Shaping Space – Architectural Models in Context

A free exhibition and events programme celebrating architectural models. @ArchModelsNet

About the Project

Shaping Space is a free exhibition at the Building Centre opening in September 2021 and a programme of events for the general public, specialists, and schools. It spotlights the essential yet under-explored role that models play in shaping the spaces we live in.


Supported by the Arts and Humanities Research Council through Follow-on Funding for Impact and Engagement, it builds on research carried out by the AHRC-funded Architectural Models Network (2017 – 19), set up to examine the role of architectural models as part of the creative process in historical and contemporary practice. The original Network was led by the V&A and core partners included the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), the Architectural Association (AA), Sir John Soane’s Museum, the Architekturmuseum (TU Munich), the MAP Laboratory (CNRS) and the Sorbonne.


The exhibition, events and schools programme together provide unique opportunities to engage with modelmaking and use, positioning models centre stage, telling their stories and exploring their role in enabling the understanding of architecture and its context. Shaping Space invites specialists, the general public and schools to examine the role of modelmaking in contemporary practice, between the physical and the digital, while exploring the historical dimension. The modelmaking practice is taken as a springboard for the use of design and making as a cross-curricular activity.


The free exhibition 'Shaping Space – Architectural Models Revealed', highlights the renaissance of making in the digital age, whilst exploring the rise of new technologies and themes central to current architectural practice, such as sustainability. The events programme explores current and future model making practices, including the use of models in film and in teaching. The schools programme (KS2-5) aims to develop students’ knowledge in several areas including representation and materiality in modelling, understanding city space, and problem solving through model making.

Project updates

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...
8 February 2022

Building bridges: models embodying technology transfer between West and East

The last post about the 1880s Forth Bridge’s living model focused on confidence in engineering innovation. This time, the living model will tell a story about the connections between Scotland and Japan, revealing how engineering...
14 January 2022

Designing Bags: Inside Out

At Studio MUTT we design at all scales – from teapots to towers. Somewhere in that spectrum is exhibition design, which amounts to almost half of the projects the studio is currently working on. You...

The Team

Dr Simona Valeriani

Project’s Principal Investigator, Senior Tutor, V&A/RCA History of Design, V&A

Simona Valeriani is Senior Tutor on the postgraduate programme in the History of Design run by the V&A and the Royal College of Art (RCA). She is a building archaeologist, historian of architecture and technology. Her research centres on Early Modern ... Read more

Dr Marta Ajmar

Project’s Co-investigator, Deputy Director, V&A Research Institute (VARI)

Head of V&A/RCA History of Design until 2016, Marta Ajmar is Deputy Director of VARI, where she develops academic partnerships and programmes informed by innovative museum-based pedagogies. She has over twenty years’ experience of collections-based re ... Read more

Dr Georgia Haseldine

Project Coordinator, V&A Research Institute (VARI)

Vanessa Norwood

Lead of the Project’s Partner Institution, Creative Director, Building Centre

Vanessa Norwood is a curator, writer and editor and Creative Director of the Building Centre. She was co-curator of the British Pavilion Venice Takeaway at the 13th International Architecture Biennale and has led projects for clients including the Alb ... Read more

Harriet Jennings

Public Programme Curator, Building Centre

Harriet Jennings is a public programme curator at the Building Centre. She is interested in connecting people with the ideas, materials and powers that shape their built environment. Harriet completed her MA in Architectural History at the Bartlett Sc ... Read more

Mathilde Savary

Public Programme Curator, Building Centre

Mathilde Savary is a public programme curator at the Building Centre. Following her graduation in Biomedical Science from Imperial College London, Mathilde pursued her interest in the relationship between global health and the environment by volunteer ... Read more


Unpacking Bags

Hear Studio MUTT Architects in conversation with curator Dr Lucia Savi and V&A’s Head of Design Evonne Mackenzie on design and collaboration for the Bags: Inside Out exhibition at the V&A.

In-conversation with Andy Gent: stop-motion animation and activism

Join us for an in-person lecture at the V&A with renowned puppet maker Andy Gent of Arch Model Studios, who will discuss the creative process and technical skill of creating models for stop-motion animation.

Shaping Space on Display: modelling, making and activism

A display illustrating the work of Andy Gent, renowned stop motion puppet-maker, from 10.00-17.45 on 18-19 and 22-26 September 2021.

Header image: Concept model at 1:75, Cast Plaster 2019, Winning competition entry for V&A Fashion Gallery, © Roz Barr Architects