The Architectural Model

The Architectural Model

Histories of the Miniature and the Prototype, the Exemplar and the Muse

By Matthew Mindrup

An investigation of different uses for the architectural model through history—as sign, souvenir, funerary object, didactic tool, medium for design, and architect's muse.





An investigation of different uses for the architectural model through history—as sign, souvenir, funerary object, didactic tool, medium for design, and architect's muse.

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.


$45.00 T ISBN: 9780262042758 352 pp. | 7 in x 9 in 50 color illus., 88 b&w illus.


  • This erudite and profusely illustrated account of the multiple meanings and uses of physical architectural models in human history, from miniature to full scale, for purposes of memorializing, teaching, production, or inspiration, is particularly welcome at a time when the use of such material models tends to be obliterated from design practices. The engaging stories in this book foreground the importance of the material imagination in the creation of culturally specific constructions that nevertheless resonate with our universal human dreams.

    Alberto Pérez-Gómez

    Bronfman Professor of the History of Architecture at McGill University; author of Attunement: Architectural Meaning after the Crisis of Modern Science

  • Plain and simple may characterize the architecture models recommended by Leon Battista Alberti, but other terms are needed for the miniatures, prototypes, exemplars, and muses assembled in this thematically argued and beautifully illustrated history: instruments of communication, recording, and imagining (dreaming) whose complexity and curiosity have been central to architectural theory and practice for millennia. An impressively learned, surprising, and original book— abundant and intricate.

    David Leatherbarrow

    Professor of Architecture and Chair of the Graduate Group in Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design