Lego Modular Buildings
Modular Buildings is a series of Lego building toy sets introduced in 2007. Created in response to feedback and suggestions from the Adult Fans of Lego (AFOL), and the Teen Fans of Lego (TFOL) community, the sets in this series are generally intended for more advanced builders with most sets containing more than 2,000 total pieces and making use of unorthodox building techniques which have not been tried before in official Lego sets. In contrast to most LEGO sets which are aimed at children and adolescents, the suggested age of most sets in the Modular Buildings series is 16 years or older. The Modular Buildings sets have been received with positive reviews, being considered by Lego designers and fans as "toys for adults".
- 1 Overview
- 2 Sets
- 3 Related sets
- 4 Challenges
- 5 Reception
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
All sets in the series can also be joined together to form a larger neighborhood layout of several buildings standing adjacent to each other. Connectors at the base of the models are aligned for easy connection with other models in the series.
In 2006, a poll was taken, aimed at the AFOL community. Adult fans were asked to share their ideas and opinions of what concept they would like to see for a future model from The LEGO Group. Some of the ideas submitted were: more town and everyday buildings, structures with more architectural detail, realistic buildings, minifigure scale buildings, solid and enclosed buildings, and more. These ideas were taken into consideration and a year later the first set in the Modular Buildings series, Café Corner, was released. Some LEGO fans were invited to provide feedback and suggestions during the design of the set.
Café Corner (set number: 10182) was the first of the Modular Buildings series. It was originally released in April 2007 at a MSRP of US$139. The set contains 2056 pieces and is recommended for builders 10 years of age or older. Some of the set features include a 3 floor building set on a street corner, a vertical 'Hotel' sign, opening doors and windows, café tables and umbrellas, a striped awning and 3 minifigures. Many unusual building techniques were incorporated, such as annexes, fanned ski shoes as decoration, angled corner, and a 3D façade.
During development of this first set in the series, the designers considered the cost of several options. One more expensive version had additional café features, dark green interior walls, a bike and an additional minifigure. In contrast, a lower cost version of the set was considered which lacked rear exterior walls, interior stairs, and extra interior walls on the second floor, and had only 2 minifigures but no bike.
LEGO fans could suggest improvements to the initial prototypes such as adding color to the roof (which was originally gray) and translucent elements to the hotel sign.
Market Street (set number: 10190) was the second of the Modular Buildings series and designed by Dutch Lego fan Eric Brok. It was originally released as a follow-up to Café Corner in 2007 and priced at MSRP of US$89. The set contains 1236 pieces and is recommended for builders 10 years of age or older. It was one of the first leading buildings. The set features include opening doors and windows, a gate, a striped awning, and 3 minifigures. Advanced construction techniques used in Market Street include: curved staircases, "stripped paint" sections on the walls, interchangeable floors, Dutch/Belgian stepped roof, a basement, offset windows, and wrought iron-look decoration and gate.
Market Street is a unique set in the Modular Buildings series in that it has fewer than 2000 pieces and is recommended for builders 10 years and up rather than the usual 16. One of the reasons this set was smaller than the others was to provide a lower cost entry point into the Modular Buildings series. Also, until 2018's Downtown Diner, it was the only ostensible Modular Building set to have minifigures that didn't all bear the classic-smile-only face.
As a Lego Factory set, Market Street was to showcase a fan design, thus promoting the Design-it-yourself vision of Lego Factory. The modularity of the resulting model also may inspire people to design their own floor modules (or furniture sets) in Factory, without having to build an entire house.— Eric Brok, Adult Fan of Lego, Designer of Market Street
Thus Market Street is the only set in the series to be released with Lego Factory branding on the box — and as such is sometimes questioned how official it was intended to be as a Modular Buildings entry. This is because it was originally designed by a LEGO fan rather than a Lego designer. Eric Brok, a LEGO fan from the Netherlands, designed the set working closely with LEGO designers.
Green Grocer (set number: 10185) was the third of the Modular Buildings series. It was originally released in 2008 at a MSRP of US$149/£99. The set contains 2352 pieces and is recommended for builders 16 years of age or older. Some of the set features include a blue and white awning, opening doors and windows, detailed interiors to each room, a roof terrace, a fire escape, access to a courtyard behind the building, and 4 minifigures. Advanced building techniques used in Green Grocer include using black skeleton legs and hammers to make railings, using black spear guns as railings for the fire escape, using a paddle for a pendulum in a grandfather clock, and using hinges to make a bay window.
Green Grocer differs from the previous two sets in the series because it has a greater level of detail inside. Whereas Café Corner and Market Street had bare interiors, each floor in Green Grocer contains a prop such as a standup radiator or some furniture such as a grandfather clock. The first floor is fully furnished as a grocery store, with refrigerated shelves with opening doors and cartons of food. The assortment of Lego food pieces in the grocery includes carrots, apples and bananas. There’s also a stairway to the apartment above, and a mailbox set with letters.
Fire Brigade (set number 10197), released in September 2009, was the fourth set in the Modular Buildings series. The set contains 2231 pieces, was priced at MSRP US$149/149€, and is recommended for builders 16 years of age or older. Modeled to look like a realistic 1930s fire station, the set includes a bell tower, an opening garage door, a 1930s style fire truck, and 4 minifigures with a fire-dog. Like Green Grocer, all floors in the Fire Brigade set are fully furnished. The Fire Brigade is the first Modular to come with a vehicle, the 1930s-style fire truck. The set also includes some new, unique pieces, such as gold fire helmets and a red sliding garage door.
New building techniques introduced with this set include a systematic way of building numbers. On the front of the building the year 1932 appears, which is a reference to when LEGO was founded. The number 3 also appears on the pavement of the set representing that this is the 3rd set on the series from Lego set designer Jamie Berard (he had previously designed Café Corner and Green Grocer).
Grand Emporium (set number 10211), released in March 2010, is the fifth set in the Modular Buildings series. The set contains 2182 pieces, was priced at MSRP US$149/149€ and is recommended for builders 16 years of age or older. Modeled to look like a realistic early 20th Century department store, the set includes a realistic exterior with an ice cream stand, store window displays, window washer platform, and rooftop billboard. Interior details for the three-floor building include an escalator, dressing room, and a wide assortment of "merchandise." It is built as a block corner building, similarly to Café Corner, Palace Cinema and Brick Bank. There are 7 minifigures, including two that are decorated with blank faces to look like mannequins.
Pet Shop (set number 10218), released in May 2011, is the sixth set in the Modular Buildings series. The set contains 2032 pieces, was priced at MSRP US$149/149€, and is recommended for builders 16 years of age or older. It is the first set in the series that is actually made out of two buildings that separate using the same Technic pins that link the rest of the modulars together. They can be reversed or separated and wrapped around another building. The brown building is a Brownstone style town house with elevated ground floor (atop a crawl-space below); and the sand blue building is the Pet Shop. The brown building is the only building, with the exception of Market Street, that has a basement. There is a special feature on the Pet Shop on the ground floor, where the staircase can be folded away for more access room for playing (this was an issue with Market Street). There are 4 minifigures, 2 parrots, one dog, one cat, and a fish tank with goldfish. The set also includes 3 dog bones, a ball, a frog toy, a birdhouse, a bucket and a brush. Until the Brick Bank, this was also the shortest set by height and stands at just over 25 cm. The next tallest modular is Market Street at 33 cm. The set includes a full interior including a toilet, bed, kitchen and fireplace.
Town Hall (set number 10224) was released in March 2012 and is the seventh set in the Modular Building line. The set contains 2766 pieces and is recommended for builders 14 and over. It is the tallest Modular set, taking the title from the Green Grocer—having three floors with generally higher ceilings than the norm, plus a clock and bell tower on the roof. It contains many interior details, such as a working elevator, along with board tables and balconies to look to the floor below. Along with the many interior decor details, the building features the pilastered portico and brick façade treatments of United States Colonial Revival architecture. The 1891 date on the building represents the birth year of the founder of LEGO and when reversed, it's the birth year of the designer, Astrid (1981). The set was priced at £149.99/US$199.99/179.99€ when released by LEGO on February 16, 2012. There are eight minifigures in the set including a wedding couple. The set had a global discontinuation date of 31 December 2014 and had a much shorter lifespan than its predecessors.
Palace Cinema (set number 10232) was released in March 2013 at a MSRP of US$149/139€. It is the eighth set in the Modular Building line and the third corner building. The set contains 2194 pieces and features architectural homage to the Egyptian Revival architecture of the early 20th Century, albeit with Chinese-like cultural appropriations similar to Hollywood's Grauman's Chinese Theatre. As such it also features Hollywood Walk of Fame type printed star tiles for the outer sidewalk—LEGO elements that after retiring in 2017 re-emerged to decorate the walls in 2018's Downtown Diner. Palace Cinema is the first Modular Building set to be released with the LEGO Creator Expert branding on its box and was the first to include stickers (opposed to all decorated elements being factory-printed). Some of these are movie posters containing LEGO "easter eggs" in-jokes such as the ubiquitous brick separator tool used to disassemble (Godzilla-like "The Brick Separator"), the time-consuming sorting of LEGO elements ("Forever Sorting"), and LEGO's iconic 1990 red Airport Shuttle #6399 set ("Mystery On The Monorail"). Also, Palace Cinema was the first of the Modular Building sets to have only two floors (albeit with higher ceilings than the norm) instead of the usual three; and the second (of three Modulars as of 2018) to include a vehicle: a black car styled loosely on a convertible Buick.
The ground floor is the ticket and concessions area leading up to the theater floor housing a reel-to-reel projector showing a black and white motion picture to a maximum seating of six. This floor also has stairs accessing the roof, atop which the two brick-built promotional searchlights can be placed. The set includes six minifigures.
Parisian Restaurant (set number 10243) is the ninth set in the Modular Building line and was released in January 2014 at a MSRP of US$159/149€. This set contains 2469 pieces and has a fully stocked, blue and white tiled kitchen with tableware serving two interior tables, two street-side tables (on a patio tiled in a subtle design with the word "CHEZ"), and two upper terrace tables. On the first upper floor (terrace level) is as an apartment with pull-down Murphy bed, kitchenette and fireplace. On the top floor is the artist’s studio that includes a cast iron heater, easel, paintbrush and two works of Mondrian-style Modernist art. Outside the upper floor stairs lead down to the roof terrace for diners lined with hanging lanterns and flowers. This set also includes hard-to-find white croissants and brick elements in olive green, dark blue and dark red. Advanced exterior details include façade with croissant detailing, sidewalk, bench, scooter and even a dumpster and trash can at the back.
The Detective's Office (set number 10246) is the tenth set in the Modular Building line and was released January 1, 2015 at a MSRP of US$159/149€. This set contains 2262 pieces. It contains a detective's office, a barber shop named "Al's", a billiards table "pool" room, and an upstairs apartment. The "Al's" sign resembles the various brick-built lettering signs from the Pet Shop, Town Hall, and Fire Brigade. The featured "Pool" sign uses a building technique never used before. Inside the pool room features a fan, a pool table, and a dart board. The detective office features clues, a cabinet, and a secret storage space behind a picture. The barber shop features a mirror, scissors, lights, and chairs for customers. The apartment holds an old style toilet and a small kitchen. This Modular varies from previous buildings in that it introduced play features of a secretive or "illicit" nature: it has secret compartments that allow cookie smuggling throughout the building. It also is different because it is the first Modular to have two buildings on the same baseplate (Assembly Square being the other). The front of the building features a newspaper stand, a tree, and 2 balconies. It includes 6 minifigures.
Brick Bank (set number 10251) is the eleventh set in the Modular Building line and is the shortest Modular in height and the fourth block corner building. It was released on January 1, 2016 and priced at MSRP US$169/149€. This set contains 2380 pieces. Like the Palace Cinema it contains only two furnished floors (albeit with high ceilings compared to the norm).
The Brick Bank features a bank, secretary’s office, bank manager’s office, laundromat and a detailed façade and sidewalk. The bank features an atrium foyer with wide, arched entrance, triangular-patterned floor tiling, ornate chandelier, oxidized-copper colored skylight, transaction counter with hidden alarm buttons and security glass, and a bank vault with safe deposit boxes and a large round door. The laundromat features a printed window, tiled floor and four laundry machines—one of which contains an "easter egg" play feature for "laundering money": placing LEGO money-bills or coin elements through this machine will fall into a special deposit box inside the bank's vault. (The rooftop also has another play feature for a robber to descend the chimney by rope and exit through a special entrance atop the bank vault.) The secretary’s office features a wall clock, desk, typewriter, cabinet with opening drawers, fireplace and an espresso machine. The bank manager’s office features a large desk with banker’s lamp and approval stamp, leather-look chair, printed portrait, statue and a cabinet. It includes 5 minifigures.
The Brick Bank also introduced some rare elements such as a metallized-paint gold ingot and coins (to be used with the coin-stacking machine play feature), and used the less-common colors of Sand Blue and Sand Green.
Assembly Square (set number: 10255) is the twelfth set in the Modular Building line. It was released on 1 January, 2017 at a MSRP of US$279/239€. This set contains the most pieces of any previous Modular set at 4002 pieces as well as the most minifigures: 9 (just barely by being the third LEGO set release to include an infant).
The Assembly Square ground level features a bakery with counter, cash register, shelves, opening oven, wedding cake and assorted buildable pastries and treats; a florist’s shop with counter, cash register, garden tools, flower arrangements, bouquets and a blue and yellow macaw parrot element; and a café with espresso machine, counter, bench seating and pie elements. The middle level features a music store with a buildable drum set, two guitars and saxophone element; photo studio with a "antique" large format bellows camera atop an adjustable tripod; and a dental office with buildable reclining chair, waiting area, telephone and a sink. The upper level features a dance studio with buildable piano and reflective mirror element; an apartment with buildable foldout sofa bed, detailed kitchen, toilet, micro LEGO® train, modular buildings and Eiffel Tower, and access to a rooftop terrace with buildable barbecue, table and a neglected plant.
This set marks the 10th Anniversary of the Modular building sets containing numerous "easter egg" references in use of brick elements, colors and architectural details to every Modular set released over the previous years.
Downtown Diner (set number: 10260) is the thirteenth set in the Modular Building line. It was released on 1 January, 2018 and contain 2,480 pieces with a MSRP of US$169/149€. This building reintroduces the teal color (what LEGO calls Bright Blueish Green) that hadn't been in production since 2008. The first level of this building is a 1950s-style diner. It has a curved front window, red bar stools, a classic bubbler-style jukebox, soda fountain-equipped counter, and an open-plan kitchen.
The mid level has a gym with boxing ring, punching bag and weight training room. The upper-level houses a recording studio, complete with vocal booth, mixing desk and a cabinet for refreshments.
The façade of the building features pink-and-teal 20th Century Art Deco-phase of styling with a large pink ‘DINER’ sign. Though Streamline Moderne style architecture first emerged in the 1930s this modular has a more 1950s-style color treatment than the general era of previous Modulars (~1930s). Other external features include arched linteled windows, balconies and a wrought iron-style exterior staircase and a detailed sidewalk, complete with mailbox, parking meter, flower pots and the iconic white streetlamp of the Modular collection. It's the third Modular set to include a vehicle-- this time a 1950's-style convertible automobile recalling an homage to Elvis Presley's pink Cadillacs. (One of the minifigures also features an Elvis-style of pompadour hairstyle.)
For the first time since 2007's Market Street, the included 6 minifigures have individual, varied faces rather than the classic plain-smile-only faces used in Modular buildings over the past decade.
Lego Designer Jamie Berard created many Modulars Buildings and decided to make a mini version of his set for fun. Five of these were then released as a single set 10230 containing 1356 pieces, each one on an 8x8 baseplate, making them quarter-scale with respect to the original buildings. Initially this set was for Lego Group VIPs only, but it later became available for general sale.
In October 2014, four sets similar to the Mini Modulars were released as Toys "R" Us exclusives. They are 40180 (Bricktober Theater), 40181 (Bricktober Pizza Place), 40182 (Bricktober Fire Station) and 40183 (Bricktober Town Hall). Despite the similarity of names, they are not mini versions of existing modular buildings; they are new designs. They are simpler builds than the original Mini Modulars, based on 6x8 plates, and each one includes two vehicles; the target age is given as 7 and up.
In October 2015, four new sets were released for Toys "R" Us Bricktober. They are 40141 - Bricktober Hotel (204 pcs), 40142 - Bricktober Train Station (180 pcs), 40143 -Bricktober Bakery (234 pcs), 40144 - Bricktober Toys "R" Us store (165 pcs). This time the base is 8x8 and 8x10 (and the boxes are thicker, but otherwise same size). As last time they each includes two vehicles.
Ninjago City (set number 70620), a large 4867 piece set, was released in late August at a MSRP of US$299/299€ to coincide with the release of the Lego Ninjago Movie. Although not advertised as a modular building, it features the same structure as the regular modulars with a 32x32 stud baseplate, building connectors and a river matching the same dimensions as the sidewalk. It is a huge 3-level model with each level themed differently. The bottom level contains an old fashioned fish market; the middle level contains a modern comic store, crab restaurant and a retail store; and the top level contains a sushi restaurant with a modern Asian-style restroom—topped with a "Dragon Gate" (see Feng shui) and communications assembly—as well as a small living apartment for the title "Green Ninja" character Lloyd Garmadon and his mother. The set comes with 16 different minifigures.
A challenge faced by the designers of these sets is that they are not able to work with the full palette of Lego bricks and colors ever produced when designing. Instead they are limited to the bricks and colors currently in production by Lego at the time of the product design. As an example, for Café Corner, the designer wanted to include a bicycle piece in the set, but at the time, the machine that made bicycle pieces was broken. It had to be fixed in order for the designer to be able to include the piece in his design. With Market Street, the fan designer was limited to only the bricks and color combinations available as 'active components,' meaning bricks that were already in production. No new bricks could be introduced.
There have been scheduling challenges faced in the design of the Modular Houses sets. For the Green Grocer set, the designer believed that the set could have benefited from another design iteration before release. The detailed nature of these sets requires a greater amount of design time than a normal Lego set. It is expected that future sets in the series will not suffer from such schedule pressures.
During the design of Café Corner (and presumably with the other sets in the series), the designer had to work closely with the building instructions team due to some of the "unorthodox techniques" that he used "which have not been tried before in official Lego sets."
The reason interiors were not included in the first two models in the series, Café Corner and Market Street, was because they could not be seen in the pictures included on the packaging. Once the success of Modular Buildings sets had been proven with these first two sets, for the third set, Green Grocer, the designer was allowed to include interior details in each of the floors. As a result, many of the interior details of later sets, such Green Grocer, are not visible on the box and are only discovered while building the set. However, the boxes of each set feature some of the interior details such as the escalators inside Grand Emporium and pool table inside Detective's Office.
The Modular Buildings series is viewed by Lego designers and fan sites as "toys for adults". Product reviews have been very positive with the biggest criticisms being price and degree of difficulty. With Café Corner, one reviewer complained that the interior of the building was bare of any finishing. This complaint was addressed in later models such as Green Grocer, which had finished interior details included in each of its three floors.
When the first set in the series, Café Corner, was released, the designer indicated that more sets would follow in the series only if sales of the first set were successful. In a later interview in 2008 covering the third set in the series, Green Grocer, the designer indicated that sales had been strong enough to support four sets in the series (referring to the planned 2009 release of Fire Brigade as the fourth set).
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