Saturday 25 September 2010

Modular Magic

I had initially planned to feature one of the LEGO modular buildings in a "Favourite Sets" posting. When I actually sat down and tried to decide which one to feature, however, I realised that it was almost impossible to choose which one to feature as I love them all.....

                     Cafe Corner

                      Green Grocer

For the uninitiated, LEGO modular buildings are a series of sets for the more 'mature' builder which are purchased as standalone buildings but which fit together by design due to their uniform footprint and common design ethos. There have I think been five so far, starting with Set 10182 Cafe Corner in 2007 and Set 10185 Green Grocer in 2008, with Set 10197 Fire Brigade and Set 10211 Grand Emporium following in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

         Fire Brigade

                   Grand Emporium

I'm also including a fan-designed model (Set 10190 Market Street) in the list of LEGO modular buildings. This was available at retail from 2007 and largely follows the modular template, although was sadly discontinued sometime last year.

             Market Street - designed by the fans....

So what is it about these sets that's so great ? Well, just look them for a start - absolutely beautiful and crammed choc full of superb details. All the sets except Cafe Corner feature detailed interiors containing brick-built furnishings such as a grandfather clock and a fireplace (Green Grocer), a sofa and a table tennis table (Fire Brigade), and escalators and chandeliers (Grand Emporium).

Grand Emporium - First Floor Haberdashery....

Then there's the educational aspect - the designers of these sets have utilised loads of advanced building techniques which us lesser mortals can then use in our own constructions. A few examples of this include extensive use of SNOT techniques both externally and in the construction of furnishings, the diagonal placement of the Cafe Corner entrance and tower, the curving steps leading up to the Market Street entrance, and the use of mini skis to form an arch over the door of Cafe Corner.

There's also a dazzling array of cool pieces in interesting and rare colours - loads of sand green and some dark green pieces in Green Grocer, medium blue and dark blue pieces in Market Street, and dark red in Cafe Corner and Fire Brigade. The pricing is also pretty reasonable given the piece count, particularly on the older sets - Green Grocer, with it's 2352 pieces, seems like a bit of a steal to me at £99.99 and it's still available direct from LEGO. The sets even contain a selection of minifigs, although none particularly rare or interesting. Lastly, I love that these sets are effectively a gift from the LEGO company to AFOLs, an acknowledgment of their adult fanbase and their wish for some beautiful and interesting sets.

So are there any negatives ? Well, not many to be honest. I suppose you could argue that if you're planning on including them in your own larger LEGO town or set up, they have a tendency to make everything else look decidedly......ordinary, I guess. Certainly everthing else pales into insignificance against the detail and splendour of these sets. There's also the fact that the prices of the modulars are creeping up, and there's a massive disparity in pricing between the U.S. and the UK with respect to the Grand Emporium, with U.K. consumers having to swallow a much higher price. But I have to say that for once, all complaints are churlish in the face of such magnificence ! I just hope and pray that sales of modular buildings to date have been sufficient to induce the LEGO company to produce more of them. While it was LEGO Star Wars that dragged me out of my LEGO Dark Ages, I'd go as far as saying that it's probably the modular buildings which have provided me with my most LEGO-related pleasure since then.

If pushed to pick a favourite, I'd probably have to go for Green Grocer. It's still available at retail, and in my opinion it's an absolute steal at £99.99 U.K. ($149.99 U.S.). If you've not previously discovered the delights of LEGO modular buldings and want to climb on board then you really have to buy this one - truly an essential purchase for the adult LEGO fan.

If you hadn't guessed by now, I just love these sets !!

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