HOMO FABER

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Modelling Ideas, Exhibition Catalogue, Alison Fairley, Andrea Mina, Peter Downton, (editors), Melbourne: RMIT School of Architecture and Design/Melbourne Museum, 2007. ISBN: 978-0-9775711-1-6. Exhibition Venue: Melbourne Museum.

Text of HOMO FABER

  • homo faberM O D E L L I N G I D E A S

    EDITED BY ALISON FAIRLEY

    ANDREA MINA

    PETER DOWNTON

  • the focus is not on the working model, or its method of manufacturing, but rather on the role that models play in representing ideas.

  • homo faberM O D E L L I N G I D E A S

    MODELLING IDEAS THROUGH MANUAL MEANS: AN ANALYSiS OF THE MANUAL IDEAS STUDIO PETER DOWNTON & ANDREA MINA

    MANUAL IDEAS: STUDIO MODELS

    FROM IDEAS TO MODELS: AN INTROSPECTIVE REPORT PETER DOWNTON

    GIVING FORM TO IDEAS ANDREA MINA

    POISE: AN OVERVIEW MARK BURRY

    POISE STUDIO MODELS

    DEVELOPMENT OF THE LED STICK M. HANK HAEUSLER

    CONTEXT-SPECIFIC LIGHTWEIGHT STRUCTURES IN ARCHITECTURE JEROME FRUMAR

    SCREENRESOLUTION PAUL NICHOLAS & TIM SCHORK

    DESIGN MODELS FOR BKK ARCHITECTS MUMA GALLERY COMPETITION 2006 RORY HYDE

    HERTZIAN SPACE: MODELLING SPATIAL PRESENCE MARK TAYLOR

    EXPLORING THE ROLE DIGITAL MODELS SARAH BENTON

    BEAUTY & BRAINS ABOUT MODELS JULIETTE PEERS

    POISE DIARY: MOMENTS FROMS THE STUDIO JULIETTE PEERS

    MAKING LANDSCAPE CRAIG DOUGLAS & ROSELEA MONACELLA

    RE-MAKING: IDEAS AND MODELS CRAIG DOUGLAS & PETER DOWNTON

    A HOUSE FOR HERMES: THE HOUSE OF MY FATHER CHARLES ANDERSON

    DESIGNING OPTICAL GEOMETRY AND CREATING HOLOGRAPHIC IMAGES MARTINA MRONGOVIUS

    COMMUNICATING IDEAS - SHARING INFORMATION DOMINIK HOLZER

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  • In the second Homo Faber exhibition in 2007 the focus is not

    on the working model, or its method of manufacturing,

    but rather on the role that models play in representing ideas.

    For a person who has not been educated in architecture or

    design the very thought that models can exist, for some purpose

    other than to prefigure a completed building, is potentially

    anathema. Yet, every architect and architecture student learns

    that models can express a range of themes, ideas and desires

    none of which are necessarily constructable or even prefigure

    a design solution. Few of these models are ever seen by the

    general public and it is rare that an opportunity arises to gain

    a more detailed level of understanding about their production,

    application and meaning.

    The idea model is one of the most powerful examples of pre-

    architectural form that is available to the designer. In its more

    metaphysical guise it can embody complex philosophical ideas,

    it can evoke emotions or offer unique tactile or even aural

    sensations and it in no way has to resemble a building. In the

    form that architects more commonly call a conceptual model

    it can encompass the essence of a vision for a building. In this

    variation the model represents a halfway-house between the

    building and some formative idea that will thematically define

    the completed architecture. This freedom of expression is one

    of the most important qualities of the idea model and it is seen

    in many of the exhibited works that have been produced by

    students, professionals and academics.

    The Homo Faber project is led by a team of senior academics

    from RMIT University and the University of Newcastle.

    The members of the team are Professor Mark Burry,

    Professor Michael Ostwald, Professor Peter Downton

    and Associate Professor Andrea Mina. With the support

    of a major national grant from the Australian Research

    Council (ARC), the team is proud to present the second

    in this important series.

    MICHAEL OSTWALD

    Like the architectural drawing, the architectural model is

    one of the primary tools used by designers to shape the built

    environment. While other design tools have been employed

    at various times throughout history, only the model and the

    drawing have retained their primacy today. However, in the last

    decade the relationship between the model and the drawing

    has begun to change. As computers blur the distinction

    between drawings and virtual models, and as physical models

    are increasingly manufactured by computer-controlled devices,

    these architectural tools need to be critically reconsidered.

    While architectural drawings have been featured in many

    exhibitions, the architectural model has rarely been the subject

    of the same level of scrutiny. This realisation was the catalyst

    for Homo Faber: a series of exhibitions, symposia and books

    reflecting on the changing role of the architectural model

    both in contemporary practice and in academia.

    Homo Faber is Latin for man the maker a reference

    to the manner in which humans use tools to shape, control

    or understand the environment. In the first Homo Faber

    exhibition held in 2006 at the Melbourne Museum,

    the focus was on the way in which architectural models

    serve as working tools to assist in the development of a design.

    Major architectural practices from across the region presented

    their working models and took part in a series of interviews to

    find out how architects use rough models and why? A parallel

    theme in the first exhibition was the exploration of different

    modes of making and different scales of representation.

    To elucidate the second theme, the four curators exhibited

    models constructed using a variety of different techniques

    and for a range of representational purposes. In one pair of

    projects, exquisite hand-crafted, timber and brass models were

    exhibited alongside bright, plastic, computer-generated and

    rapid-prototyped models. In a second pair, large plaster models

    of building details were juxtaposed with miniscule organic

    models possibly depicting entire worlds.

    PREFACE

  • Johnson is not actually holding the AT&T model up from his

    body, as if celebrating an award, rather he is holding it out

    from his chest, as if either offering the model to the city,

    or perhaps receiving the model as gift.

    There is a long history of the architectural model as symbolic

    offering. In the mosaic above the main door of Hagia Sophia

    in Istanbul the Emperor Justinian is pictured holding

    a miniature of the church and reaching out with it towards

    the Virgin and Child. In Gloucester Cathedral the Abbot Osric

    is depicted holding a model of the church to his chest and

    in Rheims there is a representation of the architect Hugh

    Libergier presenting a model of Saint Nicaise as an offering.

    These examples, which have much in common with the image

    of Philip Johnson on the cover of Time magazine, use models

    to represent the idea of architecture. The person holding the

    model is symbolically invested with the power of creation

    (either as designer or patron) and they offer up the object

    of their exertions as a gift to god or to humanity. The models

    in these examples are not used for developing a design,

    or for assisting its construction, they simply stand for an

    idea; architecture as offering. Yet, while working models

    In January 1979 American architect Philip Johnson was

    famously featured on the cover of Time magazine holding

    aloft a model of his AT&T Tower. At first glance the model

    is barely recognisable and to the uninitiated it more closely

    resembles a trophy or award. This reading is not inappropriate

    as any architectural commission for a high rise building could

    be considered a major prize and perhaps Johnson is celebrating

    his win. Furthermore, the sense that the model is a trophy

    is exaggerated by the way in which Johnson is photographed

    against a backdrop of New York towers. Johnson stands

    amongst these towers as an equal in power, presence and

    stature. His grey clothes mimic the colour of the nearby

    towers, his head and shoulders are silhouetted against the

    skyline. A close inspection of the base of the photograph

    reveals that Johnson is actually standing on a constructed set.

    He is both part of one model and supporting another; a feat

    which simultaneously questions the significance of scale and

    demonstrates the way in which models can be used to

    suggest power or superiority. Yet, with all of this happening

    in the image, it is easy to miss a minor detail that changes,

    in subtle but important ways, the reading of the cover.

    and finished models are important communication

    tools, it is the idea models which potentially possess the

    greatest symbolic power. While Johnson may appear to be

    magnanimously offering a gift to the city, the act of giving

    reinforces the extensive sphere of Johnsons own influence.

    As this example shows, when stripped of its traditional purpose

    (of directly serving the design and construction of a building)

    the additional representational capacity of the architectural

    model is revealed.

    The history of the architectural model is typically structured

    around the presumption that models are first and foremost

    representational objects and that their primary power is in the

    communication of intent. Regardless of whether the model is

    a working detail to solve a construction problem, or a finished

    model for presentation to a client, it represents the desire to

    complete a building. However, many models, like the historic

    examples described a