Interview with a random 1:50 model figure


The project is a thought experiment in a form an architectural project.

Everything starts with the question: “for whom do the architects design?“ and develops into a narrative that displays some of the problems of thoughtless design in architecture.

In these images, people are represented as the generic white scale model figures that architects use in their work. These figures are forced into “living and using” spaces that they don’t understand and can’t possibly relate to.

In the end, this project is meant to question the intent of the architects’ design and the consequences of indifference to public opinion and social patterns.


What prompted the project?

The idea was originally conceived for a competition and was later developed as a way of exploring the role of architecture in society, from the users’ point of view.

What contemporary projects induced you to think of contemporary practice as one which does not address the individual and society?

In the professional context, we are in contact with the production of projects for various places in the world and we get to see how the whole process is developed. Due to the dimension of the offices, the number of ongoing projects and the short amount of time available, there is a constant systematization of the work, to maximize production. In the end, the clients’ demands, the shaping of the buildings and the media exposure of the project end up consuming most of the time, leaving no opportunity for society and individuals to be addressed as an important project issue.

What role does representation play in articulating and speaking about the project?

Representation is how a project is communicated. It has the fundamental role of conveying a message in such a way that the viewer completely understands the work. The visual representation is always the hardest and subjective tool, as a project is always a set of intentions that, only in a certain, can it be successfully communicated.

What defined the language of representation of the project?

The option for this type of illustrations is related to its ability to display certain elements with a high level of detail, while allowing people to envision something more on the same image. From the get go, our goal was to get the viewer to become part of the process. The only way was to create images that had recognizable things and, at the same time, had a surrealist touch to them, so that people could imagine what else could happen in that reality.

What dictated the use of the drawing as primary medium though which to articulate the speculation?

Drawing has a liberating feel to it. From all the communication means it is the one that allows the most malleability of creation in the least amount of time. People can explore their thoughts and instantly see how they look like. At the same time, drawings can be explored in multiple ways, with different mediums and can it be transformed at any time. Particularly in the beginning, when the ideas are more abstract, it facilitates the process of research.

Why not explore the space of the model so associated with the 1:50 scale model?

In the beginning that was the idea. Nevertheless, when we started to make the first tests while using a realistic base, we realized that the closer we were to reality, the harder would it be to escape it. By showing a real model with real figures, everyone would only see something that they already know. It would be impossible to imagine those same figures as characters that live in and use that space. The option for that type of illustration was to find something between real architectural models and society itself. Those images can show a world that is neither, making it easier to imagine the transition and the superposition of both.

What is your take on colour? How was this implemented within the images? What was the desired effect?

The used colours enhance the effect of creating a new world between the models and reality. That alternative reality required alternative colours. Hence, every colour except the tones of the model figures was changed to show something completely different. We tried to stay within the primary colours so that the image itself wouldn’t become too charged in terms of information. Everything was made to be easily understood while remaining dreamlike. The purpose was to have the viewer only being carried way into this alternative world, where they can recognize the general indifference of architects towards society.

How and to what extent has this project influenced how you operate as architects?

In the last decades the job of the architect has become increasingly more productive in an incessant search for higher efficiency. Evidently, we would like to be more interventive towards society and have the opportunity to work directly with the people that are going to use the spaces we design but, in our context, it is very unlikely that most offices will change their priorities.

What would you say is the architects most important tool?

If we consider that architects work for society and should devise strategies that improve life, then creativity should be the most important tool. Whatever comes after the thinking process, it is only with creativity that something new and meaningful can appear.


Ana Rita Gomes and Francisco João Silva are both architects from Porto, working in Paris. Ana Rita is currently working at the Austrian based office Baumschlager Eberle Architekten while Francisco works at Sou Fujimoto Architects.