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Brick Breakdown: LEGO Burj Khalifa

(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. Today we will be looking at the #21031 LEGO Architecture Burj Khalifa. You can also check out the previously discussed LEGO techniques found in official LEGO sets at the end of this article. 🙂

#21031 LEGO Architecture Burj Khalifa

Up to this point I have had very little experience with the LEGO Architecture line. I did pick up the #21003 LEGO Architecture Seattle Space Needle, as my wife and I had our honeymoon there. I also got the #21050 LEGO Architecture Studio kit, because it is a very unique set and I like making buildings. And I have the #21013 LEGO Architecture Big Ben as well, just because it was on clearance. So I had little idea what to expect from a set I was not actively seeking, but LEGO kindly offered us a copy for review, so I thought to give it a try.

#21031 LEGO Architecture PiecesLet me say that I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this set. First of all, I was excited by the selection of parts. As a free-builder, getting official LEGO sets with large quantities of the same elements to build larger structures is difficult. But the LEGO Architecture Burj Khalifa got a very good selection of parts for detailing the face of larger buildings.

The next thing that struck me was the quality that goes into the packaging of LEGO Architecture sets. Rarely do I keep boxes for LEGO sets, but because LEGO Architecture boxes are so stylish, I can’t throw them away. They are also useful for storage with their sturdy construction and flip-up lid. In addition, the manuals for these sets are printed on much higher quality paper, and are bound together with a lot more thought than your typical LEGO set.

As for the model itself, it looks great. I’ve heard that some of the smaller LEGO Architecture sets can be a bit disappointing, but this was not the case with the LEGO Architecture Burj Khalifa. Representing the tallest building in the world is wonderfully conveyed by this highly vertical LEGO structure. And reading about the finer details of both the real building and the LEGO model added to the experience. And if this wasn’t enough, the set incorporates some great building techniques. So let’s take a look.


The first time I saw this technique used was in the #10244 LEGO Creator Fairground Mixer. It allowed the seats of the mixer to be angled in three distinct directions. I felt that the technique was interesting, but couldn’t see it being used widely. However here it is again – and this time in a fixed structure – so it obviously has multiple applications.

#21031 LEGO Architecture Construction

Building a triangular core requires a dependable support structure. This is accomplished in two ways. The first is through the use of a special LEGO Technic piece that has a pin-hole in the center and three small axles in three directions. With these axles you can attach 1×2 LEGO Technic bricks with an axle-hole in the center. This portion of the core structure also gives builders the option to use an axle in the center of the unique LEGO Technic piece to fix the core to something. The other method in stabilizing a triangular core is by the use of swivel-hinges. These come in two varieties; brick hinges and plate hinges. Between the two options bricks are more noticeable while plates can handle a number of hinges in the same amount of space. This makes the plate hinges a superior option, since each point of the triangle should be secured using a hinge. Thus three hinges minimum should be considered.

Having these two structural supports in place allows you to explore the options of what to build out from the core triangular core. Bricks with studs and brackets provide many sideways building opportunities. Meanwhile, various modified bricks that can accommodate pins and axles will allow for some substantially heavier additions. Regardless of your end goal, the triangular core is a very sturdy design suited for rigorous uses.


Those who have worked with LEGO Technic-style parts know that the way an axle is situated can be really important. Many of the gears and reels found in the LEGO Technic system work off of incremental rotations around an axle. This means that if you fix a particular axle’s position, you will dictate how other pieces will be situated.

#21031 LEGO Architecture Details

The base of the LEGO Architecture Burj Khalifa gives an excellent example of how this matters. Since an axle is used to make the connection of the triangular core, it determines which direction the corners of the triangle point. And since one of these points needs to face directly toward the tile with the name of the building, there had to be a way to force the axle to be in the right position.

LEGO designers started the process by creating a mount for a gear/reel on the floor. This is achieved by two modified tiles with pins sticking straight up. Most LEGO Technic gears/reels have one central axle-hole and a series of pin-holes surrounding it. Therefore, these two upright pins allow you to turn a round gear/reel to fix an axle position. This is essentially all it takes. Create a fixed mount, use the appropriate sized gear/reel, and rotate until you get the position you want. The example used in this set is vertical in orientation, but with a little ingenuity you can fix the axle in all kinds of directions.


Tired of the square nature of LEGO bricks? A triangular core is a simple way to introduce complex shapes into your creations. You may start off easy, by simply using the cores as pillars, but once you get the hang of how they are made, the sky is the limit.

Those venturous to mix standard LEGO elements with LEGO Technic pieces often become the most advanced builders in the world. Essentially they give themselves more options to create more advanced shapes. The idea of fixing an axle’s position is a great way to take baby steps into this hybrid style of building. In the video below you can see the set in more detail.

So what do you think? How do you like this LEGO Architecture set? Do you collect any of the sets in the series? And what do you think of the building techniques used here? Did you learn something new that you can incorporate in your own creations? Feel free to share your own experiences and tips, or ask questions in the comment section below! 😉

Shop 2016 LEGO Architecture

And you might also like to check out the other reviews in this series:

{ 1 comment… add one }
  • James November 30, 2023, 12:41 PM

    What an impressive and fun way to experience the magnificence of the Burj Khalifa! The LEGO build truly captures the essence of this iconic symbol of Dubai.

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