Throughout history, the concept process of design in architecture has seen many typologies – from sketches, drawings, model making, and building “Structural models,” like the large scales Shore Temple. The concept process has evolved over the years and though many people prefer digital concepts and VR renditions now, the handmade art of models has never seen more popularity. Miniature architecture has evolved away from just the architecture profession into the form of collector items and bled into other forms of self-expression and leisure.
Traditional Miniature Architecture.
The traditional form of miniature architecture was solely exclusive to the academic and professional field of interior design and architecture to explain movement and spatial arrangements to the clients. These Miniature architecture models were made to scale and with great details of interiors and context. Traditionally miniature architecture can be traced back to Christmas villages and towns built during the holidays. This nostalgia was later taken into and played out in children’s movies, shows, and books and then into cultural contexts.
Miniature Architecture in Art, Film, and Design.
The most common use of Miniature art in Design. Specialised firms cater to premade moulds and laser-cut mount boards/ Basa wood that fold, bend and attach to make up a whole piece of a structure or elements in the design. Some artists also specialise in the micro-scale modelling industry and have social media platforms and art exhibitions catered explicitly to this theme.
Before the CGI and VFX revolution, most film sets with heavy-duty explosions and zoom-out shots used miniature architecture sets. This was pre-digital when everything depended on the right film camera and lighting – a lot of attention was spent on getting the miniature architecture sets perfect. Prop makers and firms catered to this quality and signed contracts with huge film franchises and smaller independent projects. The most popular movie franchises to use this technique were the first few movies of the Harry Potter films.
Another cinematic classic is the minefield train scene in the iconic Indiana Jones. It was a miniature architecture set that was done to detail. Another famous set is the DC Batman Franchise, Gotham city. With all the gothic spires and dark alleyways, the film set was built with painstakingly intricate details using several different techniques, including large black matte paintings as a studio backlot set. The film changes from live action to miniature architecture sets during multiple parts of the film, and even a keen eye needs to rewatch the movie to tell the difference. The explosions in this large-budget film saved millions by using miniature architectural sets instead of life-sized setups.
Inception, King Kong, and the Lord of the Rings franchises are other films that used miniature architecture sets to get precise details with a fairly lesser budget. But the need for miniature architecture sets isn’t just for projects with elaborate scenes and action shots. Wes Anderson used a studio to build a miniature architecture set for the Grand Budapest Hotel for long shots. The hotel, the railways, and even the snow-covered forest were miniature architecture sets designed by the production designer and Wes Anderson himself.
Recently there’s been an influx of miniature architecture as Instagram reels and YouTube videos. Everything from whimsical birdhouses to cooking recipes in a miniature setting. A series of artists have capitalized on this influx and grown their art from leisure to a career. Each of these artists doesn’t follow a set of rules or predicated map of how to express their art. Instead, each artist’s style and interpretation of miniature pieces are unique and of a personal outlook. From kitchen miniature architecture of kitchens by Lim Pui Wan and Shay Aaron, metals miniature architecture by Jill Orlov, or landscape gardening pieces by Steeve Wheen; each set is a masterpiece.
Miniature Architecture in Our Homes.
From the niches to every day, Miniature architecture has slowly found its way into our homes – as art pieces, birdhouses, garden gnomes, pet doors, and personal bed lights, this nostalgic piece of childhood art is now a piece of adulthood comfort. Post-pandemic, the hype of disconnecting with technology and the increased attention to cottage core and countryside state of mind has led to an increase in sales of these miniature pieces in our homes. From Lego sets to wooden decks, Miniature architecture has been embedded in the interiors of bookshelves, sockets, and walls.
Places like Atlanta, the USA, and Sweden have an increasing number of miniature architecture popups in commercial and public spaces. Sweden has a “Mouse Town” where every café and shop has miniature architecture set up outside for mice. While this can be brushed off as a trend, it looks like it might be a trend to stay – Molossia, an independent country inside Nevada, USA, even has a miniature architecture train station complete with railways, a mountain boulder, houses, and, shops. Miniature architecture has made our world look like something out of Tom and Jerry or Tinkerbell, – a form of escapism – a fantasy-filled world where animals (living like humans) and we live in society and move together side by side.
AD Editorial Team. Micro-Scale Modeling: How to Construct Tiny, Intricate Worlds From Ordinary Materials. [online]. Available at: https://www.archdaily.com/867050/micro-scale-modelling-how-to-construct-tiny-intricate-worlds-from-ordinary-materials-joshua-smith [Accessed date: 27th December 2022].
Thor Jensen (2015). 11 Jaw-Dropping Miniature Movie Sets. [online]. Available at: https://www.pcmag.com/news/11-jaw-dropping-miniature-movie-sets [Accessed date: 27th December 2022].