Architectural Models?

This post has been written by Vanessa Norwood, one of the leading curators of architecture in the UK. Vanessa is a Network Partner in Architectural models in context: creativity, skill and spectacle, an AHRC-funded research network hosted at the V&A. 

It could be said that the claim I am about to make is a step too far. The architectural fabrications I admire most do not always on first appearances perform a function, other than to offer a joyful disruption to familiar public spaces. They do not seem to want to sell us a scheme or act as a tool for conveying information about a project to come. Their scale is indeterminable; are they scaled down expressions of a wildly super sized Superstudio proposition or are they a small idea magnified by an overly enthusiastic architect?

Full-size model of Le Corbusier’s Maison Dom-ino in the Giardini for the Venice Biennale 2014. First conceived by Le Corbusier in 1914 as a prototype for mass-produced European housing, the unbuilt minimal design remains one of the most recognisable images of 20th-century architecture. Le Corbusier conceived the structure in concrete and steel but the AA team led by AA Tutor Valentin Bontjes
van Beek alongside AA Exhibitions and students worked with engineer Jürg Stauffer to create the horizontal floor slabs, pilotis and zigzagging staircase from engineered timber. Photo ©Sue Barr

As visitors to, and occupiers of, these architectural models, we provide the scale. We are giants or ants or human size. The models themselves become backdrops for selfies, sandwich stops and tourist destinations.

GUN Architects and AKT II were shortlisted in The Temporary category for The Rainforest at the NLA's New London Awards 2015. The Rainforest became a popular lunchtime destination and featured as a backdrop for a GQ mens fashion shoot featuring grunge rockers Drenge.

GUN Architects and AKT II were shortlisted in The Temporary category for The Rainforest at the NLA’s New London Awards 2015. The Rainforest became a popular lunchtime destination and featured as a backdrop for a GQ mens fashion shoot featuring grunge rockers Drenge.

Installations, pavilions and joyous interventions appear with regularity across the city; heralded by competitions and timed with festivals they act as harbingers of summer.

Didier Faustino's This is not a love song occupied Bedford Square in 2015 as part of Faustino’s exhibition Undomesticated Places. The installation was designed to be a ‘platform in the urban environment’. It fulfilled Faustino’s intention by becoming, amongst other things, a backdrop for a motorbike selfie and a stage for a jazz quartet.

Didier Faustino’s This is not a love song occupied Bedford Square in 2015 as part of Faustino’s exhibition Undomesticated Places. The installation was designed to be a ‘platform in the urban environment’. It fulfilled Faustino’s intention by becoming, amongst other things, a backdrop for a motorbike selfie and a stage for a jazz quartet.

Models? Perhaps not, but they are surely the ‘sensory demonstrations’ sited by Architectural Models Network Principal Investigator Simona Valeriani.* They occupy not only the city, its public spaces and parks but as Valeriani describes; the space between ‘theory and praxis.’ They are memorable expressions of architectural intentions. I welcome their audacity and art.

* S. Valeriani, ‘Three-dimensional Models as ‘in-between-objects’: The Creation of in-between Knowledge in Early Modern Architectural Practice’, History of Technology 31 (2011) 26-46.


More blog posts from the Architectural Models Network can be found here.

To find out more about the network visit our project page.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *