LEGO 21039 Shanghai Building Block Set Review

Shanghai is the seventh model in the LEGO Architecture series, and represents the first city from Asia. The LEGO 21039 Shanghai set features eight landmarks, including two of the world’s top ten tallest skyscrapers. Many thanks to our friends over at ArchBrick for this review, for more fantastic Architecture set reviews go and give them a visit.


LEGO 21039 Shanghai Building Block Skyline Set

Having never traveled to Shanghai I briefly researched significant landmarks and buildings and overall think the skyline does a good job of portraying the city. However as a former architecture student I can’t help but point out the omission of the Jin Mao Tower (Shanghai’s first supertall skyscraper), which could easily replace the Radisson Blue Hotel.

LEGO Shanghai Set Contents

LEGO Shanghai Skyline Contents and Bags - 21309

The front of the box displays the LEGO version of the Shanghai skyline, while the back provides the names and real photos of the buildings (same as previous models). Inside the LEGO Shanhai Building Block set box are six bags containing elements, separated into one large bag, two medium bags and three small bags. Generally the size of the elements correlates to bag size, however the largest bag contains a separate, seventh bag. As you can see from the photo the skylines uses a lot of light blue, greys and tan pieces.

LEGO 21309 Shanghai Building Block Instruction Manual

The booklet begins with an amazing (seemingly futuristic) panorama of Shanghai, and describes the city’s rich architectural heritage. The introduction ends with a quote from Patricia Marx, “New York may be the city that never sleeps, but Shanghai doesn’t even sit down.” The booklet continues by providing a paragraph of information on each building, with most having two images photographed during the day and at night.

LEGO Shanghai Building Block Unique Elements 21309

There are a lot of unique elements in the LEGO 21039 set, such as the ones displayed in the photo. I know a lot of them are not newer but I don’t have any of these in my collection. I’m very excited for all of them, especially the wedge plate and 1×3 plate with two studs.

Building the LEGO 21039 Shanghai Skyline

LEGO Shanghai Skyline Base 21309

The base of the skyline begins the same as any other model, however Shanghai offers a few differences. The quarter rounded plate, bar elements and clips provide a glimpse of what is yet to come for the skyscrapers. With 26 steps the base is always the most uninteresting part of the skyline series, but now that is complete I can begin building!

LEGO HSBC Building and Customs House

LEGO HSBC Building and Customs House in Shanghai Set 21309

The first buildings in the skyline model are the HSBC Building and Customs House, both located in Shanghai’s historic Bund district. The models are designed in a Neo-Classical and Beaux-Arts style, respectively, which work well in a tan color. Both buildings use fairly standard techniques, as the best part usage is the grille tiles used as columns. Also of note is the subtle use of the 2×8 plate with door rail, as a reference to The Bund’s retaining wall.

LEGO Longhua Temple and Chenghuang Miao Temple

LEGO Longhua Temple and Chenghuang Miao Temple in Shanghai Building Block 21309 Set

The Longhua Temple and Chenghuang Miao Temple are small but important buildings in the LEGO Shanghai set. Due to their small size in comparison to skyscrapers each temple uses only a handful of pieces. Considering this, LEGO recreated the temples in the best possible way, even though it appears underwhelming.

LEGO Radisson Blu Hotel

LEGO 21309 Radisson Blu Hotel Building Highrise

The Radisson Blu Hotel is the first highrise to design in the model. The body of the actual building is quite bland, and the use of grille tiles easily get the job done. The tiles are held together by more plates with doors rail, giving the hotel an extra level of detail. Each of the four sides are held together by 1×1 bricks with 4 knobs and is attached by a bar element that clips on the base. Originally I tried to attach the hotel to the base in mid-air but all I did was unattach the clip elements. Be sure to use a flat surface! The most interesting portion of the building is the revolving restaurant, constructed using dishes and round tiles. Except for the bar and clip base attachment the Radisson Blu Hotel uses common techniques.

LEGO Oriental Pearl Tower

LEGO 21309 Oritental Pearl Tower Skyscraper Building in Shanghai

The Oriental Pearl Tower is the first skyscraper of the skyline. The iconic landmark heavily relies on 1×1 tan round bricks, which is an excellent choice given the round nature of the structure. Overall I appreciate the design and construction of the tower. My only issue is the slanted base columns which make the tower seem bulkier than in reality. I would also like to see the 2×2 plate below the lower sphere as a round element. Given the limitations of microscale there may not be a better solution.

LEGO Shanghai World Financial Center

LEGO Shanghai World Financial Center Building in set 21309

There’s always one model that uses a lot of one piece. The Shanghai World Financial Center uses a large amount of medium blue jumper plates, including 62 1×2 plates and 32 1×3 plates. Besides the tedious placement of jumper plates and tiles the skyscraper is not a bad build! With only four studs (in base width) to spare the slender model maximizes design by using the tiles and plates to create a curved appearance.

LEGO Shanghai Tower

LEGO 21309 Shanghai Building Block Finished Build

The model of Shanghai Tower is the most creatively designed building of the LEGO Shanghai set. Using a series of axles and flex elements the skyscraper is able to achieve a curved design not often built so elegantly at a small scale. The tower is composed of 3×3 L-shaped quarter ellipse liftarms that twist ever so slightly. How is this possible? Take a look at the photo below. The liftarms are held together by two black flex tubes, which are rotated 90 degrees and held in place by the center axle. This is my favorite technique of the entire model and I definitely use this for some of my personal creations.


As this is my first time reviewing a skyline model I found it very enjoyable. The buildings feature a diversity of techniques that successfully captures Shanghai landmarks. With 597 pieces the LEGO 21039 set is larger than other skyline models but the build time is relatively quick. This is a welcome addition to the skyline family and a perfect gift for any fan of architecture.


Extra Parts

LEGO 21309 Extra Parts for the Shanghai Skyline

LEGO 21039 Shanghai Building Block Architecture Set
Article Name
LEGO 21039 Shanghai Building Block Architecture Set
See LEGO Architecture's interpretation of Shanghai with the LEGO 21039 set, featuring the Chenghuang Miao Temple, World Financial Centre, Shanghai Tower, Oriental Pearl Tower, Longhua Temple and Chenghuang Miao Temple, HSBC Building and Customs House and the Radisson Blu Hotel.
Publisher Name
Ninja Brick
Publisher Logo


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