compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying (and Building) Escapist Lego Sets

Photo: Retailers

I’m a musician and podcaster and gamer (and overachiever?) who, like many others, had grand plans for 2020. By now, everyone knows what happened next. While the pandemic robbed me of my grander schemes, it did reintroduce me to other, more familiar plans: the ones that come with the Lego sets I’ve been building for as long as I can remember. One day, while wandering the aisles of Target in my N95 face mask, I stumbled upon the Lego section, where a replica of the Knight Bus from Harry Potter immediately caught my eye. It had been a while since I built a kit out of the box, but I remembered this one from childhood. As a 7-year-old, I couldn’t afford it on Tooth Fairy income alone. But as a 20-year-old with her own bank account (and few places to use it in quarantine), it reentered my life at the perfect time. I grabbed the box with gusto and immediately got to work on the bus as soon as I got home.

After completing the (not so magical) Knight Bus, I fell into the habit of buying more Lego sets and building them every evening as I scrolled through my phone. With the world shattering to pieces around us, there is something therapeutic about taking the plastic bricks and putting them together — it reminds me that things can be built up again. At a time when we can’t seemingly get a straight answer about how we should approach social situations or when this pandemic will end, Lego sets and their included plans provide a welcome dose of order. I know exactly how many pieces I need and what steps to take. And for anyone, like me, who grew up playing with Legos, doing so as an adult will often trigger memories of builds past and remind you that you’re never too old to enjoy the hobby you once loved.

Lego, of course, has sets for everyone. While I loved constructing castles and other fanciful buildings as a kid, a lot of my recent projects have been replicas of realistic structures from the brand’s Lego Architecture series. Since we can’t really go out and see the world right now, I figure building escapist sets like these in my own home is the next best thing. (I studied architecture in school before deciding to pursue other careers, but anything I learned just allows me to appreciate sets more, not build them any better.) Along with my triple-decker Knight Bus from Harry Potter’s (fictional) U.K., my home is now decorated with a shrunken Statue of Liberty and tiny replicas of the New York City and London skylines, and now I’m coveting more site-specific kits to re-create the Bjarke Ingels–designed Lego House in Denmark and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Pennsylvania-located Fallingwater. Below, all the escapist Lego sets I’ve bought and built this year, along with the ones I hope to work on next — or at least until it’s safe enough to return to the grander plans I had for my life. The prices shown below are for sets marked new; some can be found used for less money, however.

Escapist Lego sets I’ve bought

Lack of magical abilities aside, Lego’s Knight Bus is an otherwise perfect re-creation of the iconic mode of transport from Harry Potter — down to the ability to slide its included tiny bed around the bus’s three levels.

Detail-oriented builders, like myself, will appreciate the meticulousness with which Lego crafted each of its Statue of Liberty set’s 1,685 pieces.

In fact, detail-oriented builders will probably appreciate the Statue of Liberty set even more if they receive it along with this set of the New York City skyline (which also features a Lady Liberty, but one that simply takes the form of an all-green Lego person). Among the towers you construct are the Empire State Building, the Flatiron Building, the Chrysler Building, and One World Trade Center.

From $34

Lego’s London set, meanwhile, features sights, including Big Ben, the London Eye, and the Tower Bridge (which you can even raise and lower). It’s temporarily out of stock at Lego, where it sells for around $40, but you can still find it at other retailers, including Amazon, if you want it immediately and are willing to pay a slight premium.

Escapist Lego sets I want to buy

Bjarke Ingels’s actual Lego House in Billund, Denmark, is one of my favorite buildings in the world, which is why I think the replicas are truly must-build sets. The all-white kit preceded the more colorful one, which looks more like Ingels’s finished design. Both are harder to come by, but still can be found for relatively reasonable prices if you know where to look.

While it’s not from the Lego Architecture line I gravitate toward, this Lego Ship in a Bottle scratches that same wanderlust itch. The number of pieces suggests completion is challenging but definitely achievable.

Photo-Illustration: retailer

To me (and other Lego fans), the company’s take on Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater is a masterful miniature of one of the world’s most influential buildings. It — along with the equally pricey Lego Death Star — is the type of splurge-worthy set I dream about getting my hands on and building.

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