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10255 Assembly Square is a mixed bag. The LEGO Group’s eagerly anticipated 10th anniversary Modular Building hits some high notes with a few clever details, inside jokes, and the best lampooning of AFOLs since The LEGO Movie. However, the home runs are dragged down by some unfortunate numbers – Assembly Squares tries to pack three times more buildings than a regular modular with only a 50% increase in footprint. The end result is a set that is unfortunately best described as ‘squarely adequate’ as opposed to the ‘above and beyond’ I was hoping for.
The High Points
Bar none, the highlight of this set for me was the good natured mocking of AFOLs found on the third floor of the orange building. Here is found a tiny studio apartment in which only an AFOL can reside. Half of its limited floor space has been ceded to an enormous LEGO train layout and Eiffel Tower display. A crib for the baby, a TV, dining room table? None of that, because that would mean less space for the LEGO hobby.
Sticking with the inside joke category, a dentist’s office window advertises ‘Prevent Yellowing’, an obvious reference to the tendency of old white and grey bricks to turn a sickly yellow. That gag comes a close second to the AFOL room.
Modular buildings are known for innovative building techniques, a tradition Assembly Square continues. Two of the best can both be found in the first floor bakery of the orange building. Garage door components are flipped 90 degrees so that the spacing of their teeth perfectly match the distance between studs. A few bricks up, the gorgeous inverted dome is cleverly secured using modified 1×1 round tiles.
10255’s final high point only became apparent to me after construction was complete. While play value is not normally a purchasing metric with modular buildings, Assembly Square delighted my children in a way no previous entry in the line has, thanks to the variety of establishments it contains. Residential, commercial and recreational venues can all be found within its studs which leads to a host of play opportunities.
The Low Points
The most disappointing aspect of Assembly Square is its size. All but one modular building has devoted all of the included pieces to a single building. Thanks to its commemorative status, 10255 was endowed with around double the normal allotment of parts – but they are spread across three buildings, meaning all of them are smaller than usual. That limited space hampers Assembly Square at every turn, denying it the ability to dazzle with the expansive elegance and spacious interiors which distinguished past modulars. Everything about 10255 feels cramped.
Furthermore, there is very little here which is new. Part of that is intentional, designers elected to commemorate the previous buildings in this line by incorporating aspects of their architecture or color scheme into Assembly Square’s three buildings. Unfortunately, the byproduct of this is multiple aesthetic styles that all feel like they have been done better before.
Assembly Square’s most distinguishing characteristic is showcased in the very first step of the build. All previous Modular Buildings have been constructed on a single 32×32 baseplate. 10255’s footprint is half that size again, courtesy of an additional 16×32 stud baseplate.
Going into this build my expectation was that each building would be constructed separately. However, the instructions instead call for each structure to rise together floor by floor. In keeping with tradition, the first floors are the tallest. They contain, respectively, a coffee shop clearly inspired by Starbucks, a flower shop, and a bakery lined with delicious looking treats. True to its name, the courtyard between the buildings contains a small, exquisitely paved square with fountain, half of which is built at the beginning and then finished at the end.
Two independent builds constitute the second floors. Inexorably joined from top to bottom, the orange and green buildings rise together, sharing halls and entrances. Their second floors contain what I believe to be the first ever photography studio and dentist office included in a LEGO set. Across the square the blue building takes shape with a second floor music store, also a LEGO first.
The blue building’s third floor delighted my girls as it contained a dance studio complete with mirror and bar. Provided our intrepid AFOL resides somewhere with a consistently warm climate, their cramped ways may be able to last as the third floor of the green building is devoted to a spacious rooftop patio, accessed from the apartment, complete with grill and table.
Finally, the roof sections complete the builds. Another modular building tradition is observed in that each structure provides roof access. This is not a corner build, the sides of the blue building and orange buildings are designed to be hidden by adjoining structures. The rooftops accordingly only protrude on two sides.
If you are a fan of modular buildings, and especially if you have been collecting them for the last 10 years, you are going to get this set no matter what. Despite falling into that category myself, upon completing Assembly Square my feeling was largely one of disappointment over what feels like a missed opportunity. As the 10 year anniversary set, 10255 was given a higher price point and piece count than any of these sets before. Instead of doing something that would only be possible with those resources, the designers chose to recycle features of past offerings. I would have loved to see something truly different, maybe four stories, or a building use which would not normally be possible like a multi-platform train station. Instead we got a slightly larger footprint with three noticeably smaller buildings.
Standing in line with the masterpieces that have come before, it will not look out of place – but it won’t stand out and shine above them either.
This product was provided for review by the LEGO Group.