During this period, the proliferation and status of the architectural scale model grew signiﬁcantly. It not only
complemented drawings, but also frequently became the primary method for the communication of design ideas in architecture. In particular, specialized models were made as part of the design process for major building commissions. Two such important examples were the domes of the Florence Cathedral by Filippo Brunelleschi and St Peter’s in Rome by Michelangelo. Brunelleschi primarily designed in three dimensions and used models extensively – whether as elaborate-scale wooden constructions for the beneﬁt of the client, or quickly carved in wax or even turnips to explain structural ideas to the builders. Domenico Cresti di Passignano’sMichelangelo Shows Pope Paul IV the Model of the Dome of St Peter’s ,1620, perhaps best illustrates the importance of the model within this period. This painting depicts the architect using a large wooden model of St Peter’s Basilica to explain and sell
his ideas to his papal client. The signiﬁcance of the model as a method of communication is evident in the way the model is represented in the painting. The high quality of workmanship apparent shows how the proposed building could exist at full size.
The model is the focal point of a conversation between the architect and the client, who will evaluate the design from it. This painting also signals a change in the function of the model during this period, from a vehicle for exploration to a descriptive tool used to explain a design.
Inspired by Antonio da Sangallo’s huge wooden model of St Peter’s in Rome – started in 1539 and, at of the full size,
taking several years to construct – Sir Christopher Wren commissioned the Great Model for his design for St Paul’s in London. Built between 1673 and 1674 by a team of craftsmen, the Great Model was accurately made at a scale of 1 inch to 18 inches, enabling the client and prospective builders to walk inside the model’s 18-foot-high interior. However, it is evident that Wren considered the model to be for the beneﬁt of the client and builders rather than for his own design-development purposes as he wrote: ‘a good and careful large model [should be constructed for] the encouragement and satisfaction of the benefactors who comprehend not designs and drafts on paper.’
Prior to the eighteenth century, architectural models were primarily produced as either descriptive or evaluative devices, or occasionally as full-scale prefabrications used to predict structural behaviour. However, during the mid-eighteenth century, and coincident with the newly founded technical colleges, the use of physical models for teaching purposes became more widespread. Such models represented the more complex structural and constructional conditions that this period ushered in, and hey were used in the education of technical students and building tradesmen. Parallel to this development, architectural and scientiﬁc models quickly populated the displays of museums and collections in different countries around the world. This dissemination also began to have considerable impact on a wider culture as Nick Hopwood and Soraya de Chadarevian have explained,
‘models were demonstrated in popular lectures and above all at the international age shows of the capital and empire that followed the Great Exhibition of 1851. Many of the exhibits representing manufactures, the sciences, and the arts were models, which here came together most prominently as a class.’A major resurgence in the use of the model as a design tool in architecture can also be traced to the start of the twentieth century – for example in the work of Walter Gropius, who, in founding the Bauhaus in 1919, was keen to resist the prevailing preoccupation with paper designs in favour of physical models to explore and test ideas quickly, an impetus reﬂected in the extensive use of models in the De Stijl period and elsewhere.