When is the last time you thought about buildings in miniature? Have you ever imagined the built environment around you shrunk to a fraction of its current size, as if you were transplanted to a tiny land with tiny furniture? (no … I’m not talking about the Lena Dunham movie) You might be thinking of an adult squeezing into a childhood tree house, or maybe something more on the scale of a massive man awakening in a miniscule foreign land like Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Either way a visitor to any of our Gould Evans offices these days can easily visualize himself or herself in such a scene. Physical models from projects in all sorts of stages of completion scatter about the workplace. In a profession that’s rapidly becoming more and more digitized (we’re learning to take our tablets with us to the job site, but more on that another time), we find ourselves and our clients craving the physical manifestations of our three dimensional puzzles and pursuits.
Whether as a tool for presentation or the quick study of a design concept, physical models are alive and well in our office. They come in all shapes and sizes, from master planning of sixty acre sites to a mockup of a chapel facade. There are models of high quality and delicately scored bass wood, those of rough and hastily cut chipboard, and on the desk of skilled office modelers, perfect white paper models sit among the stacks of drawings and books like paperweights (but without the responsibility). Think of our office as the Gulliver’s Travels scene in reverse. Instead of hundreds of residents of a tiny town examining the giant man out of scale in their world, imagine designers hunched around examining mini schools, office buildings, stadiums…the list goes on.
Why do we promote this tool? Haven’t three dimensional modeling programs aided the design process enough to forego the time needed to construct these? All one has to do is look at old photos of some really great architects of the past. When they are near an architectural model, there is something distinct about them. Their mouths and ears are open; they are discussing and problem solving with the others in the image. Engaging a group of designers or even clients over these miniature worlds never fails to incite discussion. It’s even better when those around the table feel comfortable enough to pick them up and move them around, inviting a shared, real time evaluation. The models are enhancing and sparking a dialogue about the architecture in a totally different way than a drawing would or could. Our models take our brains and conversations to places they wouldn’t otherwise find, and we’ll continue to use them to get us there.