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10th Sep 2022

Architect Africa Online

Africa's Leading Architecture Aggregator

Book of Models

Manuel Aires Mateus, Francisco Aires Mateus; edited by Camilla De Camilli; photographs by Marco Cappelletti

ArchiTangle, March 2021

Flexicover | 9-1/2 x 12-1/4 inches | 224 pages | 200 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3966800112 | 48€


This poetic and minimalist anthology presents 10 years of heritage of AIRES MATEUS design studios at the Accademia di Archittettura di Mendrisio in Switzerland. 100 images of largescale models built by students of AIRES MATEUS are brought together to create a family portrait. Each staged model is pictured with the essential schemes necessary to understand the volumes portrayed. Francisco and Manuel Aires Mateus’ many years of experience in pedagogy and the use of models in practice are brought together in a manifesto which precedes the anthology of images. The importance of the model in the formation of architectural ideas and throughout the design process, as well as its potency as a standalone statement are highlighted. The evocative photographs in this book reveal abstract spaces produced by artistic interpretations of light, volume and materiality. 


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Since 2010, brothers Manuel and Francisco Aires Mateus, partners in Lisbon’s Aires Mateus, have been conducting design studios together at Mendrisio Academy of Architecture in Switzerland. Ten years of their teaching and the efforts of their students is compiled in Book of Models through 100 photographs, most taken by Marco Cappelletti, and small drawings accompanying them. Simply put, the book is a delight for people who appreciate architecture models, though it’s not always clear what is being depicted in them.

The book starts with two pages of text — the only writing in the whole 224-page book — that lay out some of Manuel’s and Francisco’s motives but also heighten the ambiguity of the models that follow. They indicate that the models are often very big (“up to three metres”) and serve to capture “the moment when ideas are poured into moulds and physically born.” Furthermore, the pair “feeds the studio with references from ancient times to modernity, insisting on the importance of memory and experience.” The result? “These models are experiments on the essence of space and they are open inspirations.”

The 100 photographs and drawings follow, taking up more than 200 pages. The models are presented in order, from 2010 to 2019, though there is no discernible evolution of the forms, spaces, or materials; their beauty is consistent from beginning to end. Much of that beauty must be attributed to Cappelletti, who has worked with Manuel and Francisco on documenting the models since 2010. The colophon indicates some photos not attributed to him, though his creative direction ensured those didn’t depart from the format he established. At the back of the book is a grid of the photographs — hinted at by the book’s partial wrapper — that credits the student and indicates the material(s), the location of the project, and the year created.
Given that Book of Models is a collection of study models photographed in close-up and sometimes immersively, it will no doubt appeal to students of architecture as well as the young architects who build models for their bosses with familiar names. Given that the brothers’ studio in Mendrisio is focused on “experimenting and verifying the project itself through models on a large scale and different materials,” the diversity of ideas found in the models is extraordinary. The presentation of models-in-voids reminds me of Hisao Suzuki’s photographs in the Supermodels issue of A+U, but it’s hard to look at the models Suzuki captured without also seeing the actual buildings that would follow. Book of Models, on the other hand, is all about potential, requiring as much imagination on the part of readers to interpret them as that which went into making them.

* Syndicated content from A Daily Dose of Architecture Books.


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