The models of the architects “come to life” to tell stories in the Supermodels exhibition

The Piercy&Company studio pushes the boundaries of architectural modeling to explore sensory and experiential methods of communicating ideas.

Design and architecture studio Piercy&Company has opened a free exhibition of architectural models made by their in-house studio, which use mechanical, sound and scent automata to explore how to communicate the idea behind a building.

The models shown are linked to the practice’s 20-year interest in exploring “the haptic, sensory and experiential”. The models themselves have been made over five years, all relating to projects the studio worked on, some built, some unbuilt, and are a self-funded “passion project”, explains director Stuart Piercy.

“We’ve always loved mechanisms like cuckoo clocks, and we’ve always been interested in how the mechanisms might work on the models,” says Piercy. “Then you could stand in front of the model and it would tell you the whole story about the building – that was the dream,” she adds.

A variety of different techniques are used on the seven models in the exhibition. Materials include plaster, black valcroma, birch plies, aluminum, photo-etched copper, laser-cut white plexiglass, and walnut veneers, but the more unusual elements come from the integration of speakers, atomizers, LED strips, motors, and mapped film from projection.

But Piercy also hopes the exhibition will appeal to children and “evoke a sense of universal and childish wonder.” The model references – the dollhouse, the cuckoo clock, the model train – are examples of the “mysterious allure of miniature objects with their own lives,” she adds.

The first of the “supermodels”, for a family home called the Steel House, tells both the technical story of how the experimental modular construction was fabricated off-site and placed in a restricted urban location, and the story of one home: sound. of an alarm clock, children’s voices, a puff of chimney smoke and a smell of cinnamon coming from a spray bottle. A model of a church in Ealing is soundtracked by a door opening, footsteps, the sound of a choir beginning, and is scented with cedarwood incense.

Projection-mapped film footage shows how a public space inside an office building could act “like our great museums and galleries,” says Piercy & Co. This is evident in Supermodels, where images have been integrated into the architectural model. by Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project at the Tate Modern in London.

Elsewhere, a model of two semi-detached Georgian villas opens like a cantilevered metal toolbox to reveal the members’ club housed within the listed building. Another model highlights the geometry behind the composition of buildings, which is no longer seen in architectural drawings as digital tools have replaced hand-drawn methods.

Commenting on how architecture is often first experienced online through limited photography, Flythrough “envisions this phenomenon by removing everything outside of the photographic field,” says Piercy & Co. A small camera moves across the architectural model in the exhibit and projects the corresponding view onto a nearby wall.

The exhibit also includes a twenty-minute film showing the studio’s designers working on the models and an illuminated wooden cabinet with model-making tools. This celebrates the range of design skills available to a studio along with the increased use of VR tools across the industry.

The exhibition takes place in a building where Piercy&Co. is working. Its mid-build condition “between stripping and redevelopment forms the perfect counterpoint to the models,” says Fiona Neil, director of Piercy & Co.’s interiors studio.

The lighting design for the exhibit is by 18 Degrees, and Wolfe Hall’s graphic identity is built around a custom typeface inspired by modular construction methods. Geometric letterforms in a “CAD-routed” thin weight overlap shapes found in the original model drawings.

Admission and opening of Supermodels is free until December 11 at Jahn Court, Regent Quarter, 34 York Way, London N1 9AB. All images by Andy Stagg.

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