New Ideas, New Models? Architectural Representation and its Object in the 20th Century

May 31, 2012 - Jun 3, 2012
EAHN, Brussels

For the second international EAHN meeting in Brussels, Wallis Miller and Mari Lending will chair the panel New ideas, New Models? Architectural Representation and its Object in the Twentieth Century.

The architectural model represents a particular mode of reflection. Oscillating between the abstract and the concrete, the model is a working tool for conceiving, developing, and communicating form and space, as well as an exhibition object in its own right. Representing a tradition as real and influential as built architecture, the history of the architectural model spans from prophesy to documentation. It invokes the possible, the unachievable, the typical, the utopian, the rejected, the permanent and the past.

Recently, models have attracted much attention in the context of twenty-first-century design approaches that rely on computer technologies as well as in research on Renaissance and nineteenth-century themes. Our question is: what happened to models in the twentieth century? Did they change character during the period identified with modernism and its legacy, when plaster signified a return to the past and the computer had not fully emerged as a design medium?

We welcome papers that look at models in the context of the design process or the subsequent representation, explanation or exhibition of new architectural designs and ideas in this period. Models were used to introduce new ideas to the public throughout the century: earlier, at MoMA’s “Modern Architecture – International Style” exhibition and later in the 1981 “Idea as Model” produced by New York’s IAUS. Were their uses of the model new or derivative of earlier practices? At a time when structure and materials were viewed as generators of architectural form, did architects adapt the engineer’s empirical approach to the model as a design tool? What role did models play in the identification of space and transparency as a constituent element of architecture? Did they address changing social practices? Other topics to consider are the materiality of models, particular architects’ changing use of models; or the role of models in the conceptualization of architecture. We are interested in papers that address the issue thematically or with case studies.


Davide Deriu, Dep. of Architecture, University of Westminster, London): ”The architectural model in the age of its mechanical reproducibility”

Juliet Koss, Dep. of Art History, Scripps College, Claremont, California: “Filming the Future: Moscow’s Living Model of 1938″

Maria Ocón Fernandez, Institute of Art History, Freie Universität, Berlin: “Architectural Models and Twentieth-Century Architectural Discourse –The Kunstbibliothek’s Collection in Berlin”

Léa-Catherine Szacka, Bartlett School of Architecture, London: “This is Not a Model:Revisiting the Case of the Strada Novissima”

Stefaan Verwoort, Ghent University/VU University, Amsterdam: “How Thomas met Aldo: the architectural model as a conceptual ‘locus’ in the art and architecture of the 1980s”


Originally posted May 15, 2012. Latest revision May 4, 2021.

© OCCAS 2012. All rights reserved.