandering through the yellow zone last year, I came across a gallery of MOCs built by AFOLs from around the world. Included here was one that I had seen at Brickvention in 2018, built by Jason Cichon – local LUG member. His honeycomb was able to fit into the nature themed gallery perfectly, and it was a delight to see it, so far from home in the Home of the Brick.
The Final Push: the Roof of the Charlton Stand and the Masterpiece Gallery.
The roof of the Sir Bobby Charlton stand is all that remains for me. – a white roof, with curved ends, with large windows open above the audience to let in some natural sunlight. Similar to the opposite side, we see come SNOT work with slopes of varying angles to approximate the curve. Included in this roof, however is a new, curved window, that fits inside the 1x6x3 1/3 arch. We have subsequently seen this element fit into the new Fiat 500 Creator Expert set – released in March 2020. I can see it getting picked up for use in a number of MOCs, going forward.
Over the roof of the stadium, we have an arrangement of flick fire missiles and antennae clipped on, giving the impression of suspension cables. The overall effect is quite neat, and this stand was not as demanding as the Sir Alex Ferguson stand, to complete. Having completed the final stand, I now build the team’s tour bus, before connecting the entire stadium together. I feel satisfaction. It has been a solid build, stretched out over about a week or so. At times, some repetitive aspects meant I needed to take a little break, just to see some colours that weren’t red, grey, nougat or white. I appreciate there are other colours involved in the build, but they are not what you are left looking at at the end of the day.
There comes just one thing left to do: add the Masterpiece gallery to the top of the LEGO House. This final part of the LEGO House is designed to look like a giant 2×4 brick, on top of the house, with shafts of light shinging up at night, through transparent skylights. The roof is accessible from the outside, without a ticket – with staircases leading up. When I was last in the Masterpiece gallery, I was surrounded by other Fan Media members, at the feet of the giant dinosaur sculptures. We built some smaller dinosaurs, together.
Putting the final part in place, I can see the joy that comes from building a building that relates to the core of your passions. The memories of events you have attended, or heard about taking place at the venue. And I suspect this is something that many experience when building a landmark that they can relate to. But when it if the home of your special interest, your fandom or your team, that thing that you just love, it adds an extra special dimension to the build.
Putting It All Together: the Theatre of Dreams.
Old Trafford has a lot to recommend it as a technical build. There are interesting techniques used, from the positioning of the goal nets, the frame ‘supporting’ the roof of the ceiling The method for securing the seating. especially in the diagonal, corner sections, is quite clever, if not slightly mind mangling, in the consideration of the geometry required. The rounding of the stadium walls and the roof of the stadium is also nicely done. There is also SNOT galore between the walls, seating, and roof. Many aspects of the build go off the grid, both horizontally and vertically. – I might not have felt passionate during the building, but that did not mean that I could not appreciate these aspects of it. There are repetitive aspects, and just a lot! I probably spread my build out over a week or so (this was before most of Australia started to Lockdown/work from home. My work has slowed a little, for the time being, BUT still has been making plenty of demands on my time.
So, how the it all come together? This stadium nicknamed the Theatre of Dreams.
The LEGO House, however, is a much simpler build: once you see the technique used for creating each roof terrace, it is almost a matter of recolour and repeat – but there are subtle differences: the size of each terrace, the colour, and the elements used to block the colour in. But the emotional connection is much greater – there are clever building techniques used, especially to insert the upper layer of terraces, ensuring they are secure; as well as the detail in the main square: the Tree of Creativity, the staircase and the smaller tree.
Old Trafford is a Creator Expert set, with most of the features you might expect in an Architecture set. It has 3898 parts and is currently available through LEGO’s online channels, particularly while the LEGO Stores/Certified Stores are closed, as a result of the Corona 19 Pandemic. It has a recommended retail price of $AUD 449.99/ $USD299.99/ GBP £249.99/€269.99.
The LEGO House 20137 is an Architecture set, containing 774 parts, including a printed tile, reading LEGO® House. It is only available at the LEGO Shop at the LEGO House, in Billund, Denmark. You do not need to buy a ticket to visit this store. It has a retail price of 449 Danish Kroner, which in mid April 2020 has an exchange rate of approximately $USD64/$AUD103/£GBP52.
Both of these sets deserve 4/5 Arbitrary Praise units. If you are a fan of Manchester United, or to a lesser degree, football/soccer/sport, I think you will get a greater degree of joy from building Old Trafford than I did. I could still appreciate the build, but unlike other builds I have made in the last few years, I found it missed that certain spark for me. I had very little emotional response to it. As opposed to the LEGO House which, while a much simpler build, with fewer fiddly aspects than Old Trafford, brought back memories of some very special weeks in my life: activities performed, sights seen and friendships made. I did find that, for me, adding the LEGO House build in parallel to the stadium enabled me to have an appreciation, if somewhat artificially generated, for the subject matter of a build, to engage my fandom, and gain extra joy from the building activity.
If you have a passion for Manchester United, you will love this set: there are details that I suspect only a fan will pick. Just like a football season, there are highlights, and lowlights; easy bits and challenging parts, and times when you will start to wonder whether the perseverance will pay off. However, ultimately, the end result will be extremely satisfying and, I believe, you will find it to have been a reasonable way to invest your time.
If you have been to the LEGO House, you will certainly enjoy the Architecture set. If you have not been, you will still enjoy the build, but it will not trigger the same set of memories for you as it did for me. If you have been, it is a fitting souvenir for your visit.
Fulfilling a nostalgic yearning is one way for LEGO building to engage our enthusiasm – the recently released LEGO Pirates of Barracuda Bay is testament to this. But directly engaging with the heart of your passion is another. Both of Old Trafford and The LEGO House sets offer this opportunity to different people in different ways. I may not understand the passion that people feel for their favourite sports team, but I can relate to that drive to support something you love. And the memories evoked by building a LEGO set related to that.
I set out to build the Theatre of Dreams. My Dreams might be different to those of the typical Manchester United Fan.
What LEGO sets released over the years engage with your personal passions, more than anything in the world? Have you built that set? Did you find you enjoyed it more than others who built it? Why not comment below, and until next time,
As previously mentioned: 10272 Old Trafford was supplied by the AFOL Engagement team for review purposes. I bought the LEGO House set with my own resources. My attendance at the Recognised LEGO Fan Media days in 2017 and 2019 was financed by myself, although the AE team organised my admission to the LEGO House, along with catering. I’d happily go the the LEGO House again, at my own expense. And Again!