Model Agency: Object Lessons and Theories

Guest Lecturer Dr. Mark Morris, Cornell University

Langlands & Bell, Penitentary (detail), 1994  / Today and Tomorrow, 1999.
Langlands & Bell, Penitentary (detail), 1994 / Today and Tomorrow, 1999.

This seminar examines the relationship between architecture and scale tracing the history of the model and its function within the discipline.

As digital applications replace handcrafted architectural models, questions emerge about the specificity and status of such objects. A series of famous twentieth-century models will be introduced opening up links with precedents ranging from religious artefacts to cinematic special effects props. Fundamentally, the seminar aims to question the mystique of studio and the creative process. While the course does provide new information, it also seeks to revisit what students already know from their own academic experiences.

Modernism’s particular favoritism of the model paralleled its ascendancy in architecture education and its recurrent feature in popular culture, yet the critical study of this has been largely ignored. Why did the Ecole des Beaux-Arts ban the model? How did the dissolution of the Bauhaus help bring it back? How much did Le Corbusier and Frank Lloyd Wright owe to Kindergarten lessons? Toys will be considered as catalysts for design projects. Narrative constructs based on the miniature, including films, should broaden conventional notions of size and signification. Questions regarding digital fabrication will organize future debate.



 -------> Reading Material


compact schedule

Friday June 1315:00h Sizing up the Problem
Monday June 1609:15hSketchy Claims
Tuesday June 1709:15hProblems of Representation
Wednesday June 1809:15hPopular Culture: Toys, Food + Film
Thursday June 1909:15hFabrication

All Class session in rm. 102, Kubus A

Participants need to register at:

Theorie und Geschichte der modernen Architektur, Hauptgebäude, Raum B004





Mark Morris teaches architectural design and theory at Cornell. Winner of an AIA Medal for Excellence in the Study of Architecture, he trained at the Ohio State University and took his doctorate at the London Consortium supported by a Royal Institute of British Architects grant. He previously taught at the Bartlett, Architectural Association and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. As a Research Fellow, he helped organize a summer school program at Tate Modern examining aspects of urban imagery and infrastructure. Mark’s essays have featured in several art and architecture periodicals including Frieze, Contemporary, Cabinet, AD and Domus. He is author of Models: Architecture and the Miniature (Wiley, 2006), Automatic Architecture: Designs from the Fourth Dimension (Globally Boundless, 2006), and hosts the iTunes podcast series, ‘Architecture on Air’. His research focuses on architectural models, scale and questions of representation. Other research interests include edible architecture, narrative, music as heuristic device and cycloramas. He is Post-Graduate Coordinator of M.Arch. II, M.A. and Ph.D. Programs at Cornell University’s College of Architecture, Art and Planning.