Architectural models in context: creativity, skill and spectacle

An AHRC-funded research network hosted at the V&A. Instagram & Tweet @ArchModelsNet

About the Project

This research network sets out to bring together all those interested in the history, current practice and future of architectural model-making. Its intention is to share knowledge, to take stock of the current state of the field, and to identify productive areas for future practice and research.


Architectural models are used throughout the design process. Although they have much in common with other 3D representations, the complexity of representing a building, specific questions of scale and their public impact set them apart. Like architectural drawings, they are tools for thought and communication; they help to make invisible design processes visible and they document moments of communication that are otherwise ephemeral. Models, however, uniquely convey the embodied 3D qualities of a building and have been long seen as the most comprehensible form of architectural representation.


The Architectural Models in Context project will help develop a deeper understanding of the role of the architectural model in the design process, both historically and in contemporary practice. It will create an inter-disciplinary knowledge hub for those researching, working with, or interested in models. The project sets out to promote appreciation of the value of models and to promote their documentation, preservation and public display and on-line resources will be developed on architectural models for public and professional audiences.


Whilst the relevance of architectural models is acknowledged by a number of different research and practice-based constituencies: students, architects and designers who use them; model-makers who construct them; curators who look after, display and interpret them; conservators who maintain them; and academics who research them, to date, no forum for knowledge exchange exists; nor is there a comprehensive, searchable resource that lists the institutions in which such collections are housed. The network aims to provide this forum for dialogue and a searchable web-based resource.

Project Outputs

Release of An Alphabet of Architectural Models in September 2021

Our new publication, ‘An Alphabet of Architectural Models’, is an accessible, engaging overview of the history and current practice of architectural models, written by a variety of experts. Edited by O. Horsfall Turner, S. Valeriani, M. Wells and T. Fankhänel, it will be published by Merrell in September 2021.

Architectural Network Events

The Architectural Models Network has hosted a series of three workshops for the core partners and invited collaborators in London, Munich and Paris; comprising presentations, visits to collections and visits to architectural and model making studios. These workshops facilitated the exchange of ideas, identified knowledge gaps and laid the groundwork for future collaborations. A public event was also hosted at the Building Centre in December 2018, at which six leading architectural practices spoke about the role of models in their work.

Project updates

22 March 2019

Architectural Avatars: Uncover the link!

Join the Architectural Models Network for an evening of models and games @ V&A – Friday late: Copy/Paste On 29 March 2019, the V&A will host its monthly Friday Late programme. This time the theme...
21 November 2022

Shaping Space – Architectural models treasure trove

Shaping Space – Architectural Models in Context was an exhibition and events program run as a collaboration between the V&A Research Institute (VARI) and the Building Centre, exploring the significance of model making. Discover its...
12 February 2019

Working in miniature: the use of models in contemporary architectural practice, some examples

One of the perks of my role as Principal Investigator of the Architectural Models in Context Research Network  is that I have the immense pleasure of getting to know a range of people who share...

The Team

Dr Simona Valeriani

Senior Tutor, V&A/RCA History of Design

Simona Valeriani is Senior Tutor on the MA in the History of Design run by the V&A and the Royal College of Art (RCA). She is a building archaeologist and historian of technology, her research centres on early modern material culture with a particular ... Read more

Dr Olivia Horsfall Turner

Senior Curator Designs, V&A

Olivia Horsfall Turner is Senior Curator of Designs at the V&A and the V&A's Lead Curator for the V&A+RIBA Architecture Partnership. She is in charge of the V&A's designated national collection of design drawings, including the collection of architect ... Read more

Dr Niamh Bhalla

Research Network Coordinator, V&A

Niamh Bhalla is an art historian who uses contemporary theory to open up fresh insights into the embodied experience of art and architecture in the classical and medieval periods. She explores themes such as space, memory, the body and gender in relat ... Read more

Edward Bottoms

Archivist and Tutor, Architectural Association

Edward Bottoms is the Archivist at the Architectural Association, where he also teaches in the History and Theory Studies and Professional Practice programmes. The AA Archives have a diverse collection of architectural models, from 1930s pieces constr ... Read more

Dr Livio De Luca

Director, MAP Laboratory, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Architect, PhD in engineering, HDR in Computer Science, Livio is research director at CNRS and director of the MAP (Models and simulations for architecture and cultural heritage) Laboratory. Scientific advisor and member of several national and intern ... Read more

Helen Dorey (OBE)

Deputy Director and Inspectress, Sir John Soane’s Museum

Helen Dorey is Deputy Director and Inspectress of Sir John Soane's Museum in London. An expert on Soane, his collections and his architectural legacy, she oversaw the reinstatement of Soane's Model Room, which reopened to the public in 2015. Sir John ... Read more

Dr des. Teresa Fankhänel

Curator, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität München

Teresa Fankhänel is a curator at the Architekturmuseum der TU München. She has been interested in architectural models for several years. Previously, she was the curatorial assistant for the exhibition "The Architectural Model: Tool, Fetish, Small Uto ... Read more

Professor Dr Sabine Frommel

Director of Studies, Art History of the Renaissance, École Pratique des Hautes Études, PSL, Sorbonne (Section of Historical and Philological Studies).

Sabine Frommel is the director of the Research Unit 'Histoire de l'art, des représentations et de l'administration dans l'Europe moderne et contemporaine' (HISTARA). Her research focuses on the history of early modern architecture (15th – 18th centuri ... Read more

Professor Dr Andres Lepik

Director, Architekturmuseum der Technischen Universität, München

Andres Lepik completed his doctoral studies on The Architectural Model in Italy (1353 – 1500) at the Bibliotheca Hertziana in Rome. Since then he has published and taught on the history and theory of architecture exhibitions and contemporary developme ... Read more

Dr Mark Morris

Head of Teaching, Architectural Association, London

Mark Morris is Head of Teaching at the Architectural Association where he lectures on history and theory. A recipient of the RIBA Research Trust Award, a Graham Foundation grant, and the American Institute of Architects Henry Adams Medal, he is author ... Read more

Vanessa Norwood

Independent Curator and Consultant

One of the leading curators of architecture in the UK, Vanessa has commissioned and curated a range of exhibitions that celebrate architecture in a wider context. She was co-curator of the exhibition Venice Takeaway for the British Pavilion at the 13 ... Read more

Dr Matthew Wells

Recent PhD graduate, V&A/RCA History of Design Programme

Matthew’s PhD research, supported by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award, investigated the role architectural models played in professional practice during the 19th century. Following architectural training (Liverpool ... Read more

Lisa Nash

Senior Conservator for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

Lisa Nash is the Senior Conservator for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) which holds one of the largest and most significant collections of architectural material in the world. Lisa is responsible for the conservation, preservation, st ... Read more

Charles Hind

Chief Curator and H.J. Heinz Curator of Drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)

Charles Hind is Chief Curator and H.J. Heinz Curator of Drawings at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), where he has worked since 1996. His areas of specialty are Andrea Palladio and British architecture of the 17th to early 20th centur ... Read more


Architectural Models Network @ V&A’s Friday late, Copy/Paste

Architectural Avatars: Uncover the Link! Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Test your skills in this memory card game. Can you find all the works that can be traced back to Palladio's symmetry or Le Corbusier's modernism?

International Workshop of the Architectural Models Network

Shaping Space - architectural model making in contemporary practice

This event, presented by the network, will explore the role of architectural models in contemporary practice focusing on the scale, materiality and purpose of model making. Leading practices will share projects and perspectives on model making.