(Written by William)
In this Brick Breakdown series I review official LEGO sets, from the perspective of looking at interesting building techniques we can all learn from. Here we are continuing to look at the #10937 LEGO Super Heroes Arkham Asylum Breakout set in detail. In the first part we reviewed the architectural elements and the modular features of the set. You can read it here: Brick Breakdown: LEGO Arkham Asylum Part 1
Now that some of the larger building techniques of the LEGO Arkham Asylum have been discussed, it’s time to get to the finer points of this set. These are the details that make this model shine as a triumph of LEGO engineering. So without any further delay, let’s get to the build.
LAYERING IN CONTEXT
The LEGO Arkham Asylum has some intricate uses for parts in very novel ways. For example, the heads of the gargoyles are nothing more than frog pieces. The decorations around the stained-glass windows incorporate handcuffs. And the skirted gowns of the two dark angel-statues at the front gate are achieved by using ordinary slopes layered in a certain pattern.
Most LEGO builders would be intimidated by such unique parts usage. This creates a major obstacle in gaining the confidence to reach such high level of building skills. However it is important to notice that while the LEGO elements are being used in extremely novel ways here, they are not basic LEGO bricks. They are all fairly interesting shapes, so there is the possibility to look at them abstractly.
The trick for this technique is all about giving the LEGO elements you are using a context. For example the slopes for the angel don’t look like a skirt when you remove the wings and minifigure torso. Each part taken away from the gargoyle eliminates the context it is in, and it dissolves into a lot of strange pieces attached together.
It is the context in which the LEGO parts are assembled that makes them more than a bunch of random pieces. The best way to approach this technique is to take an oddly shaped LEGO element and turn it over in your hand. Then ask yourself, “What does this kind of look like when it’s turned this way?” This will give you the seed of an idea as to what context to layer it in.
RULE OF 2-TO-5
Probably one of the most useful LEGO building techniques is found in the tall and thin windows of the LEGO Arkham Asylum set. This is an excellent example of the Rule of 2-to-5 ratio for building sideways. So you will have two studs of space for every five plates of thickness. So let’s look at the windows. Each window opening is four studs wide. Using the 2-to-5 rule, this means we should have ten plates of thickness. So let’s count. There is a railing which counts as one, a plate that makes it two, and a small panel which is the height of a brick which adds three more. This brings the total up to five. Since the design is exactly the same on the other side, five and five make ten.
And of course you can break this rule to add gaps in your design. Take for instance the broken window. The mini-slopes are only two plates of thickness and the clear tiles are only one plate thick. This results in gaps that are roughly a brick in thickness.
There are some limitations to this LEGO technique to keep in mind. It can not be used with brackets since the bracket contributes a small but noticeable thickness. It must be used with LEGO bricks that have studs flush against their sides. Which means you cannot use the headlight-brick (Erling Brick) since it has a recessed stud. It is also important to note that many of these sideways designs will need to rest on tiles since the typical studs will intrude. Note that the base of the windows are tiled surfaces. You may also consider reinforcing such a design in a framework to reduce its fragility.
APPLYING WHAT YOU LEARN
Layering in context teaches us that our collection of LEGO is filled with fabulous options. That Technic pin is waiting to be used as a cannon, a hilt of a larger sword, or a decoration on a pillar. All you need to do is find an interesting element and take some time looking at it. It is not the piece itself that is interesting, but how it is used in a larger picture.
As for the Rule of 2-to-5, it is a very advanced technique that is simple to use. It creates the possibility of thinner lines that are virtually impossible to create any other way. This LEGO technique will stretch your special reasoning-skills while increasing your building options. It’s not the easiest technique to incorporate due to its fragile nature, but it is well worth the effort when you see the final outcome.
What do you think? How do you like the building techniques and embellishments of the LEGO Super Heroes Arkham Asylum set? Have you tried using similar techniques in your own LEGO creations? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below!
And you might also like to check out the LEGO Super Heroes section for more news, reviews and discussions, or select from the following posts:
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Arkham Asylum Part 1
- Brick Breakdown: Legends of Chima Polybags
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Ninjago Samurai Mech
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO City Alarm
- Brick Breakdown: LEGO Battle of Helm’s Deep
- LEGO Super Heroes – Arkham Asylum Breakout! (press-release)