Friday, December 14, 2012

Model behaviour

There’s a New Yorker cartoon that shows a couple of architects and their client standing around the model of a skyscraper. “Oh no, I think you misunderstood,” one of the architects is saying. “The $3 million is for the model.” Yes, architectural models have become crucial in the selling of architecture both to the client and, often more importantly, to the local community.
The reality is that apart from architects and builders (and architects will tell you most builders are marginal) hardly anyone can read plans. That’s why the spaces in so many buildings never seem to quite work for the functions that they are supposed to serve. The people who know what’s needed find it almost impossible to express what they know to the designers.
And then of course there is the exterior appearance of buildings. Architectural renditions and models are important not only to show what a building will look like but how it looks in its surroundings. And that’s where it can get tricksy. We’ve all seen presentations where the goal is to tone down how a building will impact its neighborhood. That’s how you can get a huge tower block shown as though it’s only just a tiny bit higher than the small wooden church it will in fact dominate. So the smart thing to do is look at models and renditions with a good dollop of suspicion.
Take the way the new Len Lye Center is presented in relation to the existing Govett-Brewster Art Gallery. A key requirement of the new building is that it ensures the Govett-Brewster retains its independent identity but you may be excused for thinking a few liberties have been taken.
1.     In the model the Govett-Brewster juts out into the street proud of the LLC. While this goes some way to downplaying that the LLC’s façade will be twice the length of the original Govett-Brewster building, it’s not accurate. The new stainless steel façade of the LLC runs in line with the existing gallery building. You can see this on the plans here.
2.     The artist’s rendition makes it look as though the new LLC has a large forecourt where people could gather. In fact, as you can see from the model and plans, it is the same width as the standard footpath that extends in front of the existing Govett-Brewster.
3.     In the gleaming façade of the artist’s rendition you can see a park land with trees reflected. It is almost bucolic. In fact it is the green area at the top of the street; the new LLC façade alongside the Govett-Brewster will reflect the White Hart hotel and other buildings.
Over-enthusiastic promotion or deliberate smoke screen? OTY.
Images: Top, model and bottom, artist's rendition
Other OTN stories on the Len Lye Centre: FundraisingDesignExhibiting Len Lye