The LEGO Neighborhood Book: Build Your Own Town! by Brian And Jason Lyles
Published by: No Starch Press
Review by: Christopher Bolton
The latest book from No Starch Press, "The LEGO Neighborhood Book: Build Your Own Town!" by Brian And Jason Lyles arrived today and this book is definitely one that will interest many members of the Tennessee Valley LEGO Club. As the title suggests this book is all about building LEGO town with particular focus on the Cafe' Corner modular standard developed by LEGO a few years ago with the release of the namesake set Cafe' Corner (10182). I have long been a fan of the work that Brian and Jason do and frequently check their website (http://www.brickbuilderspro.com/) for new building designs. I own several of their building plans already so you can image how excited I was to get this book.
The book is presented in sturdy soft-cover format with exactly 200 full-color pages. Much of the book is dedicated to a couple of great example modular building builds including a pharmacy and a row-house that has several variations. A complete parts list is included for both of the examples as well as the variations so both the novice and experienced builder can easily jump right into construction of their own Cafe' Corner style building. While these plans are very well done and represent a good value on their own (typical set plans sell for $10 each so to get these for the book price of $20 seems reasonable) the rest of the book is what really interested me. One of the most challenging aspects of getting into creating custom LEGO town/city building is finding inspiration and translating it into a LEGO plan and then executing the plan.
The LEGO Neighborhood Book explains in simple terms how to find inspiration for your design through examination of real-world buildings and architecture. The language is simple and narrated by minifigures so it is easily accessible to young and old readers. There are clear visual examples of how to translate architectural elements from the human-scale buildings into LEGO minifig-scale. There are also plenty of examples of LEGO buildings to illustrate different architectural elements so it is easy to understand how simple but subtle changes can affect the character of a building.
The section I was most impressed with Cafe' Corner details such as interiors and sidewalk settings. LEGO is meant to be played with and it is evident that Brian and Jason are designing custom buildings with this in mind. A lot of care and thought has gone into the approach to these essential elements. A sidewalk tile in-lay or a fancy corner cabinet can really enhance the fantastical feel of a MOC and there is a lot of inspiration to glean from this section.
Overall I am very impressed with this book and I think it will connect very well with many LEGO town/city builders or those interested in getting into the genre. I wish there had been even more information on architectural styles and how to capture different looks through SNOT and other techniques. The inclusion of the build instructions is a good value and great for inexperienced builders to help illustrate a complete Cafe' Corner style building however many custom builders are more interested in building their own designs while using techniques learned from others. If you are looking to get better acquainted with building LEGO modular buildings then this book should be your handbook!