Modular Buildings have become a highlight of the year for many LEGO fans and with very good reason. They offer spectacular structures, brilliant building techniques and a tremendous selection of different pieces which represent both the fundamental principles of LEGO products as well as the most advanced aspects of their design over the last decade.
2017 will mark the tenth year of the theme and this milestone is celebrated by the release of 10255 Assembly Square. The set contains 4002 pieces and is therefore the largest Modular Building yet as well as one of the most impressive based on the exceptionally positive reaction to its announcement in October. LEGO has kindly sent us a copy of the set so we can provide Brickset readers with an early review in advance of its worldwide release on the 1st of January.
Box and Contents
The box is far larger than that of any previous Modular Building and displays the model against a delightfully sunny background with the Creator Expert logo in the corner. A unique tenth anniversary icon has been designed for the packaging and it appears on both the front and back of the box as well as on the cover of the instruction manual.
The back of the box demonstrates many of the details which can be explored and shows the floors removed to reveal an extensive interior. 10251 Brick Bank and 10246 Detective's Office are shown for scale alongside 10255 Assembly Square and it is apparent that this set is far more substantial than either of its immediate predecessors.
The box contains 34 bags divided across six numbers as well as one 32x32 baseplate, one 16x32 baseplate, one 8x16 plate and an enormous instruction manual which is 308 pages in length. I was quite surprised to find that the manual is not packed in a bag as has often been the case in recent years, although it arrived in perfect condition even without additional protection.
Eight minifigures are included as well as a baby. They all share the same smiling face and are split between those who are designed to fill a specific role and those who are a little more generic. The packaging suggests that the woman on the left of the image below is a mother and an AFOL who occupies a small apartment above the bakery.
The man wearing a plaid shirt seems to be a musician and the other characters are a florist and a photographer, with the latter perhaps being a friend of the artist in 10243 Parisian Restaurant. Each minifigure has some more printing on the back of their torso.
The dentist features a new torso which is printed with a tooth emblem and some dental equipment while the barista wears a brown apron. This design has previously been seen in 60097 City Square while the neighbouring ballerina is sporting a white tutu which was first used in the fifteenth series of the Collectable Minifigures.
The final minifigure works as a chef and he comes complete with a toque as well as printing on the front and back of the torso. This element was only recently updated so is still uncommon, appearing in just three other sets at the moment.
A baby and a dog are also included. The baby looks absolutely adorable and this version is only available elsewhere in 60134 Fun in the Park - City People Pack while the dog, based on a Chihuahua, is seen in a total of four sets.
I think this range of characters is sufficient to populate the set, although there is plenty of room for many more and fifty minifigures could comfortably occupy Assembly Square on an especially busy day!
The Completed Model
Assembly Square looks absolutely spectacular when completed, presenting a colourful model which is packed with details and realistic architectural features. The set is unusual among the Modular Buildings in that it is divided across three structures, although two share a party wall. They represent distinct building styles and the variety of different colours used for the rendering and brickwork is very pleasing to the eye.
The back of the model is significantly less detailed than the front, as one would expect, but it still looks quite reasonable on the whole, with a nice combination of sand blue, sand green and tan walls which contrast with a green base. There was considerable consternation when the traditional green baseplate was retired in favour of a bright green version at the beginning of 2015 so I am sure the inclusion of green baseplates here will appeal to many buyers. 32x32 and 16x32 stud examples are present, giving this model a much larger footprint than any previous Modular Building.
Two smaller models are also included and these can be placed on the pavement outside or taken indoors. The camera is brilliantly designed, with bellows behind the lens and a large flash bulb mounted on one side to replicate the style of photographic equipment from the early twentieth century. The tripod is also constructed very nicely and the model makes use of some interesting pieces including a pearl silver parabola, three dark bluish grey ball connectors and a 1x1 round tile with pin which has not previously appeared in black.
The pram is also constructed using some interesting techniques as brackets are used to form an attractive curved shape. I like the red colour scheme and there is room for the baby to stand or lie down inside while a minifigure holds onto the handle at the back. There is plenty for the baby to see as they are taken around the square, most notable of which is a delightful fountain made using white parabolas which is topped with a metallic silver sphere. Curiously, the fountain is the final section of the model to be constructed but its octagonal base is among the first.
White lamp posts are a consistent feature of Modular Buildings and this set includes two at the edge of the pavement. 2x2 tiles form much of the pedestrian area but these are accented by a selection of 1x1 plates as well as some new 2x2 corner tiles with an angled surface which appear in four different colours and tessellate beautifully to create some interesting patterns. A bijoux café occupies the building on the left of Assembly Square and its design is reminiscent of 10182 Cafe Corner as the awnings consist of white and yellow stripes while a radial sign hangs over the door with a coffee mug at its centre.
However, these features have undergone substantial alterations since the 2008 set and now look far more refined in my opinion. I like the alternating colours of the teeth which form the valance of the awning and the tables underneath are equally impressive, with curved seats and a table design which is highly detailed despite using only three pieces. Potted plants are situated on either side of the door and this opens to reveal an equally detailed interior.
The café contains just two tables and looks very cosy, with a pair of golden lampshades on the wall as well as wooden flooring and a decorative counter design. The cash register looks very traditional and the coffee machine behind the counter does not look particularly modern either, maintaining the rustic designs which have dominated the other Modular Buildings. Plenty of accessories are included too such as cups, plates and slices of pie which are printed on the new 1x1 quarter-circle tile. This piece also appeared in 41126 Heartlake Riding Club which was released during the summer but I am sure it will be new to most people.
A minifigure can exit the café through a back door and this brings us into a small outdoor space which features a climbing plant as well as a narrow walkway through which one can return to Assembly Square. The walkway is covered by a pearl dark grey lattice and this has some more greenery growing on top which I like very much. Another door is hidden beneath the walkway covering and that opens directly onto a flight of stairs while the reddish brown door towards the left of the image below allows access to the florist which we will visit a little later in the review.
The sides of Modular Buildings are often rather unsightly and that is certainly the case here as the furnishing inside results in a jumble of different colours. The lower section is not too much of an issue as that will be covered if the model is attached to another building but the upper section might be visible if placed beside some of the smaller Modular Buildings such as last year's 10251 Brick Bank. However, this is unavoidable without the addition of an extra layer of bricks and that would reduce the space inside so I think this less attractive angle is a worthy trade for greater interior detail.
The view from the front is much more attractive, with tall windows surrounded by sand blue rendering which is formed using 1x2 grille profile bricks appearing for the first time in this colour. A window box filled with flowers is placed outside the angled window and this is held in place by turntables at the top and bottom. There is very little movement but it is worth noting that the window does not quite fit perfectly and its angle can therefore be altered accidentally, albeit only slightly.
Each floor is separated by a row of dentillation, formed using 1x1 tiles with half circles in light bluish grey. They are identically designed but for the inclusion of a small balcony on the top level which is accessible through a glass door. This is mounted in an angled frame which is new for 2017 and it looks great, as do the carved stone eaves above. There is even more detail to be found inside.
The first floor contains a music store which stocks guitars, both acoustic and electric, as well as saxophones and a drum kit. The acoustic guitar features some lovely printing and is very rare, having only previously appeared as an accessory for the Mariachi in Series 16 of the Collectable Minifigures. The counter is again topped with a vintage cash register and this includes a pair of new sloping elements which feature a flat surface on top. These are bound to prove useful and they also appear in white elsewhere in the set.
A dance studio occupies the top floor and this seems best suited to ballet as a mirror is mounted on the wall with a pearl gold barre fixed underneath. The mirror element first appeared in 10246 Detective's Office and is truly reflective so I am pleased to see it included in another Modular Building. An upright piano is placed beside the stairs and this is probably the best model of the instrument yet which is saying a great deal as plenty have been designed before! I love the three foot pedals beneath the keyboard and the alternating black and white keys look great, using grille pieces to good effect as has become the standard for LEGO pianos in recent years.
The roof is accessed by a third staircase which leads to an opening hatch. This is formed using a technique which may be familiar to some as the same elements represent a hatch in one of the alternative builds for 31026 Bike Shop & Cafe. A skylight allows plenty of light into the dance studio beneath and the rooftop features carved stonework around the edges, with a particularly attractive curved shape at the corner.
The next building is the smallest but features some of my favourite details, particularly when viewed from the front. A pair of large flowers is mounted above the door and this is decorated with a flower-shaped doorknob which I absolutely adore. The flowers resemble tulips and each one comes complete with a bright green leaf, represented by a claw appearing for the first time in this colour. Racks of plants stand outside the shop and the pink awnings look great in contrast with the white of the wall at ground floor level.
The upper level has sand green walls but only a sliver of this colour is visible as the windows are very large and the roof is dominated by two shovels which form a curved shape. I was impressed by this use of a Technic component when the first images were revealed but was also a little concerned that these would occupy a great deal of space. Fortunately that is not the case and I think the result looks tremendous, as does the architectural detail underneath which is created using a series of hammer accessories mounted on their side.
The view from the side is less appealing. Much like the side of the bakery there are some strange patches of colour but these cannot be easily obscured as the florist does not connect to any other buildings on this side. Fortunately the colours are arranged in large blocks so do not look too bad, although it would still have been nice to see something covering the white area on the first floor.
There is little detail at the back of the florist but I like the row of alternating trans-green and trans-clear windows which are included in reference to the colour scheme of 10251 Brick Bank. The window on the ground floor can be opened so might provide an opportunity for the burglars from last year's set to make another attempted robbery. The section of wall above the window is easily removed to access the interior as it is has a fairly high ceiling so would otherwise be difficult to reach.
The interior is quite detailed, with a flower display in the corner as well as some prepared bouquets on the rear wall. A small plant is kept underneath a bell jar on the counter and a staff member can get to the cash register by lifting the wooden flap. The owner appears to own a parrot as a new bird with a mixture of blue, green and yellow feathers is sitting on a perch next to the side door.
A photographic studio occupies the next floor and this is perhaps the most sparsely furnished room in the entire set, although the delightful camera discussed earlier goes a considerable way to make up for that! I like the roll of white paper against the wall and the white upper windows are also a great detail, representing partially retracted blinds.
The roof terrace is quite nicely detailed with a small outdoor kitchen and some equipment which is clipped to the wall. I like this area but find this blue chairs to be rather gaudy so would have preferred a more neutral colour which would be more in keeping with the traditional aesthetic of the rest of the model. I should also mention that the dark orange plant stalk has only appeared once before in 21128 The Village.
The roof terrace is accessed by a series of staircases which lead down to the bakery, passing through the dentist on the way. These look great and also serve a very practical purpose as this allows much more space inside which can be occupied by more detailed furnishings and minifigures. I like the wrought iron styling very much and also applaud the use of the relatively new bar connector elements to form the handrails.
As at the other end, the side wall looks rather messy and the patches of dark bluish grey and white at the top are particularly irritating as they are left exposed when joined to some of the other Modular Buildings. As ever, it can be connected using a pair of Technic pins at the base and they line up perfectly so can be attached to any of the eleven Modular Buildings released over the last decade.
The front of the bakery is one of my favourite aspects of the entire set. Rolling shutters are used to create the windows and each one is topped with a sloping roof in dark blue. A pretzel identifies the building as a bakery, although there are no pretzels to be found inside which is somewhat ironic. The light fixtures on either side of the window make use of acetylene torch elements which is a brilliant demonstration that almost every piece can be reused depending on your own imagination!
Another of the new angled door frames is used for the front door to the bakery, although this one is cast in black so is consistent with the dark colours of the door casing. A curved step leads up to the door and it opens outwards, passing just underneath the inverted underside of the bartizan tower.
The interior is densely furnished with a large counter, some shelving, an oven and a couple of displays which are shown in the windows. The rustic design looks great and I like the liberal spread of cakes and desserts which provide a splash of colour in contrast with the grey walls. The wedding cake is particularly impressive, using a Technic turbine element for the lowest tiers and even including a pair of tiny figurines to represent the bride and groom on top!
The bakery also hides the only true play feature found in the set. Pushing a green plunger at the back will reveal some biscuits on a tray inside the oven. This is a neat little feature but its activator is rather obvious and detracts from the appearance of the model when it is viewed from behind. Perhaps this could have been replaced with a subtler switch design.
Nevertheless, the function works very well and shows great attention to detail on the part of the designer as the baking tray would otherwise have been almost impossible to access. The door is hinged and there is a paddle clipped to the wall for moving food around inside the oven or placing it on the counter.
A dentist's office is found on the next floor and this can be seen from the exterior where the window is printed with a tooth emblem as well as the phrase 'prevents yellowing' in reference to the tendency of white LEGO pieces to become discoloured over time. Medium dark flesh tiles recreate brickwork and these are punctuated by light bluish grey 1x2 jumper plates to provide some additional texture.
The bartizan is undoubtedly my favourite part of the entire model. It presents a beautiful shape and makes use of the extremely appealing new brick with studs on two adjacent sides, allowing you to mount 1x1 slopes in a corner configuration as exemplified here. This will be very useful for other creations but is put to excellent use on this model as the colour scheme looks fantastic and the bartizan tower is unlike anything seen on the other Modular Buildings.
Dark blue slopes form the pinnacle and two decorative lattice windows are arranged around the base of the roof. The white finial on top matches the carved stonework on either side and there is a sculpted relief at the front which features a chicken!
The interior of the dentist's office is completely open plan which is rather unusual as the waiting area has a perfect view of the dental chair. Thankfully there is some reading material in a rack in front of the reception desk which will hopefully distract any nervous minifigures. A telephone is placed on top of the desk so inhabitants of the city can ahead call and make an appointment.
Going to the dentist can be a stressful experience but would be even worse if one were to find a truncheon hidden in a chest of drawers, perhaps for knocking out difficult patients! Fortunately that can be hidden away and the rest of the room is exactly as one would expect, with a sink fixed to the wall and a reclining chair. An articulated lamp is fitted above the chair and a table can be rotated over the legs of a minifigure.
The final area to be explored is also one of the most interesting. A studio apartment is found on the second floor and this is obviously the home of an AFOL who has been collecting for several years as various sets are on display, notably including 10182 Cafe Corner, 10190 Market Street and 10185 Green Grocer.
These are arranged on a shelf above the sofa bed and this really works as you can fold it into different configurations, although no pillows are included so it looks slightly plain when folded down to form a bed. There is also a small kitchenette which is complete with an oven, a sink and some cupboards, one of which is probably a fridge. A small bathroom is situated behind the kitchen and this contains a toilet with a high level cistern and a pull chain, designed much like the toilet in 75827 Firehouse Headquarters.
The occupant has constructed a train layout which appears to feature the orange hue of 10233 Horizon Express as well as a tunnel and an area of water around which the track runs. They are also displaying 10181 Eiffel Tower in the corner and the box for 10182 Cafe Corner is resting on the sofa bed. This is printed on a 2x3 tile and it looks terrific, adequately celebrating the tenth anniversary of Modular Buildings in my view. You might also be able to spot 10220 Volkswagen T1 Camper Van and 10242 MINI Cooper MK VII on a shelf near the back door.
This is a tremendous set. I can never choose a single favourite Modular Building as my selection is constantly changing but 10255 Assembly Square is definitely another contender for the title! It is as detailed as any of the others and includes a thoroughly impressive selection of new pieces as well as plenty of interesting architectural features.
The small size of the buildings may bother some people but this is quite typical of many European cities and I think it looks brilliant. The tip of the bartizan stretches 35cm high so this model is taller than many previous Modular Buildings and will look splendid on display. I am also satisfied that the price of £179.99 or $279.99 is reasonable and would therefore have no hesitation in recommending this set. Whether you are an ardent collector of the range or have never bought one before, this will certainly be a worthy purchase when it is released on the 1st of January!
I hope you have found this review informative. Let us know by liking this article and share your thoughts on the set in the comments below.
This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.