Ranking the LEGO Modular Buildings Collection

The LEGO Modular Buildings Collection has a brand new addition in 10278 Police Station – but how does it compare to the rest of the line-up?

10278 Police Station is now available through LEGO.com and in LEGO Stores (where they’re open), bringing the total number of modular buildings up to 16. We’ve already reviewed the set here, and it’s no secret that we really love what it brings to the 18+ range.

Now that we’ve got the new modular building in hand, though, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to provide our definitive – but highly subjective – ranking of every single entry to date. Dive in below, and feel free to disagree with us in the comments, on social media, or just by shouting angrily into the void.

16. 10190 Market Street

10190 Market Street

You can argue until your voice is hoarse over whether 10190 Market Street is genuinely part of the Modular Buildings Collection, but it’s a poor hill to die on. Yes, it may have launched under the LEGO Factory theme back in 2007, but the LEGO Group says it counts – 10278 Police Station’s press release refers to 15 previous buildings – so we say it counts.

Of course, another reason you might want to discount it is because it just can’t match up to the other buildings. There’s no interior to speak of, the exterior is crude, and the clash of blues and tan isn’t fun to look at. But there are a couple of cool part usages to point to, including the whips and horns over the alleyway, and the technique for the stairs is admirable. It’s just a shame the rest of the set can’t live up to those moments of promise.

15. 10182 Café Corner

10182 Cafe Corner

The very first modular building may have laid the foundations for one of the LEGO Group’s strongest subthemes, but it’s looking a little shaky by today’s standards. It’s completely empty, uses a pretty dull colour scheme, and each floor is only held on by a single stud.

All that said, those are really minor criticisms for a set that broke new ground in 2007, and still boasts an incredible build with consideration to the more limited part palette of its time. (The arching ski elements over the main entrance are a particular highlight.) 10182 Café Corner isn’t a bad set, by any means – it’s just been surpassed by even better buildings since.

14. 10218 Pet Shop

10218 Pet Shop

The first modular building to consist of a pair of 16×32 structures, 10218 Pet Shop should definitely be applauded for trying something different. And in doing so, it brought us both residential and commercial buildings at the same time, with a terrific town house and pretty good pet shop. Sand blue was a great colour choice, and the inverted construction at the base of the town house’s bay windows would be just as impressive in a set released today.

Unfortunately, 10218 also introduced the issue with doubling up on buildings: additional walls. The bricks consumed by allowing the structures to stand alone meant they were both pretty diminutive, particularly next to the enormities of 10211 Grand Emporium and 10185 Green Grocer – without the super-detailed interior to match later models.

13. 10211 Grand Emporium

10211 Grand Emporium

The interior of 10211 Grand Emporium may not live up to the ‘grand’ moniker, but its exterior certainly does. This is a classic department store from top to bottom, evoking the type of buildings you might find lining London’s Regent Street.

Sure, the simplicity of the façade is starting to betray the set’s age. (It turns a decade old in 2021.) And assembling those external columns along its ground floor might just be the most tedious part of any modular building, ever. But from its escalators and chandelier to its ‘shop’ signage and rooftop billboard, 10211 Grand Emporium remains a very worthy entry in the Modular Buildings Collection.

12. 10224 Town Hall

10224 Town Hall

If you subscribe to the mantra ‘bigger is better’, then 10224 Town Hall is probably much higher up your personal rankings of the modular buildings. For us, though, it sacrifices just a little too much detail while chasing that increased size, leading to a comparatively bland exterior.

That’s perhaps appropriate for what should really be the focal point of any LEGO city layout, though. And the ambition of the Town Hall is clear from the off – not just in its imposing size, but also in its eye-catching dark orange hue, and even the addition of a working elevator. There’s a lot to love about this set. It just can’t compete with its successors (or in one or two cases, its predecessors).

11. 10232 Palace Cinema

10232 Palace Cinema

When was the last time you went to a cinema with just one screen? Okay, so 10232 Palace Cinema’s interior maybe isn’t the most accurate rendition of a movie theatre we’ve ever seen. But within the scale and constraints of the modular buildings, it’s basically as good as it gets.

The external architecture is a clear and very welcome nod to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the movie posters that adorn the ground floor – while stickered – are an absolute hoot. (The brick separator included in the set is green for a reason.) Plus, that red 32×32 baseplate is a thing of beauty, having only ever appeared in one other set: 1978’s 231 Hospital. Talk about rare.

10. 10270 Bookshop

LEGO Creator Expert 10270 Bookshop review final

2020’s modular building aped 10218 Pet Shop’s approach – for better and worse. The distinct pair of 16×32 structures undeniably offer more versatility in your wider modular street, and their exteriors deliver both sublime part usage and seriously cool colour schemes.

So, what’s holding 10270 Bookshop back? Well, the interiors feel oddly lacking in places, not least due to the serious stock shortage Birch Books is seemingly experiencing. And there’s something strange about the townhouse’s proportions: its raised ground floor and stunted first floor just don’t sit right with the rest of the street. It’s a beautiful building on its own, but we’re not sold on its modular approach.

9. 10264 Corner Garage

LEGO Creator Expert 10264 Corner Garage 16

In continuing the previous year’s switch to ’50s-style art deco architecture in 10260 Downtown Diner, the designers of 10264 Corner Garage opted for a more muted colour scheme than the bold hues of its predecessor.

Nevertheless, the dark orange building stays true to the design principles of the wider street, with eye-catching architecture, fun references (including a nod to Indiana Jones in the vet’s clinic) and plenty of opportunity for storytelling. Its subject matter might not be as immediately interesting as a restaurant or cake shop, particularly given the litany of LEGO CITY garages, but it’s still one of the best examples we’ve ever had in bricks.

8. 10197 Fire Brigade

10197 Fire Brigade 1

The fifth-most-expensive modular building (based on aftermarket prices) was the first in the series to adapt a central tenet of the regular LEGO CITY theme: fire stations. Thankfully, 10197 Fire Brigade’s sophisticated 1930s architecture ensures it stands distinct from the often junior CITY buildings, with a beautiful exterior, detailed interior, and even an interesting roof – something not all modular buildings can boast – thanks to its bell.

It does feel a touch spartan with just two floors, but that’s also a necessary compromise to fit in everything you need from a fire station: space for the firetruck, a fire-pole, fire-fighting tools, a ping pong table, a fully-stocked fridge, a couch and a bookshelf. (Hey, firefighters are allowed some downtime too.)

7. 10260 Downtown Diner

LEGO Creator Expert 10260 Downtown Diner

2018’s modular building represented a real shift for the Modular Buildings Collection, and in doing so split opinion among veteran fans. Some embraced its vivid pink and teal colour scheme, ’50s-style architecture and vibrant pink car. Others disavowed its move away from classic smiley-faced minifigures, its clashing hues and bricks seemingly wasted on an extra vehicle.

For our money, though, 10260 Downtown Diner’s bold approach definitely deserves applause, and we fall firmly into the camp of loving its neon colour scheme. The architecture of its upper floors may be a little flat, but the design of its ground floor and jukebox-style frontage is enough to make this a must-have entry in the series. (Who are we kidding – they’re basically all must-haves.)

6. 10185 Green Grocer

10185 Green Grocer

Proving definitively that age matters not, the third-ever modular building (behind 10182 Café Corner and 10190 Market Street) is still one of the best. Sure, its interior can’t quite match up to the detailed furnishings of modern modular buildings, but 10185 Green Grocer’s exterior still fits in perfectly with everything that’s followed – right up to 10278 Police Station.

And it does have some interior, not least on the ground floor, which is completely tiled (and boasts some well-stocked refrigerators). It’s also a seriously beefy building, adding some much-needed visual variety to the collection – particularly in retrospect, as many more recent buildings have shrunk in size – and isn’t short on notable techniques, from its first-floor curtains to its rooftop skeleton leg/hammer combo. We can’t ignore its beautiful sand green colour scheme, either – even if it does make it a total pain to assemble via BrickLink.

5. 10251 Brick Bank

10251 Brick Bank

Mixing principles of both corner and 2-in-1 modular buildings and coming up with something totally unique, 10251 Brick Bank really is one for the ages. It’s a fairly squat building compared to some of its contemporaries, but it does a lot with that limited size to really reflect the grand nature of a classic banking establishment.

The interior features everything you’d expect, from bank tellers to a working vault, while this was also one of the first modulars to really lean into the storytelling aspect: the tiny laundrette next door set the scene for an on-the-nose money laundering pun, and the giant competition-winner cheque is brilliant.

4. 10243 Parisian Restaurant

10243 Parisian Restaurant

10243 Parisian Restaurant is widely regarded as one of the greatest modular buildings ever released, and with good reason. Despite sticking to the set proportions and – for the most part – the aesthetics of its predecessors, the beautiful building still managed to basically reinvent the wheel for the series in 2014.

Everything that’s come since has followed in its footsteps, paring back exterior size in favour of detail, both inside and out. From the ornate architecture and outdoor seating area to the fully-stocked kitchen and loft art studio, there’s so much to enjoy that there’s no wonder the Parisian Restaurant is held in such esteem. For our money, though, it’s been surpassed by three other buildings since its release…

3. 10246 Detective’s Office

LEGO Creator Expert 10246 Detectives Office

Six years before the LEGO Group legitimised the Modular Building Collection’s law enforcement with 10278 Police Station, it tipped its brick-built hat to the crime noir films of old with 10246 Detective’s Office. Ace Brickman’s workplace is technically only one small part of a hugely impressive model, though, which also incorporates a pool hall, barbershop and apartment.

The masonry bricks do a lot of the heavy lifting for the exterior walls, but the colour scheme across the entire model is magnificent, and the ‘pool’ lettering is ingeniously devised. Still, it’s the interior where 10246 Detective’s Office really shines – most notably in the pool table, barbershop mirror, detailed office and the cookie-smuggling narrative that brings it all together.

2. 10278 Police Station

10278 Police Station 2

You may say we’ve fallen victim to recency bias, but we reckon the latest modular building really is the second-greatest of them all. Like every set on this list, 10278 Police Station is packed with interesting techniques, looks incredible on display, and is an absolute joy to put together.

It’s really the little touches that elevate it to second place in this ranking, though, from the impressive colour blocking that keeps it looking good from any angle, to the hidden surprises and references that course through its plastic veins (and thereby lay the foundations for its inspired narrative). Best of all, 10278 Police Station is proof – if ever it were needed – that the LEGO Group is nowhere near close to running out of ideas, and that the Modular Buildings Collection has plenty of life left in it yet.

1. 10255 Assembly Square

10255 Front 01

As a general rule, you probably shouldn’t live your life by the mantra that ‘more’ automatically equals ‘better’. But where the Modular Buildings Collection is concerned, it’s hard to deny that that really is the case. It’s not for nought, though: the incredible design work and passion that’s been poured into 10255 Assembly Square, released to celebrate the subtheme’s 10th anniversary, is absolutely palpable in both the build and finished model.

Indeed, spanning a wider footprint of 32×48 studs – that’s 16 studs more than every other set on this list – doesn’t automatically push 10255 Assembly Square to pole position; instead, it’s how that extra space is used, and not a single stud is wasted across its 4,002 pieces. It’s not just one of the best value modular buildings to date, but the best one all round, from its varied and detailed architecture and interiors to the way it crams in well-placed and subtle references to the entire subtheme.

Like several of the LEGO Group’s biggest and best sets, 10255 Assembly Square is currently suffering from inventory issues at LEGO.com, but if you see it in stock, make sure you snag it before it’s too late. (We can make the job of checking far easier with our personalised stock alerts.)

And if you’re otherwise up to date on your collection, you should instead make a direct beeline for 10278 Police Station, which you can order right now. For more on the latest addition to the Modular Buildings Collection, check out our full review, five of its best techniques, how to display it in your wider layout, and where it ranks among the largest entries in the series so far.

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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.

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