Model Village


Soft buildings, sewn
with recycled materials,
various sizes
This is an ongoing project about the shapes of our built communities. The term Model village refers to communities once built by wealthy landowners to house their workers, as well as the miniature model village tourist attractions I visited as a child.
   It once evoked an idealised community, an idyll. But now its associations are more contradictory, amidst ever-increasing inequality, housing insecurity and homelessness.
Model village extract from Land Ground Earth Soil (2019).
My interest in this springs from previous research for Land Ground Earth Soil, which includes a theory in evolutionary psychology that 150 is found to be the optimal number of people who can live in a community together, based on trust and moral obligation.
   Historic records reveal that 150 was not only the average village size in the 18th century, but also in the Domesday Book of 1086. Interestingly this is also found to apply to social media, irrespective of how many ‘friends’ or ‘followers’ a person appears to have.
   Unlike digital communities, which pervade so much of our collective consciousness; physical communities, as in the geographic places where people dwell, can seem arbitrary and undynamic by comparison. I use the word ‘dwell’ here advisedly, to mean where a person lives, works, resides or exists.
   So why do you dwell in a particular place? Did you choose to be there? If so, what were the physical characteristics about it that attracted you? Its houses, green spaces, local amenities? Or was it where it is in relation to other places? Do you engage as a member of its community?

Sketchbook pages.
The project uses abstracted forms of buildings and structures, stripping away as much detail as possible while retaining recognisable proportions.
   This process of creating building shapes that are abstract yet familiar also explores the prevalance of the pitched roof as an important symbol of shelter, and includes temporary static structures like tents, whose uses range from emergency housing to festivals and glamping. 
Early paper models, patterns and tarp prototypes (made from used camping ground sheets).
The models represent types or categories of buildings and structures (with the occasional specific exception). They are out of scale with their counterparts in the real world yet retain their recognisable proportions. The absence of scale strips away the power that comes with size from the larger buildings. It allows them to viewed objectively as mere shapes, as objects that can now relate directly with each other - in this new model village.
   The inclusion of temporary structures like tents has informed my approach of making soft buildings, and initially I sewed them out of tarpaulin, itself a rudimentary material often associated with aspects of shelter and impermanence.
   But more recently I have scaled them up in size and am making them out of reused denim clothing, sourced from homelessness charities; and filling them with recycled wool from a Scottish social enterprise.
   You can view the progress of the project in Process and by following _model_village_.