Dilapidated Dollhouses: A Look at Philadelphia’s Local Architecture in 1:12 Scale

Gabrielle Golenda Gabrielle Golenda

“I can’t paint, I can’t take photographs, but I can make little buildings out of paper… so here I am, working in that way.” So says Philadelphia-based artist Drew Leshko, who might just be an architecture modelmaker disguised as a sculptor. His latest series of fastidiously handcrafted 1:12-scale façades is on view now in the group exhibition The City: Real and Imagined. It’s something of a homegrown affair at Philly’s Painted Bride Art Center, given the source material: Leshko’s pieces are detailed documentary studies of buildings in his neighborhood of Kensington in order to investigate how the texture of a place reflects urban decay and growth — in a word, gentrification, but distilled into objets d’art.



All images via Drew Leshko / Paradigm Gallery

Leshko works in what is known as standard dollhouse spec, or a 1:12 scale. He works from direct observation, photographs, and Google Street View, painstakingly recreating buildings that strike him as interesting, often while he bikes around the neighborhood (a methodology that offers the best of both worlds, i.e. walking and driving). He is particularly attracted to buildings that he thinks will not have have a much longer lifespan. From that perspective, he views his work as an archiving project of dilapidated buildings in Philadelphia.


He also likes buildings that have had decay that has gone on for years, which showcase all the “weird decisions” that were made over the years (i.e. sloppy cable cords connecting from the roof to the ground floor). Typically, accumulation of these overlooked details and minutiae – like acid rain or rust – are overlooked. Leshko hopes when viewers see those decaying details alongside the “quick fixes and simple solutions,” they question how buildings were made and how they are made now. Put simply, he wishes for viewers to develop their own opinion of these “adornments,” for on-lookers to think about when and why those changes where made.


© Michael Smith Architects

© Michael Smith Architects

The City: Real and Imagined is on view at Painted Bride Art Center through March 7. Drew Leshko is represented by Paradigm Gallary + Studio in Philadelphia.

Hat-tip to Artnau

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