Architecture and Illusion

The Deutsches Architekturmuseum in Frankfurt is currently showing an exhibition entitled The Architectural Model: Tool, Fetish, Small Utopia (with accompanying catalogue). We complain today about the sterility, glossiness and general improbability of the computer-generated render, but concerns about the authenticity of proposed buildings are by no means new. From the introduction:

“The model generated its own truth.” With this harmless-sounding statement made by Arthur Drexler in a 1975 catalog essay, the curator of architecture at New York’s Museum of Modern Art drew the weapon of criticism on the works of such masters of modernism as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, and Louis I. Kahn. His targets, in other words, were the stars of his own collection. Mies was dispatched on the basis of two photographs of Crown Hall, the building he erected on the campus of Chicago’s IIT as a temple to the training of his own architecture students: “Mies van der Rohe, who knew how to draw, abandoned drawing for scale models that seem realistic, but which like his architecture carefully suppress certain elements to present an ideal—as in the model of Crown Hall at Illinois Institute of Technology—which the actual building can only corrupt.” The pictures really do display a tragic reversal: while the photograph of the model shows a transparent building, the glass surfaces of the finished Crown Hall are blinded, and while the row of frosted glass panes running round the building look white in the model, in the photograph they appear as a thick black band: the model photograph shows the aspiration, the architectural photograph the bitter reality.

The above image is Zaborowsky of Zurich‘s model of the Kolumba, the Art Museum of the Archdiocese of Cologne, designed by Peter Zumthor. ‘The model was exhibited at the 2002 Architecture Biennale in Venice. The challenge was to simulate the brick masonry which is of major importance in Zumthor’s design. The price of the multi-section model was approx. EUR 35,000. On the illustration the neighboring buildings are missing so as to be able to show the solid construction of the roads.’

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One Response to Architecture and Illusion

  1. Interesting piece. Personally I like the model Kolumba. I would love to see it in person!

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