10260 Downtown Diner brings 1950’s flair to Creator Expert modular buildings [Review]

Each January, LEGO releases a new Creator Expert modular building. Last year’s 10255 Assembly Square looked to the past and celebrated the 10th anniversary of the line, beginning with 10182 Café Corner. With 10 years full of European-style architecture, replete with curlicues and fluted columns, the line heads in a new direction this year with 10260 Downtown Diner, taking obvious inspiration from the American West of the 1930’s through 1950’s rather than pre-crash Paris or London (or even New York or Boston). 10260 Downtown Diner includes 2,480 pieces with six minifigs and retails for $169.99 in the US (with the usual regional price differences elsewhere).

What does this change in direction bode for the theme, and what do we think of the new design aesthetic?

The box & instructions

The set comes in a standard LEGO box for a set of this size, consistent with other modular buildings over the past 11 years. The back of the box shows off the set’s interior details, modularity, and how it lines up with 10255 Assembly Square and 10251 Brick Bank, the other two modular sets that are still currently available.

Despite the high part count, the set comes in only five sets of numbered bags, though the overall bag count is closer to twenty bags, plus a 32×32 baseplate in tan and several large plates for the upper floors. The single instruction booklet comes in its own bag (and there is no sticker sheet).

The build

For large builds with multiple groups of numbered bags, I use a segmented tray from Ikea that fits on my lap, and this approach proves quite necessary unless you want little piles of small parts flying off your table or having to sort through them as they steadily mix themselves together. The instruction booklet is 200 pages long and spans 211 steps for the main building and another 23 steps for the vintage pink car.

The first two sets of bags include the parts for the first floor (not the “ground floor,” since we’re in America now, y’all!), up to the “Diner” sign. The first bag is rather parts-intensive with large numbers of small pieces for all the tiles on the checkered floor, the sidewalk in front, and all the details inside the diner itself. You’ll spend 10 steps without really laying one LEGO brick on another (except the underlying baseplate), but the structure of the diner begins taking shape quickly.

The diner has bar seating, a booth (with an extra seat to wait for an open spot), jukebox, and kitchen area with a pot of coffee and a large griddle for your customers’ bacon and pancakes — the only options on the menu at Jim’s.

The front window wraps around the building, which forces some interesting building techniques later. The hood in the kitchen is attached upside down, built from a pair of construction hoppers attached on the underside with 1×1 “nipple” pieces.

The wall continues around the hood with slopes, integrating nicely into the structure.

The kitchen area also includes a small prep area and a pot of coffee. The counter has a soda machine — presumably orange or lime.

The bright red jukebox matches the color of the booth seats, and the table has a napkin dispenser, ketchup, and mustard so you can put some on your pancakes.

The diner’s awning is built largely studs-out in order to accommodate the window’s curve, with the first layer attached with brackets to a row of plates above the window frame.

Among the first places we saw studs-not-on-top techniques that take advantage of those 1×1 nipple pieces was in 70922 Joker Manor, where the lintels over the manor’s windows were built upside down. The trend continues in Downtown Diner, where rounded awning is connected to the wall using this technique.

Brick-built lettering has become standard fare in Modular Building sets, and Downtown Diner is no different. The prominent pink “Diner” sign is built into the awning and is one of the most eye-catching aspects of the set.

The completed awning integrates beautifully with the wrap-around window.

The third bag includes the parts for the second floor, where a boxer and a woman dressed in green punch things and lift heavy stuff until they grunt. The accessories and accoutrements on this floor make sense, but they’re fairly basic compared to the lovely little details in the diner.

Another technique introduced with the Modular Building series has been the use of the gaps and seams between LEGO bricks themselves to add texture to a model. This technique works especially well with tiles, simulating real-life bricks when applied as facing on a LEGO building.

Curved teal bricks continue the pair of columns on either side of the diner’s front door, and enclose a window on the second floor.

LEGO has included spiral staircases in several LEGO sets over the years, most often built with specialized spiral staircase pieces. The brick-built spiral staircase from the second to third floor is worth a closer look.

The wrought-iron staircase attaches to a clip hinge at the rear of the floor and joins a grate on the wall.

The top floor has the least floorspace, but incorporates lots of cool details, like a seating area with floor rugs and a complete radio/recording studio.

I learn something new in every Modular Building I build, and Downtown Diner is no exception. One of the craziest techniques shows up in a pair of small, circular windows on one side of the balcony. An arch with a 1×2 double corner panel slots into a base with a 1×1 corner panel, with a trans-clear boat hull piece and two 1×2 trans-clear on top of that, topped with another 1×4 arch to complete the circle. It’s really kind of insane, but adds a subtle Art Deco flair to the large arch.

The recording studio has really neat details like a Gold record, recording equipment, and even sound baffling on the studio walls.

The teal columns on the lower floors converge to form a large arch over the windows, completing the Art Deco look of the building.

The balcony holds room for a couple of plants, which are built from some new parts that we’ll take a closer look at later.

The final bags include the parts for the building’s roof, with a skylight and arched section behind the Art Deco curve. The white section is topped with a radio antenna, so my guess is that the recording studio is actually a radio station.

Pink pieces abound as you finish the building itself, so it must be time to build the pink, 1950’s-style car.

Cadillacs of that era tended to be longer and lower, so I’m going to guess that this is modeled after a Chevy Bel Air from around 1957, though other TBB staff still insist it’s a Cadillac Eldorado.

The finished model

It’s been a couple of years since I built a Modular Building, but completing 10260 Downtown Diner reminded me how much I love these sets. The attention to detail throughout the build, the innovative building techniques, and gorgeous finished model all come together for a satisfying build.

Like previous Modular Buildings, Downtown Diner has three angles that it looks great from — the left and right three-quarters views from the front of course, but also at least one rear corner with the stairway up to the upper floors. This holds true for Downtown Diner.

However, one corner is fairly plain, presumably on the assumption that it sits against another modular building on a street.

While it remains to be seen whether LEGO will continue its change in direction with future Modulars, it’s also hard to imagine every future Modular being following this Art Deco style. That said, one of the reasons I hadn’t built the last few Modulars I’d bought (I knew I’d eventually regret not buying them even if I didn’t build them right away) is that they started feeling much the same. Even if every modular doesn’t fit the same Neo-Classical or Neo-Gothic architectural aesthetic, the same can be said about the town or city you live in yourself — it’s nice to have a bit of diversity among all the banks and town halls.

The minifigs

One of the charming aspects of the Modular Buildings series has been that the minifigures generally use fairly common, standard parts. In that vein, all previous minifigs have used the “classic smiley” face. The switch to more expressive faces for Downtown Diner has been somewhat controversial among LEGO fans (if reading the response on Facebook to the initial unveiling was any indication). But the reality is that most builders have dozens if not hundreds of the classic smiley in their collection, and if you really, truly, deeply need the denizens of your Modular Buildings to have vapid, essentially expressionless faces, we’re confident you have the means to make that happen. Let’s get over it and move on.

The diner itself is staffed by a male cook and female carhop. The cook wears double-breasted chef’s whites with a paper hat. The carhop wears roller skates in red, matching her red scarf. Her hair is the same as the 40’s/50’s style hair first seen on the Diner Waitress from Series 11.

The second-floor gym includes a man wearing boxing gloves and a woman in athletic gear. Boxing gloves have appeared on several previous minifigs in place of hands, and the boxer’s torso print first appeared last year in a TRU Bricktober 3-pack.

Although her head isn’t new, using a head that isn’t just a classic smiley means that the woman in green has an alternate expression.

The musicians who occupy the top-floor radio station wear rather contrasting outfits. While the sound engineer (I call her Scully) wears sensible business attire, the rockabilly guitarist (Elvis lives!) sports a powder-blue tuxedo jacket with a frilly pink shirt.

Both characters have alternate expressions, so that Elvis can just rock out and Scully can worry about proper audio levels.

The parts

It’s a well-known fact in the LEGO building community that fan-turned-designer Mark Stafford killed teal in the very first set that he designed (in fairness, he made a color choice for the set he was working on without realizing that not choosing teal would end production of that color). Well, teal is back from the dead, and it wants to eat your brains. 10260 Downtown Diner includes dozens of parts in teal, in a large variety of shapes.

We’ve compared “zombie teal” to “original teal,” and they’re almost identical. You’ll see the difference if you look for it, but the difference is within what we’d consider the tolerance for LEGO colors — more like the subtle shift to dark red, and not the major palette change with grays and browns that happened in 2003.

The set includes new 1×1 flower pieces that also appear in several 2018 LEGO Friends sets.

The plant stem piece is also new for 2018, and has a bar connection so you can stack one on top of another.

One of the coolest new plant pieces is Plant Plate, Round 1 x 1 with 3 Leaves, which would look lovely in a salad or in a garden.

Finally, Downtown Diner continues the tradition of Modular Buildings never including stickers (with Palace Cinema as a notable exception), so all of the detail pieces are printed.

Interestingly, the diner door is printed both front and back — unusual for trans-clear elements. The side facing the street has “Open” on the sign, while the interior says “Closed.” It’s a lovely detail that is both unexpected and welcome.

Conclusions & recommendation

Creator Expert Modular Buildings aren’t for everyone. If you’re a Star Wars collector, you’ll probably stick with something like 75202 Defense of Crait (which we also love). And for me, they were starting to feel very alike from set to set. But for builders with broader interests, these sets have become a must-have each year they’re released. In keeping with the tradition begun by Jamie Berard’s role as the designer of 10182 Café Corner a decade ago, 10260 Downtown Designer was created by fans-turned-designers Carl Merriam and Mike Psiaki. As a result, you’ll stretch yourself and learn techniques that you won’t see in the average LEGO City or Star Wars set under $300.

And let’s also acknowledge that Modular Buildings make excellent parts packs, not least because of the return of teal in this particular set. At $170 for nearly 2,500 pieces (6.9 cents per piece), it’s also a pretty great value. This is a beautiful building that deserves a place among the best Modulars of the past decade.

10260 Downtown Diner is available now from the LEGO Shop (US) at $169.99, LEGO Shop (Canada) at $219.99, LEGO Shop (UK) at £129.99, LEGO Shops in the rest of EU at 149.99€ (EU), and other prices elsewhere. The set is also available from the following additional sites at varying prices: BrickLink | eBay

Check out the full gallery of photos below.

8 comments on “10260 Downtown Diner brings 1950’s flair to Creator Expert modular buildings [Review]

  1. daVisionary

    I own the set and don’t think the door is actually printed on both sides. I think they printed one side with multiple colors:
    • “Closed” in red in reverse
    • White rectangle for the back of the hanging sign
    • Red rectangle for the front of the sign
    • Lastly white “Open”
    I think it is a genius solution to having different images on two side of a transparent element while only printing on one side.

  2. Anthony Evans

    I believe the first place to use the 1×1 nipple pieces to place something upside down was in the 10255 Assembly Square – above the doorway to the bakery.

    Also, you mention the “traditional [sic] of Modular Buildings never including stickers”. This is not the case for 10232 Palace Cinema as that set included several.

  3. Andrew Post author

    Good catch on the stickers in Palace Cinema — that’s one of the handful of Modulars I haven’t built myself yet. I’ve updated the post.

  4. Darren

    Great review! Looks like a lot of wasted space on the back part of the baseplate like they could have made the building deeper. Is that normal? I don’t own any modulars…

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