Architects, professors, clients, and critics do not typically agree on much, but if there is one aspect of design discourse they can reach consensus on, it is this: great architectural models and sketches can often be as awe-inspiring as the buildings that evolve from them. From the tiniest maquettes to the most epic dioramas, models in particular can serve to communicate the essence of a project more succinctly than almost any other medium, and no firm understands this better than Oregon-based studio Allied Works Architecture.
Rendering of the “Case Work” installation. Courtesy Allied Works Architecture.
The globally renowned practice created “Case Work,” a comprehensive collection of explorative models and drawings behind some of their most famous buildings. On view at the Denver Art Museum and Portland Art Museum from January 2016 until last month, the immersive exhibition was curated by Dean Sobel of the Clyfford Still Museum with support from the Graham Foundation.
"Conjoined Landscapes", 2014. Black walnut, brass tubes and rods, acrylic. Inspiration for a New York museum. Courtesy Allied Works Architecture.
The sculptural pieces, which Allied Works calls “unique manifestations of investigative process,” are artworks in their own right, complete with their own bespoke plinths and containers for viewing. They have been constructed with a sumptuous palette of materials and a high level of craftsmanship, carefully composed as scalable concepts for urban landmarks around the globe.
Here, we look at seven models and drawings produced by the firm together with the buildings they helped to shape. An exhibition in conceptual artistry, each artifact telling its own story about real-world architecture:
1. A Gathering of Resonant Vessels — inspiration for the National Music Centre of Canada
A deliciously smooth cube of concrete is dissected into eight volumes, with portions of each scooped out and lined with salvaged brass. These carved voids and incisions are clearly visible within renders for Allied Works’ competition-winning entry for the National Music Centre of Canada, currently under construction and set to open in 2016.
2. Embedded Space — inspiration for the Clyfford Still Museum
This full-scale architectural element — a thick beam of reclaimed Douglas fir — is carved away to explore the potential spaces to be ‘excavated’ within the Clyfford Still Museum. Dedicated to one of America’s most famous abstract-expressionist painters, the institution opened in 2011 and stands alongside Allied Works’ host destination for their exhibition, Daniel Libeskind's Denver Art Museum.
3. Quilted Landscape – inspiration for the Wisconsin Art Preserve
A patchwork of textured timber planes — including slices of densely packed colored pencils — represents the complex mix of landscapes surrounding the Wisconsin Art Preserve, including community garden, wetlands, and cemetery. Sculpted ceramic planes formed inspiration for the vaulted roofs seen in the renders of Allied Works’ museum and workshop, a competition finalist in 2010.
4. Braid of Structure and Light — inspiration for the Museé National des Beaux-arts du Québec
A simple, carefully shaded concept sketch in charcoal on vellum parchment gives a hint of the spatial flow and undulating forms that culminated in the proposal for the National Museum of Fine Arts in Québec City.
5. Lifted Earth — inspiration for the Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum
The distinctive layering of 3D-printed polymer upon timber comes together in a spiraling relief that evokes natural topography, ultimately translating into the curving forms of the Ohio Veterans Memorial and Museum in Columbus. The sweeping cultural institution is currently under construction. Expected completion date is 2016.
6. A Continuous Line — inspiration for the Duchess County Residence Guest House
The cascading path of this charcoal line upon trace can be seen translated into the structural steel frame of the guest house of the Duchess County Estate. The house was completed in 2007, nestled within a forest of oak, hickory, and birch on the eastern edge of the state of New York.
7. Boundless Figure — inspiration for the Duchess County Residence Main House
Translucent blocks of cast resin and acrylic are interspersed with glimmering slices of polished brass, providing a sharp contrast with the charred pine site model. This continuous chain of volumes was realized at full scale within the main house of the Duchess County Estate.