Architects' Models

Model of Alhambra interior, Enrique Linares, Spain, 19th century. Museum no. A.26-1936

Model of Alhambra interior, Enrique Linares, Spain, 19th century. Museum no. A.26-1936

This guide explains where to find out about architects' models within the collections of the V&A+RIBA Architecture Partnership. The collections hold around  300 architects' models, including some additional material relating to the V&A's ongoing FuturePlan  development of the museum buildings by a wide range of architects. These are the most recently acquired architects' models - the oldest is a design model belonging to RIBA, for Nicholas Hawksmoor's grand house, Easton Neston, Northamptonshire, made in the 1690s.

There is a wide variety of models of buildings made for display or education purposes to be found throughout the V&A Museum. There are three important display models in the British Galleries. A model of Crystal Palace usefully explains the structure of this great building, while the Chiswick House model provides an excellent introduction to the understanding of architects' plans and sections. There is also a reproduction of the 18th century Northumberland House Drawing Room by Robert Adam. 

The V&A Museum of Childhood  has an amazing collection of dolls houses  that provide insight into dwelling through the ages, as well as an interesting array of architectural toys. Recently, a large collection of nets - two-dimensional drawings that can be folded into building models - has been acquired by the museum. The RIBA holds a lovely example by Ernö Goldfinger, which was his 1939 Christmas Card featuring his new house.

In the Architecture Gallery at the V&A

The Architecture Gallery is the best place to view architects' models - about a third of the V&A's collection can be seen here. There are 55 models on display in the gallery, some of them on loan from archives, companies or individuals from across Europe. The models range from a sketch model of a tensegrity structure made from string, meccano and metal file folder tops, to finely finished presentation models. These include a business park office building, made by Arup Associates.

Some of the older display models can be dismantled. Close inspection of the Easton Neston model and James Gibbs' model for St. Martins in the Fields, both in the Architecture Gallery, shows how these fine timber models can be opened to reveal their interiors for inspection.

View a list of models that can be seen in the Architecture Gallery

Download: List of Architects' Models (PDF file, 31KB)

Download: List of Architects' Models (Word file, 125 KB)

In the Study Rooms at the V&A

Model of the interor of the The Reading Room of the British Museum, made by Sydney Smirke, England, about 1853. Museum no. 349-1890

Model of the interor of the The Reading Room of the British Museum, made by Sydney Smirke, England, about 1853. Museum no. 349-1890

The RIBA Architecture Study Rooms are hung with portraits and busts of architects. This display also includes a design model by Sir Herbert Baker for the portico for the Bank of England, 1931. RIBA has a collection of around 300 architects' models.

All models from the collections which are not on show in the Architecture Gallery, Study Rooms, other galleries in the museum or in the British Architectural Library are kept in special storage facilities in London. It is possible to view the models on appointment with curators.

To view RIBA models call +44 (0)207 303 3708, or email: drawings&archives@inst.riba.org

To view V&A models call +44 (0)20 7942 2563, or Contact us online

At the National Art Library, V&A

The National Art Libraryy (NAL) has some material about architects' models that widen the theme in a useful way. There is a catalogue from 1867 of Architectural Designs and Models, for example, and several books on specific architectural models, computer-generated models and miniature rooms. An interesting publication is Ron Van der Meer and Deyan Sudjic's 'The Architecture Pack', which includes pop-up and pull-out sections, and a model for assembly. An essay by V&A curator Fiona Leslie, called 'Inside Outside: Changing Attitudes' in the journal Architectural History no. 47, 2004, gives a very good introduction to the V&A's collection of architectural models.

To find out more search the Library Catalogue

At the British Architectural Library, RIBA

Model of Yomei-mon gate at Nikko, Japan, 1875-1900. Museum no. W.5-1918

Model of Yomei-mon gate at Nikko, Japan, 1875-1900. Museum no. W.5-1918

The British Architectural Library is the best place to look for journal articles and books on architects' models. The debate on how and why they are used by architects, and the impact of digital models can be followed in the professional journals. Practical and theoretical information is amply covered in publications like 'Architectural model as machine : a new view of models from antiquity to the present day' by Albert C. Smith and 'How to make architectural models' by Tony Renoir.

Find out more about the  British Architectural Library including information on the collections and how to use the library.

Opening hours:

Monday: closed
Tuesday: 10am-8pm
Wednesday - Friday: 10am-5pm
Saturday: 10am-1.30pm
Sunday: closed

Admissions:

The library at Portland Place is open to RIBA members and the public for reference purposes.
RIBA members should bring their RIBA membership card.
Access is free to non-RIBA members on production of proof of identity e.g. passport, driving licence, student university ID card.
Please note only RIBA members may borrow books.

Contact:
The British Architectural Library, RIBA, 66 Portland Place, London W1B 1AD
Nearest tube stations: Oxford Circus, Portland Place
24-hour recorded information: +44 (0)20 7307 3707
Public information line 0906 302 0400
Email: info@inst.riba.org
 
To find out more search the RIBA on-line catalogue

In the V&A Archive

The V&A Museum Archive in Olympia has an interesting, small collection of models produced by architects who have worked for the V&A - including mock-ups for the British Galleries, models for the Garden competition, 2003 and various models of Daniel Libeskind's design for the Spiral building.

Structural analysis model for the Spiral. Designed by Daniel Libeskind in collaboration with Cecil Balmond, Britain, 1997. Museum no. V&A Archive A0135(4)

Structural analysis model for the Spiral. Designed by Daniel Libeskind in collaboration with Cecil Balmond, Britain, 1997. Museum no. V&A Archive A0135(4)

Visitors wishing to view the models need to visit the V&A Archive and Library Reading Room at Blythe House, Olympia.

Opening hours
Tuesday to Thursday - 10.00-16.30, by appointment only

Contact:

Archive of Art and Design
Blythe House, 23 Blythe Road, London W14 0QX
To contact the Archive of Art and Design call +44 (0)20 7602 8832 or Contact us online

In London

The Sir John Soane's Museum has a fabulous collection of around 250 architectural models collected by the architect John Soane. His model collection is kept in a special room called the Model Room, which can visited on request.

To find out more visit the Sir John Soane's Museum website

Large public buildings often have a model in a prominent place for visitors to look at. There is a site model of the V&A in its South Kensington context displayed at the Exhibition Road entrance of the museum. To compare the great drawing of St Paul's Cathedral in the V&A+RIBA Architecture Gallery with the Great Model depicting Christopher Wren's second proposed design for the cathedral, visit the cathedral's crypt.
See the St Paul's Cathedral website for further details.

On the Web

Search for images of architects' models on the V&A website using Search the Collections

Search for images of architects' models on the RIBA Image Database 

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Sir William Chambers

Sir William Chambers

A model publication of its kind' Howard Colvin, Society of Architectural Historians A catalogue of over 800 of the surviving drawings of Sir William C…

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Event - Architects as Artists

Sat 15 November 2014–Sun 29 March 2015

DISPLAY: Why do architects create art? From the Renaissance to the 20th century architects have recorded buildings for study and pleasure, to document their travels and supplement their income. Drawing was also considered an important tool to educate students in their knowledge of historic buildings, and necessary to prepare presentation drawings for clients.

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