Review & Interview - Science Tower: BL19007-1
Science and LEGO make for good bedfellows! This Bricklink AFOL Designer Set builds tight and tall, I talked with the designer to see if it stand's up and packs in all the details it claims.
When Bricklink launched the AFOL Designer Program I was reminded why I love LEGO as a toy and as a company. Yes, these sets aren't "official" LEGO sets but they are LEGO endorsed, with LEGO assisting in their creation and production. What other company would do this kind of thing? Bricklink (or more accurately the community) designed and created 13 sets which were only available for purchase for a short amount of time. Once they were gone it was for good. Each copy of each set were individually numbered adding to their rare status. I'll repeat the sentiment in Nathan's review of The Lowenstein Castle earlier this year, it does feel odd writing a review of a set you can only purchase on the second-hand market, but with such a unique program like this, the opportunity to talk about them just couldn't be missed.
The third (and probably final) of the Bricklink sets we have reviewed was designed by TBrick also known as Thilo Schön. A MOC designer from Germany. It depicts several important scientific breakthroughs, experiments, and principals through-out time, all in a four story building with an impressively small footprint.
In researching this set I reached out to TBrick and asked if he would answer a few questions for this review, he happily obliged.
Q. How long have you been designing MOC's?
A. I don’t know exactly but I started participating in LEGO competitions about 10 years ago, so it was a few years before that.
Q. Did you experience any personal LEGO Dark Ages, if so what made you come back to LEGO?
A. Yes. My interest in LEGO was sparked again when the first Star Wars sets appeared. The next big thing was LEGO Digital Designer because it allowed me to design very elaborate models without the need to have all bricks in advance.
Q. What's your favorite LEGO set, and why?
A. It’s hard to pick one out but the Parisian Restaurant 10243-1 is high on the list because of it’s many creative details and its nearly perfect overall appearance.
Q. What made you pick the Science Tower for submission over your other designs?
A. I created this design especially for the AFOL designer program. I wanted to create an original design which looks good on the outside but also has something interesting going on in the inside. Architecture and science are both things I’m interested in so I came up with this idea.
Q. How different is the end product compared to your original submission?
A. The end product is nearly identical to my submission. That approach was part of the AFOL designer program. Only a few bricks got different colours because of availability or were changed marginally to improve functionality. E.g. the chimney was turned around because it blocked the 360° rotation of the windmill which I couldn’t see in the digital model.
Q. Is there still anything you would like improve in the set (an artist is never happy with his finished piece!)?
A. I changed my own copy a bit and included a "real“ LEGO cat instead of a brick-built one (which I had to use because there weren’t any cats in the allowed parts for the program, although a dog was there).
Q. Would you go through the process again?
A.Yes, it was a great experience and I’m glad how it all came out. The most difficult thing is to come up with a good idea!
Q. You are clearly great at designing architecture, what the next building you are eyeing for a future project?
A. I’m working on several architecture projects at the moment but don’t want to reveal them now. My newest completed model that is publicly available is the model of Saint-Tropez.
Q. Is there a project that keeps getting the better of you, your Moby Dick?
A. Can’t think of something now. In the past maybe the Guggenheim Bilbao was such a project, it seemed nearly impossible to build that in a reasonable scale. Still at some point I found a solution which I’m quite content with.
I also asked him about the legal situation regarding listing the Science Tower as a MOC on our site. Legally he cannot share the instructions or parts anywhere. The inventories for the AFOL Designer Sets can only be found on Bricklink. However, he has designed an expansion for the Science Tower that is currently available on his website for free. I asked him if he would list his creations here on Rebrickable as he has some award winning designs that would be great for our community, he said he'd look into it, fingers crossed! Until (if ever) the day comes where this set can be listed here, I have created Custom Lists based on my parts for your use. Also check this forum thread for other Bricklink AFOL Designer Set inventory Custom Lists.
TBrick's website can be found here.
Cross a small bridge over a stream and underneath an apple tree to get into the Science Tower, a multi-colored, four-level building. A pair of scientists and their trusty hound work here and are up to new discoveries! Shadow them around the tower to learn more about their experiments, or do your own research in the library. As day becomes night, climb up to the top floor to test out the astronomical telescope in the observatory. Challenge yourself to identify all scientific experiments and inventions!
The box measures 265 x 395 x 100 mm. Inside are 10 bags numbered 1 to 4, 1 unnumbered bag containing part 39789pr0001, and an instruction manual. Just like the other BL sets we have reviewed, the packing is fantastic here. It comes in a box similar to the Architecture Series, wrapped in a sleeve that doubles as a background for the model. The background is of a starry night sky to suit the Science Tower and astronomy setting. It's an inventive and simple idea and makes the set feel that little bit more special (even though, admittedly, I don't display the model with the background).
The bags and numbering system are definitely not LEGO. The box feels high end (dare I say better than LEGO!) the bags don't. It's probably just psychological though, no reason to think they are more likely to tear or anything like that. Unfortunately I had several images for this build corrupt. I was able to retake all but the unopened bags image (for obvious reasons) so I have no image of the unboxing of this set.
The Instruction manual measures 218 x 280 mm. With 168 pages and 223 total build steps. It is a high quality product, with a nice intro from the designer, TBricks, and a short synopsis on the set. While the quality of the paper and constructon is top quality the actual printing lets them down a little. A few times there was small printing errors, nothing that affects the build or experience, just missing lines here and there. The biggest issue I had (with the entire set) was their chosen shades of color. I kept getting the color wrong, all the time. Dark Tan looks like Light Bluish Gray, Dark Red and Reddish Brown looks almost identical, Orange, Medium Dark Flesh, and Pearl Gold were challenging. I'm sure this issue is more caused by my expose to LEGO's instructions than any actual fault of Bricklinks but it definately made the build more challenging than it would have otherwise been.
The set contains 1206 parts and 62 spare parts, in 28 different colors, and 34 different categories, with a total of 232 unique parts/color combinations.
Main colors are:
- Dark Tan: 17 Parts, 170 quantity
- Reddish Brown: 30 Parts, 147 quantity
- Black: 39 Parts, 151 quantity
- White: 52 Parts, 319 quantity
Main categories are:
Only one new part, 39789pr0001, which is not part of the actual model and was packaged in every Bricklink Designer Set. The lack of new parts or colors are due to the contests rules about part usage. Similar to LEGO Ideas, designers could only use exsisting parts and prints in their models.
There is one other part of interest. 35299 Windscreen 3 x 6 x 1 Curved with Rectangular Stud Holder is the newer mold variant of part 62360. This is so new there's still very little confirmation on when it appears in what sets. Like with other mold variations, it's likely sets with the part uses both types due to existing stock in certain regions. Bricklink do not distinguish between the two molds. I personally can confirm this variant is in this set. The only official set it appears in is 2018's 75208-1 Yodas Hut, both molds have been found in this set, sometimes at the same time.
Parts in rare colors:
This set comes with 2 minifigs. I don't know if they're supposed to represent any specific scientist, they look pretty generic so probably not.
Bags 1a-1c: We begin with the hilside and basement. I'm not one to enjoy building this hillside/cliff faces, I find them repretitive (easily my least favourite part of 71043-1 Hogwarts Castle), but I admit they look good when finished. Behind the rocks, in the basement, is the first of the science references. The Steam Engine is well designed and easily recognisable. There's more science on this floor too, a great micro model of the Solar System, and some flasks hidden at the back.
Around the front we build the steps and the garden (which represent Mendel's Cultivation experiement)
Bag 2: With the boring bit out of the way TBrick really steps up the inventive techniques. We are starting to see more techniques like this in official LEGO sets and that's directly thanks to MOC designers like TBrick and all of you who push the LEGO envelope.
A tail section is used for the railings, looks great but has functional issues. It rotates far too easily and doesn't meet the top bar. Inside we being the vast library, the back of which creates a fantastic curved exterior wall. For the science we get micro builds of a micro-scope (a micro-micro-scope if you will!) and a gramophone.
Bag 3: The second floor is more tradional in terms of consruction, but it still looks great, just shows how carefully picked small details like windows can really lift a model. Inside there's a chemistry set, Pavlov's Dog (with a delicate camera), and that thing behind the Medium Blue door is Schrodinger's Cat, this is what TBrick said he swapped out for an actual cat in his set, he was forced to build this due to the part restrictions (I wonder why they didn't just swap it out during the products final stages). I actually had no idea what I had just built, I had to look it up on his website to figure it out.
The exterior now looks complete. Even without the top level the building looks impressive and would fit into any cityscape.
Bags 4: I've said in another review, I'm a total sucker for a nice curved wall or window. This set delivers on that, a lot. There's a really neat circular window on the side of the building which utilizes parts really well and creates a how-is-that-done moment. Also, below the telescope, TBricks has treated us to some awesome window and wall sections, creating both an angular and curved look. I can't say enough how much I loved these wall sections.
Then we begin the telescope. I was very curious to see how much movement this telescope would actually have. Intially it was a little fiddly. I kept getting it suck, this was as I was building it. Once complete, and with a little bit of persuasion, it is absolutely smooth, it never catches and has 360° rotation. The actual telescope also has up and down movement.
Inside there's some weights and scales, and Radio Transmitter. And on the roof we also has a Wind Wheel which also has 360° rotation. Lastly we build the tree for the front which has an apple on it representing Newton's inspiration for his Theory of Gravity.
The Science Tower is a winner. The build was interesting, challenging, and fun just like all great sets. The end result looks fantastic and whilst not being the most play-friendly of sets I'm keeping this built on my shelf. I love looking at it and the tall, tight profile has no comparison in an official LEGO set. I really can't sing praise highly enough for this model, the style, the details, the build, everything.
However, I think the original price is exactly where this should be, so It's hard for me to recommend you pay the current prices of $250-$300 for it. If you part it out you the set's worth around $200 currently, so maybe once the hype around these sets dies down the prices will settle closer to the parts value.