Design and architecture studio Piercy & Company has opened a free exhibition of architectural models designed by its in-house studio, which uses sound, smell and mechanical mechanisms to explore how the idea behind the building is communicated.
The models presented relate to the practice’s 20-year interest in exploring “tactile, sensory and experiential”. The models themselves were made over a five-year period, all related to projects the studio worked on — some built, some not — and are a self-funded “passion project,” director Stuart Pearcy explains.
“We’ve always loved mechanisms like cuckoo clocks, and we’ve always been interested in how the mechanisms work in the models,” Percy says. “So, you can stand in front of the model, and it will tell you the whole story about the building—that was the dream,” he adds.
A range of different technologies are used across the seven gallery models. Materials include stucco, black chromate, birch plywood, aluminum, photo-etched brass, laser-cut white perspex, and walnut veneer—but the most exotic elements come from the integration of loudspeakers, sprinklers, LED strips, motors, and projection map films.
But Percy also hopes the exhibit will be of interest to children and “evoke a universal, childish sense of wonder.” He adds that the models’ references—a doll’s house, a cuckoo clock, and a model railroad—are examples of the “mysterious allure of things with their own miniature life”.
The first “models,” of a family home called Steel House, tell the technical story of how the experimental modular building was fabricated off-site and transported to a restricted urban site, and the story of the home: the sound of an alarm clock, children’s voices, puffs of smoke from the chimney and the smell of cinnamon coming from the spray. A typical church in Ealing is recorded by the opening of the door, the footsteps, and the sound of the choir giving off the scent of cedar incense.
Projection-mapped film footage shows how a public space within an office building can function “like our great museums and galleries,” say Percy and Associates. This is evident in fashion models where shots from Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project at Tate Modern, London are incorporated into the architectural model.
Elsewhere, a model of two terraced Georgian villas splits like a cantilevered metal toolbox to reveal the members’ club housed within the listed building. Another model highlights the geometry behind the composition of buildings, which is no longer present in architectural drawings as digital tools have replaced hand-drawn approaches.
Commenting on how architecture is first experienced online through limited photography, Flythrough “portrays this phenomenon by removing everything outside the realm of photography,” says Piercy & Co. A small camera pans across the architectural model in the gallery, projecting the corresponding view onto a nearby wall.
The exhibition also includes a twenty-minute film that shows the studio’s designers at work on models and an illuminated wood cabinet with model-making tools. This celebrates the range of design skills available to the studio along with the increasing use of virtual reality tools across the industry.
The exhibition takes place in a building where Piercy & Co. operates. Fiona Neal, director of the interiors studio at Piercy & Co, says the state of their mid-build “between renovation and refurbishment—makes a perfect counterpoint to the models.”
Lighting for the exhibition is designed at 18 degrees, and Wolfe Hall’s graphic identity is built around a custom typeface inspired by modular building methods. “CAD-guided” slim-weight geometric letter shapes are overlaid with the shapes in the original model drawings.
The models are free to enter and open until 11th December at Jahn Court, Regent Quarter, 34 York Way, London N1 9AB. All photos by Andy Stagg.