Caruso St. John exhibition showcases the firm’s extensive architectural model work

Architecture International
Caruso St. John exhibition showcases the firm's extensive architectural model work. Seen here: The Newport Street Gallery in London won the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize. (Courtesy Caruso St. John)

RIBA Stirling Prize—winning firm Caruso St. John is currently exhibiting Diorama at the Betts Project art gallery in London. On show is a montage of 1:50 scale models of the firm’s built works, notably their Newport Street Gallery, the building which claimed the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize.

The models have been intentionally restricted to a five-tone color palette, a decision taken to draw attention to their exteriors. This move transforms a medium typically used to express three-dimensional form into one that exhibits a pictorial quality. In doing so, the pastel colors used here place emphasis on details and facade arrangements.

Oerlikon Tower, Zurich, 2013. Model in pine plywood. (Courtesy Caruso St. John)

Oerlikon Tower, Zurich, 2013. Model in pine plywood. (Courtesy Caruso St. John)

The technique appropriately defines the exterior qualities of projects such as the Nottingham Contemporary gallery, where linear forms sync with the mint and gold coloring that comprise the building’s exterior, amplifying the model’s topographic form and the effects of shadow created by cantilevers and canopies.

The Nottingham Contemporary's skin. (Courtesy Caruso St. John)

The Nottingham Contemporary’s skin. (Courtesy Caruso St. John)

What is sadly missed, however, is the subtle detail that often hallmarks Caruso St. John’s facade work. To use the Nottingham Contemporary as an example again, the building employs a skin literally laced with contextual detail: Intricate and ornate lace motifs, embedded into a series of concrete panels, reference the site’s history as the heart of the once thriving lace industry.

(Courtesy Caruso St. John)

(Courtesy Caruso St. John)

But that perhaps isn’t the point of Diorama. “The buildings that are represented in the models are very different, but we have used only five colors to represent all of their details. This serves to bring together their diverse forms and scales,” said Adam Caruso in a press release. Photographs of models are also included in the exhibition. Describing these, Caruso added: “They show a world where the atmosphere of our buildings are explicitly evoked at the same time as being uncanny as to the actual size and material of the models, models that have been only made to produce these images.”

Diorama runs through February 25, 2017, at Betts Project.

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