Dreaming with Architectural Models

Dreaming with Architectural models.

In this episode we talk to Matthew Mindrup about his new book, which provides an intriguing narrative of discovery about the practical and cultural factors motivating the development of the architectural model’s different uses.

“Painters make paintings, poets make poetry and musicians make music, but architects do not make architecture.” 

Dr Matthew Mindrup

The attractiveness of the architectural model, he argues, is that it, unlike drawings or other two-dimensional representations of buildings, has a “here-ness” permitting their users to see before them an entire structure, the volumes of its spaces, and its constituent parts in three dimensions, including the size and location of the openings, its materials, and even its methods of construction.

Here is the book blurb from the MIT Press.

The Architectural Model: Histories of the Miniature and the Prototype, the Exemplar and the Muse

Rigorously researched and informed by the latest research, The Architectural Model is written to help orient the reader in the study of this important cultural object, its development, and its continued utility from antiquity up to the present.

For more than five hundred years, architects have employed three-dimensional models as tools to test, refine, and illustrate their ideas. But, as Matthew Mindrup shows, the uses of physical architectural models extend beyond mere representation. An architectural model can also simulate, instruct, inspire, and generate architectural designs. It can be, among other things, sign, souvenir, toy, funerary object, didactic tool, medium, or muse. In this book, Mindrup surveys the history of architectural models by investigating their uses, both theoretical and practical.

Tracing the architectural model’s development from antiquity to the present, Mindrup also offers an interpretive framework for understanding each of its applications in the context of time and place. He first examines models meant to portray extant, fantastic, or proposed structures, describing their use in ancient funerary or dedicatory practices, in which models are endowed with magical power; as a medium for architectural reverie and inspiration; and as prototypes for twentieth-century experimental designs. Mindrup then considers models that exemplify certain architectural uses, exploring the influence of Leon Battista Alberti’s dictum that models be simple, lest they distract from the architect’s ideas; analyzing the model as a generative tool; and investigating allegorical, analogical, and anagogical interpretations of models.

Mindrup’s histories show how the model can be a surrogate for the architectural structure itself, or for the experience of its formal, tactile, and sensory complexity; and beyond that, that the manipulation, play, experimentation, and dreaming enabled by models allow us to imagine architecture in new ways.


An architect by training, Matthew completed a Ph.D. in Architecture and Design at Virginia Tech University on the physical and metaphysical coalition of two architectural models assembled by Kurt Schwitters in the early 1920s. Dr. Mindrup’s ongoing research in the history and theory of architectural design locates and projects the implications that materials have in the design process. Dr. Mindrup has presented some of this research at conferences and published others in The Journal of Architectural Education (JAE), Interstices, Wolkenkuckucksheim and his edited volume The Material Imagination: Reveries on Architecture and Matter (Routledge, 2015). In August of 2019, Matthew will welcome the publication of his new book: The Architectural Model: Histories of the Miniature and the Prototype, the Exemplar and the Muse (MIT Press, 2019)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Built with WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: