It has already been five years since Lego released its Assembly Square, the ten-year anniversary set of the modular line, and consequently the Boutique Hotel is the 15th anniversary celebration. It’s been a weird run, not even counting the events of the last two years. After experimenting with 50’s Americana in two sets, they returned to a fairly timeless early 20th century style, but both the Book Shop and Police Station were still non-traditional, with the former being more of side street building instead of something fitting on the main street, and the latter quite lacking in personality.
The Boutique Hotel is a return to form, taking inspiration from European city centers and grand architecture. It’s also a very confident construction statement, with a non-standard floor plan. While the building is formally a corner, it has a wedged form where the missing section is taken up by a smaller art gallery. Anyone used to building with Lego knows how difficult it is to achieve angled surfaces in a mostly square medium, and we’re used to sets with gaps to overlook, like all those floating wedges in Star Wars. Boutique Hotel is rock solid, with only a single ugly gap hidden away around the back. You’d think that they’d use the small café area on top of the gallery to fudge the geometry, but that too is flawless. The only annoying part is that it doesn’t quite adhere to the standard modular format, so the edges of the building don’t line up with neighbouring ones. For that reason it’s best to align it with something else that isn’t a full width, like the Police Station or the Parisian Restaurant.
The gallery itself is small and packed full with little art builds, with hints back to older sets. My favourite is the cube of six ”Erling” bricks that used to be the logo of the Creator Expert line, and that I’ve used myself to demonstrate how cleverly this 1980 part was designed. The café area uses some ironwork to recall the Market Street from 2007 and has a controversial tree design. I’m not a big fan of how it looks, but also not quite bothered enough to change it. The stairs are partly built sideways which allows a very natural, worn look that makes it feel like they were originally part of a medieval building, like you can find in Prague.
The hotel has a huge internal footprint with the entire bottom floor being the lobby. There’s not really that much to it besides the impressive angled wall, but the floor tiling is pretty and there’s some neat features like a big sofa and the keys board that doubles as the backside of an artpiece in the gallery. I also love how the extremely low resolution artwork on the wall still gets the idea of a sunset across.
The second floor has two rooms. The first small one has very basic furniture with a suitable backpacker visitor, although it does also have a balcony. The second is much larger and takes advantage of the angled long wall. It has more of a business feeling with a typewriter at the desk and a comfy chair in the bay window area.
On the top floor there’s a big suite with grand hardwood furniture and a separate bathroom, plus a mid-century TV set. There’s also access to a balcony overlooking the entrance. It’s big and there’s lots of little neat builds, but ultimately there’s not that much to it. It also reminds me that I haven’t visited a hotel room in two years which makes me a little broken inside.
Where the building really shines is on the outside. It’s compact but with lots of details, and the colour palette is really spot on. The light nougat colour is usually used for skintone on minifigures, but works really well as a natural brick wall render with a mediterranean feel to it, and it adds a lot of new parts in that colour. The construction is fairly straightforward for the first two floors with only a few white flourishes, but the top floor is covered on the outside by the copper plating of the roof and is built in a solid but interesting way. The roof is decorated by a corner tower and some ironwork, recalling both Café Corner and Green Grocer. As a piece of architecture, it’s a very pretty building and feels a lot more detailed than those early modulars while still keeping the overall tone.
Boutique Hotel is simply very pleasant, both as a building experience and as a finished set. After this many years it’s rare to be surprised, but I was constantly finding new clever techniques and the angled sections will be reference material from now on. It’s not quite as great as the Parisian Restaurant, but it’s still one of the very best sets of this line which has some of the very best Lego designs ever.