Super Models
or: Some (Scale) Models That I'd Like to Know
Project Process/Documentation:

The essay "Super Models or: Some (Scale) Models That I'd Like to Know" received the 2014 Core77 Design Award for Writing & Commentary in the student category.

The essay "Super Models or: Some (Scale) Models That I'd Like to Know" is available on Medium.

A version of the essay "Super Models or: Some (Scale) Models That I'd Like to Know" was published in the Spring, 2014 issue of the architecture magazine SAN ROCCO, with additional material co-written with Erin Besler.

Erasure. Private Residence House Frame, Flax Ln, Levittown, NY (1:56 Scale Model).

Super Models or: Some (Scale) Models That I’d Like to Know is a project about scale models — mostly architectural scale models. At stake in this investigation is authorship; this project explores the tension between our idea of the authorship in the design of a structure or a space, and the authorship in fabricating a scale model of that structure or space.

The architectural scale model is generally a means to attain approval for work to be carried out on behalf of a client by an architect. This project begins by researching instances in which scale models have taken on other roles or where the embedded motives of the scale model have been less apparent. More than simply a tool of rhetoric, this project regards the scale model miniature as an embedded set of narratives and motives. This project focuses not only on the moment of encounter with the scale model, but on the act of fabrication of the scale model, as one of interpretation, performance, and projection.

This project has identified erasure, obfuscation, and accuracy as productive sites embedded within the process of making and the act of projection inherent to the scale model, with the goal of interrogating how scale models are read and misread as objects of critical design.

The first productive site investigates erasure as a tool to question the underlying assumptions of the scale model as a physical manifestation of a conceptual process. In any shift of scale, some level of abstraction is necessary to accommodate the change in resolution that a given material demands. The scale model, in this case, is derived from floor plans for the archetypal Levittown Cape Cod single–family house, one of the first housing developments to emerge in America following World War II. This scale model insists on maintaining an obstinate faithfulness in depicting the structure of the building itself — the construction of which provides stability for the house at full–scale, but in scaling faithfully, makes for an incredibly fragile scale model. In erasing the exterior facade, this object points to the ambiguity of the scale model beyond the accuracies that it presents — is this a scale model of a house frame, or a house frame of a scale model?

Obfuscation. Fumigation Tent for a Scale Model of a Building That is Being Simultaneously Fumigated (1:82 Scale Model).

The second productive site, obfuscation, investigates events and conditions that happen within the built environment but are not commonly reflected in the scale model. What are the implications in the meaning of the scale model if landscapers tend to the lawn and shrubbery each week, both in reality and in the scaled environment? If the street surface is repaved, both in reality and in the scale model? Or if the exterminators fumigate both the building and the scale model simultaneously? Thus, a termite tent designed to fit the scale model in the event that the building should ever need to be fumigated — the aspiration being to maintain the exactitude of rendering, even for alterations as fleeting as a couple of days. The project identifies obfuscation as a tendency inherent in all scale models — in the sense of willful ambiguity — in its insistence on a very particular set of formal accuracies, the scale model leaves ambiguous all other relationships that can be read into it.

Accuracy. Sanders House (In Google Earth), Carroll Ave, Los Angeles (1:222 & 1:132 Scale Models)

The final productive site investigates the concept of accuracy as it relates to consumer–oriented digital 3D modeling tools in order to question the outcome of the very particular formal accuracies upon which the scale model insists. The investigation process consisted of using a ubiquitous Earth browser application to acquire simulated human eye–level snapshots of shadow interpolated 3D environments derived from satellite imagery, then using consumer–oriented 3D modeling software carefully and precisely model each spacial deformity and visual approximation. The selected site for modeling is the Sanders House in the Angelino Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles, a structure made iconic as a filming location for the music video "Michael Jackson's Thriller" (dir. John Landis, 1983).

Accuracy. Sanders House (Translation across Google Street View, Google Earth and Trimble SketchUp), Carroll Ave, Los Angeles

In March, 2013, Google announced its intention to shut–down the workflow process that allowed the general public to author and submit 3D digital models for publication on the "3D Buildings" layer of the Google Earth earth browser application (3D Modeling for Google Earth & Maps — Google Groups). The company will remove all previously visible, publicly generated digital models from the browser in the near future. The decision sparked a great deal of discussion across online digital modeling communities, with opinions decidedly mixed. This scale model of the algorithmically generated site, modeled as if it were a real structure and shared to Trimble 3D Warehouse, proposes a critical response to the company's decision to close the pipeline between the earth browser rendering and the wealth of publicly available, user generated models that it offered. As Google brings more privatized companies into its digital model workflow and improves the photogrammetry interpolation process, these messy, geometrical abstractions will disappear from the simulation. Therefore, this response also offers a method for cataloging this shift in the constantly evolving digital landscape.

Installation view.

Installation view.

Brief: Lab Thesis
Class: MDP–606 Lab Thesis
Advisors: Tim Durfee, Ben Hooker
Adjunct Advisors: Garnet Hertz, David Leonard
Writing Advisor: Jane McFadden
Term: Fall, 2013

Media Design Practices | Lab 2014
Art Center College of Design | Pasadena, CA