Exhibiting Crafting Architecture

Hidden away on a small alley off Third Street in the heart of SOMA’s museum district in San Francisco lies a curious exhibition. The handmade and digitally fabricated architectural models and mockups displayed in this temporary space aim to highlight the crucial role of craft in the architectural design process and their importance in communicating design concepts and strategies.

Crafting Architecture: Concept, Sketch, Model is the second in a series of pop-up exhibitions organised by theMuseum of Craft and Design featuring works by twenty or so local architects and landscape architects.

‘The works affirm the importance and ingenuity of handcrafted and digitally fabricated architecture models and mockups,’ explains JoAnn Edwards, executive director of the museum, ‘which help develop the built environment around us and demonstrate the craft of architecture.’

Architects create scaled models, employing specific materials such as wood, paper, plastic and metal to communicate spatial concepts and design intentions. Each material embodies a series of ideas, moods and functions, which helps to both convey purpose and to inform the client. Architectural elements such as site, program, light, circulation and façade are developed and manipulated through the craft and presentation of models.

In an increasingly computer dependent field, however, physical architectural models tend to be more and more a lost form of communicating design ideas, replaced by three-dimensional computer models.

It is often the case that clients have a difficult time imagining a ‘livable’ building by the two-dimensional visuals of the often sharp-edged, ‘sterile’ computer drawings. That is the reason why even with the ever-advancing computer modelling programs and simulations, some architectural firms still prefer the ‘traditional’ craft of physical models alongside computer models.

These models provide a much clearer channel of communication as the clients can pick up, rotate and peek into these scaled miniatures of their actual buildings.

Crafting Architecture works well in highlighting the importance of physical models in not only communicating design intentions to clients, but also in resolving and crafting complicated design details which may otherwise be overlooked.

This is what some of the exhibitors had to say:

Cary Bernstein Architect: ‘Since the building and its contiguous site features weave up, down and around the terrain, the project defies reduction to a single image or formalist identity: it is construction of, in and on the landscape.’

Surfacedesign Inc: ‘This study offers locals a fresh take on the often over-looked and beautiful coastal bluffs and offers research potential in ameliorating highway sound walls with beautiful natural forms.’

Faulders Studio: ‘BAMscape is a free-form seating environment commissioned by the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive. Installed for a two-year duration (2010-2012), It provides a new centrepiece within the museum’s large 6,692 sq ft central atrium gallery, and merges disciplines of art, architecture, and furniture.’

Guest blogger Leila Bijan, an architect and consultant at Swatt Miers Architects.

Crafting Architecture: Concept, Sketch, Model has been curated by the Museum of Craft and Design and will run until 29 May 2011.

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