Small Talk Tag: Architectural Works

Small Cities in a Big World

Miniature Cities

This falls into the category of “don’t breathe” or “we thought houses of cards were difficult;” these artists have taken it to the next level. In 2010, artist Peter Root spent 40 hours standing 100,000 staples on end to build a miniature city inspired by New York City that he called Ephemicropolis.

Stan Munro builds famous landmarks out of toothpicks. What started as a 5th grade art project turned into Toothpick City. The City features more than 50 famous structures from around the world (the Space Needle, Eiffel Tower, Golden Gate Bridge) made out of six million toothpicks and 170 liters of glue. Now on permanent exhibit in a Spanish museum, Munro has continued crafting, including Toothpick City 2 at the Museum of Science and Technology in Syracuse, New York.

Artist Meschac Gaba made a large-scale model of a fantasy city featuring landmark buildings from around the world (Taj Mahal, Sydney Opera House, Empire State Building). Seems simple enough, right? What if I told you it was all made out of sugar? Meschac Gaba: Sweetness includes 600 buildings, measures 30 feet by 20 feet, and took two years to build. Talk about sweet!
Photo: Toothpick City 2, MOST.org.

Randy Hage’s New York Storefronts

Randy Hage

For decades, artists have been inspired by the bright lights and bustling streets of New York City. Visual artist Randy Hage is no exception. Hage spent 25 years creating sets, models, and props for television and film before a trip to New York in the late 1990s led him to his next project.

Originally photographing cast iron facades for future art projects, he became entranced by storefronts and the stories that they told. On subsequent trips, he found these ‘mom and pop’ stores disappearing, pushed out by big box stores and rising rents. So, he decided to recreate them in 1:12 scale as a permanent reminder of the establishments and the people who lived in them and served their community.

The results have blown us away, and we challenge you to determine which is the original and which is the miniature.
Photo: NYC Bodega in Miniature, courtesy of Randy Hage.

American Folk Art in Miniature

american folk art

A visit to the fine-scale miniature galleries at The National Museum of Toys and Miniatures is a trip around the world and through time. Today, our trip takes us to 1830s central New York. Therese Bahl and Jim Ison’s “A Tribute to the Classic Period of American Folk Art” is based on the parlor and hall of the Ezra Carroll House. Formerly in East Springfield, New York, the home was demolished in 1957, but not before the murals were salvaged and preserved at the Winterthur Museum and The Farmers’ Museum (a sigh of relief!). The murals are their own story; we’ll cover them in an upcoming post!

In addition to making miniatures, Bahl teaches early American decorative art and is a professed admirer of American folk artists Peter Ompir and Rufus Porter. Ison specializes in Shaker and Windsor furniture dating from 1650 to 1850. Their 1989 partnership was picture perfect, producing this parlor with a fireplace and two windows alongside an entryway with a staircase and two doors.

The Little Big Apple

Panorama of the City of New York

New York City’s tall buildings and busy sidewalks make it easy for the average pedestrian to feel, well, pretty small. Visitors to the Queens Museum, however, have the chance to reverse that feeling by taking a trip to the Panorama of the City of New York. The panorama depicts all five NYC boroughs in super-small 1:1200 scale (one inch equals 100 feet).

Originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, the panorama was billed as an indoor helicopter tour of New York (the helicopters were actually plastic cars on a rolling track.) Since then, it has been updated several times (the last being in 1992) to reflect new skyscrapers, parks, and other new features. In 2009, the Queens Museum launched an Adopt-a-Building program to help preserve the model and bring it up to date yet again. At $50 a building, that’s the cheapest rent in NYC!
Photo by Scott Rudd, courtesy of Queens Museum.

A Rare Gem: The Architecture of the Art Deco Jewelry Store

art deco interiors

When Mulvaney & Rogers were approached to create a work for T/m’s collection, they were immediately drawn to the decadent styling of art deco interiors. Full-size art deco architectural motifs were a blend of patterns from ancient cultures in Mesoamerica and Egypt and machine-age geometry. For their miniature jewelry store interior, the artists gathered inspiration from the Netherland Plaza Hotel in Cincinnati, the transatlantic ocean liner Normandie, and the Nieman Marcus department store in San Francisco.

Mulvaney & Rogers’s room setting is a luxurious two-story interior complete with gilded railings and doors, a jewel-shaped display case, and richly adorned walls. From the faux-painted marble floor to the golden domed ceiling, every detail reflects Art Deco design. Mulvaney & Rogers also designed the interior and exterior lighting to give the appearance that it is dusk outside. Up next: jewelry shopping.

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