Recyclable exhibition shrinks New Zealand's famous buildings

A new exhibition in Auckland is encouraging New Zealanders to get up close and personal with some familiar, tiny landmarks. 

"This is a great way for people to kind of get an understanding of how these buildings are put together, how they sit in their neighbourhoods, how they sit in their landscape contexts,"  Professor Andrew Barrie from the University of Auckland School of Architecture and Planning told Newshub.

In Context celebrates 20 years of RTA Studio, the architecture firm behind Karangahape Road's Ironbank, Freemans Bay School and many more buildings up and down the country.

On display at Ponsonby's Objectspace until September 7, it has transformed thirty buildings from RTA into paper miniatures. 

Schools are put with schools, and baches with baches, to create an imaginary RTA-designed map of New Zealand.

"It makes you think about the places that we live, and walk through, and what we think about the buildings that surround us. Do we love them? Do we hate them? Do we feel like they're good to use?" Objectspace's director Kim Paton told Newshub.

The key to getting people to look up and understand the buildings around them is simple - shrink the buildings so they can look down on them instead.

Prof Barrie said the bold form and strong use of colour is what makes RTA's buildings appealing to the general public.

"It's very easy for architects to make architecture that appeals to other architects, but this is work that really is interesting to people right across the social spectrum."  

He's been overseeing the exhibition and said physical models communicate ideas better than a sketch.

"Models don't have any secrets. You can see the whole thing. If you make a sketch there's always some bit round the back that you don't include in the drawing, whereas a model you have to show the whole thing."

Making miniatures is one of the first things Prof Barrie's students learn. Forty-five of his students took around 4,000 hours over nine months to design and assemble the 10-metre-long diorama.

"They showed a lot of grit, the students putting the projects together. It takes a lot of determination to keep working on something this complicated," Prof Barrie said.

That grit was needed in the time-consuming process.

"It's an interactive process. It takes a bunch of times to get it right, so if something's wrong with a model you can put that one in the recycling bin, print another one, re-cut it, re-fold it and stick it together," Prof Barrie said.

The paper has other benefits too.

"If you're making a more normal architectural model out of timber or metal and things go wrong, you can get yourself into quite a lot of trouble."

It's also cheap and sustainable - the buildings only cost between 80c and $3.50 to print and assemble - and when it's done, the whole exhibition can be thrown in the recycling bin.


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