Journal Article

This Year's Model

Alexandra Lange

in Journal of Design History

Published on behalf of Design History Society

Volume 19, issue 3, pages 233-248
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 0952-4649
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1741-7279 | DOI:
This Year's Model

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  • History of Art
  • Art Forms
  • Industrial and Commercial Art
  • Art Styles


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The scale model has always performed a dual communicative function: to demonstrate revolutions in building technology and to express to a client why he should take a chance on the latest material, the newest form. The post-war building boom in the USA was accompanied by a model boom, as architects began to capitalize on interwar and wartime technological advances, as well as a profusion of deep-pocketed industrial clients. In this article, I focus on a set of postwar American architects and designers—Gordon Bunshaft, Florence Knoll, Eero Saarinen, as well as friends and collaborators Charles and Ray Eames and Eliot Noyes—who found that the scale model was no longer enough for corporate work. To communicate with their clients, who needed to be led towards the latest architectural form; to communicate with their contractors, required to construct these brand new assemblies and to communicate with the public, who needed to be educated about modernism, they needed to expand the definition of model. These designers all began to present their work, the latest in American modern design and architecture, in new ways, including life-size mock-ups, abstract paste-ups, animated films and through the publicity given to the husband-and-wife design team.

Keywords: architecture; corporate identity; Eames, Charles and Ray; interior design; Saarinen, Eero; USA

Journal Article.  9180 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Art ; Art Forms ; Industrial and Commercial Art ; Art Styles

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