View of model for Condominio di Sanremo, Italy, designed by Carlo Mollino and Mario Roggero, photomontage, 1946 or after. Carlo Mollino, Photographer. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal © Estate of Carlo Mollino.

View of a model for the Building of Industry, Sverdlovsk, Soviet Union, designed by Daniil Fridman and Gleb Glushchenko, 1930 1931. Unknown photographer. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.

The Wedding of Photography and Architectural Models

Photographic studio: Hedrich Blessing (Firm). Project for Commonwealth Promenade Apartments, Chicago, United States, designed by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe with Friedman, Alschuler, Sincere and Grunsfeld. Aerial view of vacant site, studio photograph of model and aerial city view with model superimposed on site, 1956. © Chicago History Museum. One gelatin silver print and two digital prints. Original photograph from Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal; Digital prints from Chicago History Museum; Gift of Edward Austin Duckett.

Unknown photographer. Student model for an exercise in "Constructing a Cubical Form Based on Combination of Mass and Space", Vkhutemas, Moscow, Soviet Union, 1920-1926. Gelatin silver print. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal; Gift of Howard Schickler and David Lafaille.

Theo van Doesburg travaillant à la maquette d’une maison particulière, Paris, France, 1923. Unknown photographer. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.


Canadian Centre for Architecture
1920 rue Baile
Modernism in Miniature: Points of View
September 22-January 8, 2012

Modernism in Miniature: Points of View explores the encounter between photography and architectural model-making between c.1920-1960. Curated by Davide Deriu, Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the University of Westminster, London, the exhibition focuses on model photography as a distinctive genre. It proposes an inextricable link with the so-called "model boom" and the explosion of mass media, where miniatures reached out to a wide public and, in some cases, acquired a cult status that has endured to this day.

Following a period of decline at the end of the 19th century, caused by the emphasis on drawing advocated by the Beaux-Arts education and by the advent of low-cost reproduction techniques, model-making gained new prominence in the early twentieth century. A key feature of architectural modernism, the miniature model became a popular tool of design education and practice. Its re-emergence, as well as the increasing use of photography as a documentary medium, is associated with the modernist turn towards objectivity, the search for ways to communicate ideas in three dimensions and the possibility for examining a project with the client 'in the round'.

From the 1920s-1960s, a new visual expression emerged from the encounter of these two practices. By transforming a model into a two-dimensional surface, the camera became instrumental in promoting an international architecture that favored "the effect of volume" over "the effect of mass." It allowed architectural pictures to be manipulated, harnessed and processed to multiple effect as well as disseminated widely through books and magazines.

The exhibition consists of five sections: Object and Image— examining the tools of communication for architect and client ; Art of Simulation— surveying composite photography and the quest for realistic simulation; Recurrence— presenting the circulation of imagery in books and magazines, which in some instances created architectural icons; Foundations— looking at post-war educational methods in influential schools of design; and Shifts in Perspective— considering how emerging visual media allowed for the visualization of a model from any viewpoint.

The exhibition is comprised of nearly 50 objects from the CCA Collection and archives and includes photographs of work by Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier, Carlo Mollino, J. J. P. Oud, Oscar Niemeyer, Lásló Moholy-Nagy, as well as images from the influential design schools the Bauhaus and the Vkhutemas.

The objects on display reveal a process that was far from uniform, from straight records of study models, to hyper-realist photomontages. The entrance to the exhibition — the Ante Room — includes a photograph of ‘two Soviet architects watching a model’, which introduces the differing relationships that spectators and architects have with the model. This space also includes the only physical model present in the exhibition, by Le Corbusier’s office. Over ninety small contact prints are displayed on the walls. In the Octagonal Gallery, vertical and horizontal vitrines contain working photography, publications and magazines.

By revisiting widespread and often neglected imagery, the exhibition provokes questions about the relationship between media in architectural culture and the specific impact of photography on the perception of the miniature.

Curator Davide Deriu is a graduate of the Politecnico di Torino, and the Bartlett, University College London, where he took his MSc and PhD. He previously taught at several architecture schools in the UK and has lectured extensively. His main research interests cross over the fields of architecture, urbanism, and visual culture, with a focus on the twentieth century. He has contributed to and co-edited various books and journals. He has also published a number of reviews and interviews in international magazines and has been a correspondent for the Italian monthly magazine, Il giornale dell’architettura. He is a committee member of the European Architectural History Network, for which he also acts as an editorial assistant. Previous awards include a postdoctoral fellowship from the Paul Mellon Centre in London and a visiting scholarship at the CCA, which laid the foundations for the exhibition Modernism in Miniature.

Exhibition Design The CCA curatorial team developed the conceptual approach to the design of the exhibition. Graphic design was by Montreal based firm 1218 A.

Daniil Fridman and Gleb Glushchenko with a model for the Building of Industry, Sverdlovsk, Soviet Union, 1930 1931. Unknown photographer. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal.

Unknown photographer. Project for an exhibition building for an All Union Palace of the Arts, Moscow, Soviet Union, designed by Victor Balikhin, Georgii Borisovskii, Vladimir Krinskii, V. Petrov, and I. Tikhomirova, model views, after 1930. Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montréal; Gift of Howard Schickler and David Lafaille.