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Brick Breakdown: Arkham Asylum – Part 1

(Written by William)

In this Brick Breakdown series I’m reviewing official LEGO sets but with a bit of a twist. Instead of just writing a general review I focus on unusual and clever building-techniques LEGO designers used in the set. This way we can all learn new building ideas to use in our own LEGO creations, or at least get some inspiration to look at LEGO elements in a different way. 🙂

#10937 LEGO Super Heroes Arkham Asylum

Today we’re taking a close look at the largest LEGO Super Heroes set to date, the #10937 LEGO Super Heroes Arkham Asylum Breakout. There’s nothing quite like a massive LEGO set to really experience some of the most advanced building techniques LEGO has to offer. In fact, there is so much to cover about the LEGO Arkham Asylum that this session needs to be split into two parts just to allow adequate time and space to discuss the elaborate building techniques. So we will cover some today, and some in an upcoming article.


When you consider the Arkham Asylum is in Gotham City, you’d assume the architectural styling is Gothic. After all, there is a pointed roof, pointed spires, creepy statues, and a tall vertical shape to the building. Surprisingly, these are not the characteristics of Gothic architecture. Instead what we have is the style that came before Gothic. This is called Romanesque. The pointed roof, spires, rounded arches, clustered pillars, and vertical stretch of the building all fit in with this earlier style. The confusion comes in due to the fact that most buildings that went to the Gothic style were churches. A popular feature of churches during this time was the use of various statuary. So when we see strange angel statues or gargoyles, we think Gothic.

#10937 LEGO Arkham Asylum Breakout

A true Gothic style building includes three elements. First are the flying buttresses. Those are the things that stick out independently from a building like those found in the LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle designs. They kind of look like horns coming off the roof. Next is a pointed arch. In the LEGO Arkham Asylum all the arches are rounded. The closest example of a pointed arch is in the LEGO Prince of Persia sets. Of course that arch is not exactly the right shape, but it does come to a point. Finally, the last feature of Gothic architecture is ribbed ceilings. This is rarely a feature found in any LEGO set. The Great Hall in the LEGO Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle set does have a little of this feature, but it is not very obvious.

LEGO Arkham Asylum Review - Architecture

This does not mean Romanesque buildings don’t fit into the Gotham world. In truth, many Gothic buildings have a large portion that is Romanesque since the two ways of building came around the same point in the late Medieval Period. It gets its name from being like traditional Roman architecture. Namely, the bunched pillars and use of arches. The spires and statues are an affectation added on by being mainly found in religious buildings. Where Romanesque differs is its ability to stretch vertically upwards.


Those who have put together a LEGO set of any size may recognize this building technique. It often involves a couple of LEGO Technic pins and pin holes located at the bottom and part way up a structure to connect various sections together. This in itself is not a very hard technique to grasp. However, it is important to point out that the LEGO Arkham Asylum demonstrates some variations on this principle.

LEGO Arkham Asylum Review - Details

Take for instance the main building. It still uses pin connections, but it spaces them out much farther than a typical use of this technique. The reason for this change is due to the increased depth of the model. Most LEGO sets that use a basic two-pin hook-up don’t exceed six studs deep. Commonly these connections are deal with sections only four studs in depth. The LEGO Arkham Asylum goes beyond eight studs.

The take away from this is that you will try to get as close to the corners of the connecting sections. A good rule-of-thumb is to make your connections no more than two studs away from the outside edge of your models. This will provide a nice measure of stability while still making it possible to be modular. Adding additional pins will strengthen the connection. However, if you try to treat these sections as modular, you will more than likely damage the structure of your LEGO model when taking the sections apart.

LEGO Arkham Asylum Review - Gate

Another use of this same technique is found in the gate of the LEGO Arkham Asylum. The small little fence areas are also attached in a horizontally modular way but they do not use pin connections. Instead they utilize bar and clip connections. It is important to note however that these connections are much more fragile than the typical pin-and-hole variant. This is why the fences are small. The upside is that you can position the connected sections at an angle with ease, making it ideal for small embellishments.


Keep in mind that you are never restricted by an architectural style when playing with LEGO. However if your goal is to recreate something in a similar style than a real building, it may help to figure out the defining qualities of that style. Emphasizing a simple aspect of a building can often go much further than blindly copying a particular design. It gives you a certain sense of freedom that may allow you to have more options in the long run.

When using the horizontal modular technique it is crucial to realize that it is not being done simply to stretch out a LEGO model. Rather, it is done for the sake of mobility. The original LEGO castles that did not use this technique are often hard to move since they are either piled on a baseplate or have so many weak points that it can’t help but fall apart. The technique was developed to allow for transport of your larger LEGO models while still providing a sturdy base to play on once the model was put back together.

LEGO Super Heroes Sets - DC Super Heroes

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:

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Quigley April 3, 2013, 10:27 AM

    i realy like it’s architecture. all those ninja weapons put together makes a good spikey-effect. 🙂

    • Will April 13, 2013, 1:32 PM

      Yeah, it’s definitely a piece that I wouldn’t have thought to use in that way, but it gives a surprising amount of texture and character without looking gaudy.

  • I love the statues! this set has the best detail that i have seen in awhile!

    • Will April 13, 2013, 1:33 PM

      Whether it’s the front gate or the gargoyles on top, I was a bit giddy just putting them together. I think the statues alone turn this building from great to epic!

  • lego trooper 91 April 3, 2013, 2:05 PM

    wow cool i mite get that set some thime i was also thinking about geting the bat cave to 😉

    • Will April 13, 2013, 2:09 PM

      The bat cave is also a cool set. It has a higher emphasis on play but I have to say the quick costume change in the bat cave is probably one of the coolest action elements I’ve seen in a long time. Of course if you’re going to display it more, it’s only so-so. Arkham Asylum definitely hits higher marks on both display and play factors. But going back to the Bat cave, given its size and what you get compare to the price, it seems really affordable.

  • ninjanut April 3, 2013, 2:06 PM

    I really like the parts in this set. You can use all those grey bricks for a lot of stuff. I like the R-Word you used to. Any way awsome review you sure have a talent for finding this stuff in models good job. 😀

    • Legoman640 April 3, 2013, 2:57 PM

      Ninjanut,what religion are you? Because on the post before this you said you were a christian. Just wanted to know. 😉

    • Will April 13, 2013, 2:11 PM

      Thanks! I wasn’t actually expecting to find Romanesque. I was entirely expecting to be talking about Gothic architecture. But if you’re trying to describe it to someone, you could just say it was based around the Roman style of building since Romanesque pretty much means Roman-like.

  • ninjanut April 3, 2013, 4:28 PM

    Christian! Whoo Whoo 😉

  • ninjanut April 3, 2013, 7:01 PM

    Buddies! Whoo! Whoo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • NRG PYTHOR April 3, 2013, 11:26 PM

    I do quite enjoy these brick breakdowns! 😀

    • Will April 13, 2013, 2:17 PM

      Thanks! Before writing this style of article, I had been writing a lot of basic reviews, which I plan to still do in the future, but I was trying to figure out a nice way to help LEGO fans learn techniques, but the best way to teach someone is to put examples in your hands. So I’ve been playing with the idea of writing a book, which I still have the outline for somewhere, but somewhere along the line I realized that what are in fans’ hands are these sets. And since these sets are chock full of fantastic building techniques, from some of the greatest builders in the world, why not use them as my examples?! Then anyone who reads a Brick Breakdown that has the set, has a hands-on tutorial for improving their skills. I think the real hold-up was finding a good place to post these ideas and I had been talking back and forth, and posting here, and as I thought more about it, the focus here is about learning new things, both technique and customization, with LEGO. I guess you could say I’m a bit slow on the uptake, but sometimes a good idea takes a little time to come together. I’m just glad I can do these breakdowns because it gives me a journal/reminder of what things are possible.

      That’s my long-winded way of saying thank you! And I like writing these articles. 😀

  • Fangtom The Return April 4, 2013, 6:02 AM

    Does anyone remember me?

  • Frank April 4, 2013, 8:07 AM

    Yeah I saw that! It looks awesome with all the minifigures and just the structure is amazing.

    • Will April 13, 2013, 2:20 PM

      This is one of those few sets that really emphasizes character in the building. A lot of times you’ll just find them add in things you’d expect to see in a building, but it disregards an architectural style. I feel other sets that capture building style in this way are the all the creations from the Winter Village line. You really get a chance to see character that takes a lot to put in that ultimately feels like the building has personality. So if you do get a chance to get a Winter Village set, I recommend getting them.

  • IronJupiter50 April 4, 2013, 12:40 PM

    I really like these articles that talk about Lego building techniques. Keep more coming please!

    • Will April 13, 2013, 2:20 PM

      Will do! 😀

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