LEGO releases hundreds of products every year but I think the annual Modular Building remains the most anticipated of all, at least among adult fans. The range celebrated its tenth anniversary with 10255 Assembly Square last year and now makes a welcome return, bringing an entirely different kind of building to the street scene.
10260 Downtown Diner is unique among the Modular Buildings released so far, featuring an unmistakable Streamline Moderne architectural design which is defined by an abundance of horizontal and vertical lines as well as rounded edges. Such a dramatic change did not meet with universal approval when the set was announced but I have been looking forward to it very much, not least because the set represents such an interesting style of architecture.
This is an enormous set, containing 2480 pieces, so we have decided to publish our review in two parts. The first concerns the six minifigures included as well as construction of the diner.
Box and Contents
The model is displayed against sunny skies on the front of the box and a couple of palm trees can be seen in the background, befitting the distinctive American style of the diner. A pair of inset images show how the upper floors can be removed to reveal the interior as well as the dimensions of the model, which measures 25cm wide and 35cm in height.
Some fans have expressed concern that 10260 Downtown Diner will not match the previous Modular Buildings given its unique architecture. Nevertheless, the model is shown on display beside both 10255 Assembly Square and 10251 Brick Bank on the back of the box, among a collection of images exhibiting finer details from both the interior and exterior.
The box contains twenty bags, numbered from one to five, as well as a single instruction manual with exactly 200 pages. Fortunately, no stickers are included as all the decorated elements are printed, as we have come to expect of the Modular Buildings range in recent years. It would have been nice to see a little history of the Streamline Moderne style or an interview with the set designer, Mike Psiaki, but no such features are included.
Six minifigures populate the set, the first of whom works as a chef at Jim's Diner on the ground floor. Presumably, this is Jim given his important role in the restaurant and he is appropriately dressed for working at the grille, wearing a white jacket and an angled cap. Jim's head features some dark tan facial hair and is very rare, having only previously appeared in 21310 Old Fishing Store, so I am pleased to see it again here.
The waitress also includes a couple of rare parts, perhaps the most notable of which is her black hair piece. This ponytail style was introduced, appropriately, for the Diner Waitress from the eleventh series of Collectable Minifigures but has only been available in black once before. Her torso is printed with a nice striped shirt and the waitress also wears a pair of red roller skates, evoking the 1950s era upon which this entire set is based.
Two further minifigures are dressed for the boxing gym situated above the diner. The female figure has blonde hair and wears a lime green tracksuit which would be ideal for weightlifting or jogging. This torso first appeared in 60153 People Pack - Fun at the Beach, much like the blue and white striped shirt worn by the waitress as well as the boxer's dual-moulded legs. The head features a smiling expression on one side and a weary face on the other.
Boxers are not usually associated with bold hairstyles but that is certainly the case here as this figure sports a textured reddish brown hair piece. I think it would look better in a ginger colour to match the moustache and eyebrows. Some muscle definition is printed on the front of the torso but there is no detail on the back, unfortunately. However, I like the red boxing gloves and his blue shorts look marvellous too.
The final minifigures are working in the recording studio on the top floor of the building. The woman is dressed in a grey suit with a striking purple scarf and is shown at the mixing desk on the packaging so could be a record producer or the singer's manager. I rather like her dark orange hair and the double-sided head is perfect, featuring a smile for when she is happy with the recording and a frustrated expression for whenever things go wrong!
A new head is used for the singer and this also includes two expressions, showing a charming smile on one side and an open mouth for singing on the other. His dark brown quiff seems to be a tribute to Elvis and the sequined jacket certainly seems like something that 'the King' would have enjoyed wearing, especially in combination with a pink shirt underneath. The singer comes complete with a red guitar which does not include printed strings, unusually.
Almost every previous Modular Building has included minifigures featuring the classic smiley faces but they have withdrawn in favour of more expressive designs for this set. The original smiles are undoubtedly charming so it is a little disappointing that they are no longer in use for the Modular Buildings range. On the other hand, these new faces convey a great deal of emotion so are perhaps more suitable for story telling and it should not be too difficult to find six of the classic smiling heads should you wish to replace them.
Construction begins at the base of the model, as is customary for the Modular Buildings. The structure is built upon a tan 32x32 baseplate and this stage of construction consists primarily of laying tiles to form the floor of the ground level and the pavement outside. I invariably find this very interesting as studs are scattered liberally among the tiles, the reason for some of which will not become apparent until later.
The new teal parts are introduced very quickly, making up the walls of the diner. Over 100 such pieces are included, ranging from 1x3 and 1x4 bricks to plates and curved tiles. These will undoubtedly prove very popular, although I was disappointed to find some slight colour variation between the 1x3 and 1x4 bricks. The difference is very subtle but can be seen under certain light conditions so I am hoping this will be rectified for future production runs.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of constructing a Modular Building is the frequent change of focus. One step might involve stacking bricks to build the wall while the next concerns the assembly of some furniture. That is certainly the case in this set and the ground floor includes a particularly impressive selection of smaller models, the most notable of which is the diner bar. Click hinges are ingeniously used to join the counter to the plinth underneath, allowing the designer to include a curved edge that matches the external walls.
The cooker hood is also very clever in its construction, using two light bluish grey tipping beds attached upside down. A couple of rare red 1x1 round tiles with vertical shafts are found here and 1x2 inverted slopes fit reasonably neatly on either side, although tiny gaps remain. Fitting the next layer of bricks over the hood is very satisfying and this assembly is remarkably sturdy when completed.
Rounded windows are a defining feature of Streamline Moderne architecture and this structure makes good use of some relatively new pieces, including 4x4 curved tiles at the corner and 1x3 bow bricks. I was surprised at the relative simplicity of this window but the result looks superb, leaving absolutely no studs visible from the exterior!
Conversely, the curved roof structure is deceptively complicated, featuring two layers of bricks placed sideways with a layer of plates and tiles in between. Black columns support the floating part of the roof and slotting each of the sections together is incredibly satisfying. Like the window below, no studs are left exposed once all of the bricks and tiles are in place, leaving a perfectly smooth edge around the entire roof.
Modular Buildings often include some lettering which is constructed using a combination of plates and tiles. However, the Downtown Diner features unusually bold signage without any visible supports. I was therefore expecting these letters to be quite fragile but was pleasantly surprised. Each one is fitted to bricks with studs on the sides and they remain rigid, even when removing and replacing the upper floors which fit behind the sign.
The next level accommodates a small boxing gym. Construction of the walls is very simple but does not become boring as some furniture for the room is built at the same time, including the boxing ring. This features a 6x6 tile representing the canvas which has only appeared in red a couple of times before. Furthermore, the water cooler assembly is rather clever as the bottle is fitted upside down using a trans-clear 1x1 round tile with vertical shaft.
Windows were first introduced to LEGO sets in 1954 and an array of different elements and techniques have been used when building these important architectural features since then. Nevertheless, the designer of this set has found yet another interesting method for creating windows, using 1x2 panels and arch bricks to set them back into the wall. This leaves about a quarter of the width of a tile to represent the window ledge. The result looks fantastic and each window is held in place effectively, despite the lack of any stud connections.
A number of studs, to which the facade is attached, remain exposed along the front wall at this stage of construction. It is surprising that this technique has not been used more often in past sets as it is quite simple, using rows of tiles to form a brickwork texture. The gaps between the tiles are more apparent than those between standard bricks, leaving visible mortar joints which look impressively realistic.
Slotting each floor into place is very satisfying. The staircase from the pavement lines up perfectly with the door to the gym and the curved teal pieces along the right hand side of the building match those on the ground level exactly. Once again, very few studs remain exposed once the first floor is complete and I think that works well here as smooth surfaces and curved shapes are vital to this form of architecture.
A spiral staircase is fitted to the rear of the model and allows access to the second floor. Wrought iron external staircases have appeared in several previous Modular Buildings but this design is distinctive, using 1x4 panels with a lattice pattern to form the treads. A single Technic axle runs through the core of the spiral, ensuring absolute stability for what initially appears to be a somewhat fragile assembly.
Building the second floor feels familiar during its early stages. Most of the windows line up with those on the level below and the walls are similarly constructed using standard bricks as well as a few bricks with studs on the side. These include some tan 1x2x1 2/3 bricks with studs on the side which are new in this colour and could prove useful for other creations.
This stage of construction also features a selection of innovative building techniques. I like the round windows beside the recording studio which look relatively simple at first glance. In fact, these are built using 1x4 arches placed both the right way up and upside down to form a circle. Trans-clear 2x2 sliders are then placed inside the arches, rather like the windows on the sides of the building. The windows do not fit perfectly so rattle around slightly but they look splendid and add some visual interest to this wall.
The alternating brickwork course is consistent between the first and second floors, showing magnificent attention to detail on the part of the designer. It is pleasing to see some of the new foliage pieces in this set, including the flowers with five petals in three different colours, the bright green leaves and a couple of the new stalk components which are used in the flowerpots along the pavement on the ground level.
A glazed curtain wall runs for the entire height of the first and second floors and this is enclosed by an attractive rounded frame at the top. 5x5 round corner bricks have only appeared in dark azure and red before now so it is pleasing to have another colour in this set. The curved shape continues onto the roof where clips are used to fit two 5x5 round wall panels, lining up seamlessly with the impressive window at the front.
Clips are equally vital to the attachment of the decorative parapet along the front edge of the roof. This is constructed upside down and includes a row of 1x2 click hinges which create some delightful texture. Attaching the radio antenna to the top of the roof and completing the Downtown Diner itself brings the entire building experience to a perfect conclusion, although the final part of the set remains to be constructed!
The last few pages of the instruction manual are focused upon the car. Its design is fairly similar to that of the vehicles found in 71006 The Simpsons House and 71016 Kwik-E-Mart, with a chassis measuring six studs wide and offset seating inside. This is a very effective use of space and I am quite pleased with the level of detail included as brackets are used to fit the front and rear bumpers.
Inspiration for the car has been taken from the 1955 Cadillac Fleetwood, driven most famously by Elvis Presley, so creating adequately flowing bodywork is of paramount importance. Pink 1x3 jumper plates with two studs have therefore been introduced for this set and are used to fit the tan headrests behind each of the front seats. The 1x2 plates with Technic pin holes on either side of the bonnet have not appeared in pink before either.
A great deal of expectation is always placed upon the Modular Buildings, not only in relation to their appearance when completed but also to their construction. 10260 Downtown Diner certainly does not disappoint in that respect as another innovative building technique is found on almost every page of the instruction manual. My favourites include the counter inside the diner, the wrought iron fire staircase, the windows on the side of the building and the curved roof structure above the recording studio.
The entire building experience is thoroughly enjoyable and I hope I have provided you with a flavour of that in the first part of this review. Let us know by liking this article and share your thoughts on the set in the comments below.