An obsession with the banal stuff that occupies the background of architectural representation, the things we fill architectural spaces with, eventually led us to looking at the model furniture fashioned and photographed by architects. Close-ups of generic, nearly notational chairs; fields of wobbly stools, each with its legs so slightly out of alignment; the most mundane shelving systems imaginable; entirely abstracted blocks turned modular benches or cabinets or who-knows, non-descript tables, and displays; reproductions of reproductions of reproductions of mid-century modern chairs; miniature prototypes or replicas of the architect’s own for-sale designs; indescribable things distorted from the humidity; ergonomic, bodily curves turned 2-D extrusions; tables with an impossible materiality, woodgrain so cartoonishly out of scale; seats proportioned a little too high or low, supports floating or bodies off-kilter; etc.
These miniature objects, made by both armies of interns and careful craftspersons, populate models by architecture offices large and small. They’re a sort of representational default, a reduction to the bare qualities of an object. Made with the wrong sized tools—i.e. human hands—and with the wrong material, the models are translations of translations: from a chair to a model to a chair again, or from reality/reference to replica to representation. This scalar shift produces another condition, something familiar but different or slightly-off, akin to the effects of shifting resolution when one blows up an image. Collecting these photographs of model furniture into a single catalog, An Unfinished Catalog of Model Furniture Without Architecture, we used these various characteristics as a starting point for translations of our own design in a new furniture series titled “Model Furniture.” Scaling up these miniatures toward their originals while maintaining their reductive, archetypal forms and indifference to use, the resulting chairs, stools, and shelves are at the same time reference and referent, original and copy, reality and representation
Image rights: Lauren Coleman