Model Meets Photograph

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Model, Students

Model Meets Photograph

Laura Huertas


The Florapark Depression Recovery Center located in Amsterdam Noord is a non-hospitalized health care institution project for young patients. The research carried out for the design focuses on the interest and relevance to use body mind therapies both as a form of prevention from low depression episodes and as a part of the treatment for all range of depression cases.
The single storey complex is a horizontal composition divided in two main parts. A private wing, linked to an existent kinder-garden building where treatment, sleeping rooms and common spaces for patients are held. A public wing appears as a counterbalance towards the north side of the project, extending in an empty esplanade of the park. It is composed of a shared structure of a linear greenhouse attached to the swimming pool and hot bath spaces.

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The new building is mainly composed of pitched roof structures. This composition evolves together with the materiality of the project to recreate the barn typology, growing in scale from the private wing to the public one. The whole project is a timber construction with a main system for each part. A Cross Laminated Timber construction for the smaller scale private wing and a Timber Skeleton Construction for the larger public wing.
The design focuses on key elements for the development of the project, namely the interior gardens, the patient rooms and the joint structure of greenhouse and hydrotherapy rooms. The multiplicity of features offered in the Depression Recovery Center, projected within the context and the landscape aims for a detachment of the individuals from routine, providing comfortable atmospheres that have a positive influence on the patients thus playing an important role in their recovery.




What architectural models do you respect? 

In general, I have a lot of respect for architectural models as it evidences a process which involves much precision and dedication. It’s a work that requires planning and a specific savoir-faire if we are talking of sophisticated architecture models.
I certainly have a big admiration for very developed models though I can still find charm in the simplicity of work-in-progress or experimenting models.
In the recent years I have been inspired by offices which use the physical model as a common way to study and position buildings in the urban scape but also as a tool to explore, design and interpret interior spaces. Some of these offices are Office Winhov, Caruso St John Architects, Dierendonckblancke Architects, Korteknie Stuhlmacher Architecten, DRDH Architects to mention a few.

In my opinion, these offices have in common the ability to create quality spaces and rich atmospheres through a deep understanding of context, materiality and detailing. The physical models serve the purpose of exploring and presenting these themes in a very accurate way. Moreover, their architectural models evidence design processes in different scales and different levels of detail which simultaneously translate into different methods of modeling.
Personally I am quite fond of these different processes of modelling, from paper to cardboard, wood, acrylic, concrete etc. Each of these crafts have a different complexity which makes it a captivating and ample process of creation.


What is the power of the physical model compared to the drawing?

I believe both drawing and physical models come to be related to create a powerful tool of design. Both media can work hand to hand as a continuous design process in the different stages of a project.
However, the physical model has something that goes beyond drawing or any digital tool and is the fact that is palpable and can give a whole perception of proportions, depth, light and texture. For purposes as the design of interiors, models are an amazing media to perceive and sense the space and the materiality.
Modeling is as well a very good exercise to refine or develop details of a project. I’ve been taught in different occasions that the physical model can be a tool to anticipate the performance of a structure for instance. If it works in the model it will most probably work in the real construction as well.
Moreover, the physical model is an effective and clear way to present a project to a client or someone external to the design. Of course not every model is successful and it usually needs more time and precision than drawing in order to attain a good level of detail and therefore a certain harmony and beauty.



What dictated the way you chose to photograph the model- what parameters dictated the specific views?

The main reason which dictated this way to present my project was my ability and fascination for both processes of model making and photography compared to other media for which I have less affinity like rendering. When the models were finished the pictures came swiftly and naturally, only choosing for certain angles mainly from a human eye perspective so that the viewer could sort of enter the model.

Therefore, I opted for the making of very detailed models in different scales in order to be able to take the pictures with almost not retouching. The first parameter for the views was then the decision to make certain kind of models and this would also dictate a specific way to photograph them.
As the project was a healthcare institution, the most important was to evidence through the model and the photography the parameters of the design, channeled to create a healthy environment. The views were chosen as a representation of the different atmospheres, namely the courtyards, the therapy spaces, the winter garden and the public features, all related to the natural scape. The materiality of the project, a wooden construction, was also very important in the images and for the explanation of the project. This is why I chose for materials that would represent in an accurate and realistic way what I was intending to show.
The bigger model scaled 1:33 represented the room of the patient, one of the topics in which I focused from the very beginning as I considered it one of the most important spaces within the healthcare institution. For this model I worked very precisely on the real dimensions of materials, openings, textures and furniture in order to attain an atmosphere of wellness for the patient and reveal it through the photos.


How could the model be explored further through video and animation? 

I think that the decision for a specific media to present a project should be defined according to the typology of the building and the way how atmospheres want to be revealed.

For this project in specific, adding video media could be an interesting feature and could give more understanding of the whole project for an external viewer. An interesting approach would be the one of cinematic photography where just a few movements would be added to the shots in addition to a sound background collected in the park where the building is projected. This could be a beautiful and subtle way to present the project, emphasizing on the quietness and peacefulness of the general atmosphere.

In order to reveal this mood, I wouldn’t go further on the exploration with animation for this project as it would distract much from the intentions to emphasise the model as a main craft and media to present the design.
However, I can imagine animation as a very interesting feature for another type of projects with bigger scale models that allow for movement and freedom to manipulate inside objects. As a reference to this I have to think of Dutch theatre company Hotel Modern, which uses scale models as main sets for experimenting on different kind of themes and using various media as music, film and performance.



Laura Huertas Santamaria is a  Colombian architect living and working in Bogota city



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