Continuing my research on materiality and junks I have found a quite interresting book of photographies by Thomas Demand, edited by Joseph Grima ‘Model Studies I,II’. For once Thomas demand is commissioned to picture models that are not his. It ends up being a quite informal series of close-up photographies of what seems to be architectural model of students. They look like my models – and as a matter of fact, they are quite shitty.

TD-Model Studies I,II - 01

TD-Model Studies I,II - 02

TD-Model Studies I,II - 03

TD-Model Studies I,II - 04


I have taken the book out of the library, it is in the studio if you want to look at it.

But ultimately, while i have to say the book isn’t saying much of Thomas Demand process, there is a very interesting short piece of text by Grima at the end, called ‘… au fond, le papier, le papier, le papier‘ [extracted from a text by Derrida in Cahiers de Mediologie, no.4, 1997].

I havent re-written the whole text but here what it says – in what is, for me, the most interesting part :

[…] This ambivalent attitude toward paper’s value makes it a somewhat odd choice for the architectural model maker. In contrast to the rigid polystyrene foam – actually meant to be used as insulation – popularised by OMA and other primarily dutch firm as an architectonic design material in the 1990s, considerable effort is required for paper to be brought to a 3 dimensional form. Foam is preferred by the pragmatist who wants to commit the least possible amount of time and effort to the production of a volume in order to expediently move on to the next iteration : the hot wire operates by subtraction, slicing away chunks until the desired formation is achieved. By contrast, wood, and more recently, 3D printed polymers are the chosen materials of architects who want to seduce their clients into signing a big check: the sheer beauty of these materials’ precision and detail creates seductives models, distracting the viewer from any potential doubts about the deign itself. 

Except for in extreme case, paper isn’t effortless nor seductive: it is the material of the bricoleur. Not only is patience required to make it realise a stable form, but it carries the stigma of trashiness; furthermore, it is far from robust and tends to reveal its original form, rapidly buckling and warping under the effects of humidity or mistreatment ( which it all but invites, given its valuelessness). 

The paper model demands effort during production, and rewards you by encouraging you to discard it and move on to something else. As times passes, it has become an even less attractive proposition; the paper model’s decline runs parallel to the material’s ebb in the general trend toward the dream of the ‘paperless office‘. On the efficiency spectrum, the paper model occupies the opposite pole from the BIM, or Building Information Modeling – a form of integrated parametric design software that allows alterations to be propagated globally across a virtual model, automatically and continuously, eliminating the need to rethink or redraw each individual system to accommodate changes. Just as capitalism yearns for the non-committal fluidity of the marketplace to encompass every human interaction, BIM aspires to an ideal of absolute fluidity in architecture, in which the immaterial model of the building continually morphs exerting pressure on it from all directions – until the moment when it must inevitably and abruptly freeze, solidifying definitively into architecture. Not so the paper model which presupposes an idea, a decisions and then a commitment.[…]

To me, for my project, it is a comment of a really great value because it helps linking together an artistic technic and process with our down-to-earth real architectural life and especially, at least it is how i see it – a real economy. In a way, the text suggests that from a material results a technic in which is embedded a political statement. By using only paper, Thomas demand has taken a counter-direction from what architecture seems to be more and more about : fluidity, speed, consumption, advertising. That is somehow what I claim my project was about when i justify my images for the december jury as questioning the always more real architectural images that are imposing the reality of the perfect contructed rendering over the existing. The same way Grima talks about wood and 3d printed polymers models.

the raw – physical and economic – value of the paper (the basic material of the displayed models) is at the end what triggers its value within the architectural discourse. And i do think that for me to continue working with scraps in order to creates realities is somehow equally valuable in order to question the production of contemporary architectural images.

What misses here though, is the production of a narratives. The models in the book creates narratives, but through abstraction. And Demand creates narrative through the re-creation of existing scenes (in which is embedded an whole set of collective references) that he questions through the perfect-but-at-the-end-not-that-perfect re-modeling in paper of these scenes.

What i am using is a more informal materials – i dont use a particular one, nor am i trying to creates abstraction through photographing them. I am using leftovers, scraps, found, cheaply bought, pieces of paper, wood, plastic, foam, cables, steel,… i think by not choosing a specific one is somehow refusing the constraint of the knowledge of this material and working uniquely in associations. acetate = water, brown torn paper = earth, plaster + black paint = marble, cardboard = concrete…

Why holes ? partly because they are useful to reveal what is under things, the technical – the support, the infrastructure – both holes and technical stuff is somehow what is absent from the architectural discourse – and tend to be therefore the concern of others but the architect. Which is quite what the following photo of Onorato and Krebs reveals (and this one isn’t faked):


So in a way holes is my first approach to ‘reveal the other real’ while making it with scraps is the technic supporting fully the ‘other real’. But there need to be other way of revealing and the holes needs to be part of a larger series of models (ultimately photograph) scratching architecture, putting forward its economy, its infrastructure, its junk spaces, its leftovers,…

Modelling corrugated steel might be a quite good one. For the jury i want to model a broken marble slabs with pipes running under, and the steel and concrete structure as well, the insulation,… (as captioned below). Also modelling architectural details that you usually dont see might be interesting (pipes, structural nodes, or irregularities that you try to hide). And each details would have to be technically supported by drawings perhaps.


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2 Responses to Researchs

  1. Natasha Sandmeier says:

    What a strange book you found – I’ll definitely have a look on Friday.
    Is the white photo from the Zaha building in Baku? It’s amazing.

    As for the writing, I highly recommend you bring it into your book. What you’ve written is interesting, as is the text excerpt you included. Am interested to know more about the marble/sheet metal combo model? Sounds crazy. What is the detail from? I guess, with the photos, we know a bit more about the context of the installation. If you invent this one, perhaps also you need to fake the unbroken space around it.

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