LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel review

LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel has an unenviable challenge: keep a 15-year-old theme feeling fresh, while still recognising everything that’s come before it.

Few annual LEGO sets carry the weight of expectation like the modular buildings: year on year, the LEGO Group’s designers must come up with something that both fits with everything that’s come before, but also carves out its own identity; that offers a great entry point for newbies, while giving veteran collectors a reason to keep going; and now – as we hit the line’s 15th anniversary – celebrates all of its predecessors, without falling into the fatal nostalgia trap of over-familiarity and self-indulgence.

That’s a lot to throw at 10297 Boutique Hotel before it even leaves the factory floor, but it’s not unrealistic: time and again, the LEGO Group’s designers have shown us just why the Modular Buildings Collection is among its best and most-loved product lines. There are those of us that will buy in even on (comparative) dud years, just to keep a complete modular building street going (hello!), but it’s hard to say any of these sets have really failed at the task laid out before them.

The question now is: can 10297 Boutique Hotel keep that hot streak going, delivering a set that appeals to both wide-eyed newcomers and those of us who bought in with 10182 Café Corner and 10190 Market Street? Let’s find out.

— Set details —

Theme: LEGO for Adults Set name: 10297 Boutique Hotel Release: January 1, 2022

Price: £179.99 / $199.99 / €199.99 Pieces: 3,066 Minifigures: 7

LEGO: Available now

LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel review 2

— Build —

In many ways, 10297 Boutique Hotel’s journey to shelves has been predefined by 2017’s modular building, 10255 Assembly Square. That supersized set spread the format’s standard width of 32 studs to 48, using its expanded footprint to cram in architectural and narrative nods to its predecessors, and in doing so celebrated 10 years since the subtheme debuted with 2007’s 10182 Café Corner.

2022 therefore marks the 15th anniversary of that original set (with its non-existent interior and smiley-face minifigures – look how far we’ve come!), and with one eye on how much the LEGO Group has championed anniversaries in 2021 – see Harry Potter and NINJAGO – it almost felt like a given that 10297 Boutique Hotel would do something to recognise this latest milestone.

That hasn’t meant aping 10255 Assembly Square’s larger-than-life approach (come back in five years for another 48-stud-wide model), but this 3,066-piece set – the biggest by piece count since that 2017 instalment – does mirror its predecessor in pulling in story and design details from the subtheme’s history, in ways both plain and subtle.

From the outside, you’ll notice them most prominently in places like the wrought-iron gate that forms the entrance to the art gallery’s rooftop terrace (10190 Market Street), and the mobile coffee cart vendor strolling along at street level (10182 Café Corner) – but look closer, and the DNA of the Modular Buildings Collection runs deep in 10297 Boutique Hotel.

We won’t spoil all the references for you here, but suffice to say there are enough that this could easily have turned into an exercise in familiarity for modular building veterans, risking getting bogged down in self-referential details and design decisions that, by 2022, feel tired and stale.

Fortunately, that’s not the case at all: instead, 10297 Boutique Hotel’s architectural references offer a taste of what those earliest modular buildings might have achieved with today’s techniques and elements (the wrought-iron detailing on the rooftop swaps 10185 Green Grocer’s hammers and skeleton legs for snake heads and lipstick), while its narrative nods – whether through its minifigures or interior details – are satisfying for long-term fans, and fun curios for newbies wanting to learn more about this subtheme’s storied past.

And even better is that at the heart of all those references is a building that’s still managed to bring an entirely new concept to the table, some 17 sets in. It takes its cues from 10251 Brick Bank and 10278 Police Station in splitting its focus between its eponymous building and a smaller enterprise, only instead of a laundrette or donut shop, 10297 Boutique Hotel includes a tiny art gallery with a rooftop terrace.

At first glance, that decision sits at odds with the concept of a hotel – particularly given the restrained 32×32 footprint – which conjures up images of grand, towering buildings lining iconic cityscapes. But 10297 Boutique Hotel deftly sidesteps those concerns with the simple prefix in its name, welding narrative justification to its unique, angled design.

And that design is really the major hook here: this is the first modular building to feature windows on three walls, by virtue of the eponymous hotel’s not-quite-triangular footprint. Through clever use of a few hinge plates, the LEGO design team has effectively sliced through a chunk of this corner building to make room for the art gallery, giving it a silhouette reminiscent of London’s Corinthia Hotel.

The result is a building that, yes, suffers slightly for space in its interior: but it’s worth remembering that the modular buildings are essentially all condensed caricatures of reality. 10232 Palace Cinema has a single screen; 10270 Bookshop has (basically) two shelves – boiling down the essence of these real-world staples, and communicating their character through selective but deliberate designs, is basically what the Modular Buildings Collection is all about.

It’s maybe more keenly felt here, however, in that the top two floors of the hotel are so densely packed with furniture that some of it feels a touch too cramped: there’s a desk and wardrobe one-stud deep in the economy room (okay, you get what you pay for), while the penthouse suite’s bathroom doesn’t have enough room to swing a bar of soap (let alone a cat).

Thankfully, those are easily forgivable foibles for the amount of detail and character crammed into the space available here. The hotel’s lobby sets the scene with the reception desk, wall of keys and completely tiled floor, populated by a receptionist and bell hop; the first floor – and there are stairs to every level here – features two complete rooms (but no bathroom, sorry); and the second floor is devoted entirely to that penthouse suite, which is furnished up to the hilt.

There’s no real narrative link between all that and the art gallery next door – which is filled with cubist artwork, natch – as there was with 10251 Brick Bank’s money laundering scheme and 10278 Police Station’s donut heist. But there doesn’t really need to be, either: what binds these two together is their aesthetic, primarily through the hotel’s vivid colour scheme and the gallery’s rooftop palm tree, both of which tie into 10297 Boutique Hotel’s tropical vibe.

It properly pops in the flesh – even if the dull, dull black box art fails once again to bring it out – and even that light nougat middle storey, which at first doesn’t seem to sit brilliantly with the sand green top floor, genuinely looks great by the time you’re done. Initial rumours around this set indicated the topmost storey was decked out in teal, but this feels like a much more appropriate choice.

It’s also in itself a nod back to 10185 Green Grocer, of course – as are the black skeleton legs that form part of the balcony – but what 10297 Boutique Hotel really reinforces is just how important colour choice is in these sets, and just how much the LEGO Group has really mastered it across the past 15 years. Those three hues for the separate floors alone give this set the unique identity it so brilliantly deserves, even before considering its groundbreaking approach to the design and layout of a corner building.

Perhaps less of a reference and more of a direct continuation is the way 10297 Boutique Hotel incorporates new elements: just as 10246 Detective’s Office integrated grey Unikitty tails into its rooftop detailing (for example), this latest model makes smart use of the recent 1×3 inverted arch – which first appeared in 10278 Police Station – for exterior architectural detail, and even cleverly leans on a combination of 2018’s candlestick element, 2015’s 1×1 round tile with bar and pin holder, and classic 1×1 cones to form fantastic pillars that take advantage of different element thicknesses.

That’s not to say 10297 Boutique Hotel relies entirely on new and specialist parts, even if it does use those elements in new and versatile ways. In fact, the Modular Buildings Collection is often as much about finding cool new ways to use basic bricks as it is showing off with new parts, and that’s no different here: we’re talking specifically about the way slopes and tiles come together to form the terrace stairway; the perfect combination of pieces for the (slightly-too-snug) bathtub; and even through that manipulation of LEGO geometry to form the skeleton of the hotel.

It all adds up to a building experience that you’ll never once be bored by – even if it breezes past a little too quickly for its part count – and which, on the basis of its design alone, surely achieves its twin goal of appealing to both long-term fans while pulling in brand new ones. Whether this is your 17th modular building or your first, 10297 Boutique Hotel’s build will feel equally fresh. And for a subtheme now in its 16th year, what more do you want?

— Characters —

Well, how about a few decent minifigures to populate the finished product? Check and check. 10297 Boutique Hotel features seven characters in all, several of whom have ties to previous modular buildings – even if only indirectly.

The gallery owner, for instance, is apparently displaying a painting by the artist in 10243 Parisian Restaurant’s loft; the accountant has been tasked with auditing 10251 Brick Bank; and the receptionist can point you in the direction of Chez Albert or her favourite shop in 10211 Grand Emporium.

These are all details communicated explicitly through the instructions, and which you probably wouldn’t think about otherwise, but the coffee cart owner is a much more direct reference, mainly thanks to the yellow and white awning on his cart.

Regardless of any links to the wider subtheme, though, most important is that these minifigures all fit into the wider narrative of the set, and help to build a world around it. And, invariably, they do: from the backpacker staying at the economy room to the world-weary traveller spending her retirement in the penthouse suite, each and every one of these characters absolutely fits into the story crafted around 10297 Boutique Hotel.

— Price —

Even while the piece count of the modular buildings creeps up, the price point of 10297 Boutique Hotel has remained (almost) rigid at £174.99 / $199.99 / €199.99, this is probably one of the best-value LEGO sets you’ll find on shelves in 2022. That’s not only in terms of price-per-piece, which isn’t always the ideal metric to strive towards, but also in terms of the fun you’ll have putting it together.

The varied construction, engaging build techniques and even the abundance of colour all make 10297 Boutique Hotel a joy to assemble. You’ll never feel short-changed – even when you’re done – and that’s all you can really hope for in a LEGO set that will basically never be discounted.

— Pictures —

— Summary —

At the beginning of this review, we laid out a few criteria 10297 Boutique Hotel needed to fulfil to become another successful entry in the Modular Buildings Collection. And without re-treading those entirely – scroll back to the top if you want a refresher – it’s safe to say that it absolutely hits the mark on every single one; whether it’s bringing something new to the table for veteran collectors, capturing all that’s great about the modular buildings in one set for newcomers, or perfectly skewering its architectural and narrative references to previous buildings.

10297 Boutique Hotel isn’t just a success, though: it’s an overwhelming one, and a testament to just how much life this subtheme has left in it yet. Through its unique, angled design; its bold, vibrant colour scheme; and its tightly-crafted hooks that tie it to 15 years of Creator Expert (now LEGO for Adults) sets, this is a genuinely must-have addition to the increasingly-sprawling street – whether it’s your first modular building, your 16th, or somewhere in between.

LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel review 18

This set was provided for review by the LEGO Group.

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— FAQs —

How long does it take to build LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel?

You’ll spend roughly four and a half hours putting together LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel. It’s a surprisingly swift build for the piece count, but that’s really because you’re never bogged down by laborious construction – even where it’s repetitive by necessity, it’s still engaging.

How many pieces are in LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel?

10297 Boutique Hotel contains 3,066 pieces, the second-most of any modular building, behind only 10255 Assembly Square’s 4,002 elements.

How big is LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel?

LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel measures 33cm tall, 25cm wide and 25cm deep. It’s not the biggest modular building, but it is very densely packed – and building its unique shape is definitely worth the entry price.

How much does LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel cost?

LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel launches January 1, 2022, and will retail for £174.99 in the UK, $199.99 in the US and €199.99 in the US. That’s the same price as last year’s 10278 Police Station, and it’s absolutely great value for it.

Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

One thought on “LEGO for Adults 10297 Boutique Hotel review

  • 06/12/2021 at 18:49
    Permalink

    How does it compare with other modulars, especially with Parisian Restaurant

    Reply

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