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Exhibition looking at how architectural models were used in the design of Milton Keynes. Part of our Good City MK project.


Model City

Why Make an Architectural Model?

It is said that there was an architectural model made of every area of Milton Keynes. Most have not survived, but the City Discovery Centre look after around 30 that have, even rescuing some that were destined for the rubbish tip.An architectural model is a 3D representation of a proposed scheme – whether that’s a specific building, a particular street or a whole grid square. They are created to give the designer a feel for how the project will work in reality and display the scheme to the public.Models are made in a variety of ways these days – digital 3D versions, 3D printed, or by hand. The Milton Keynes Development Corporation had its own model-making department where everything was made by hand.The models of Milton Keynes feature housing developments, industrial units, leisure facilities, transport facilities, commercial accommodation and infrastructure.

Neath Hill

Neath Hill is an example of the depiction of a local centre with some surrounding housing. Intricate materials have been used to showcase its now-familiar clock tower and pergolas.

© University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation 2016

City Centre Underpass Infrastructure

A typical city centre junction is brought to life by the model of underpasses and traffic lights in Central Milton Keynes. It shows how both pedestrians and road traffic will navigate the city centre, with pedestrians being safely kept away from traffic.

© University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation 2016

Food Centre

The Food Centre has been demolished, so this model serves as a three dimensional record of how it once was. It also shows the advance in technology, with lights placed inside to see what it would look like in the evenings.

© University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation 2016

Wolverton Agora

The model of Wolverton Agora tries to demonstrate its multi-use purpose by depicting a sports court within it and office space above. Interestingly, the model was constructed in white, when the actual plan was to use red brick to fit in with Wolverton’s Victorian buildings.

© University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation 2016

City Centre Offices

The twin office buildings model shows Saxon Court and Westminster House, either side of Saxon Gate in Central Milton Keynes. The symmetry of the development is brought to life through the 3D model, allowing both designer and the public to get an idea of the finished site.

© University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation 2016

Civic Offices

The Civic Offices model shows how landscaping will soften the large square building. It uses tiny figures to depict workers and the public using the space, showing how it will be a place for everyone.

© University of Hertfordshire Higher Education Corporation 2016

Conservation vs. Restoration

The models looked after by us were in various conditions, some were quite damaged because they were rescued from skips or had been in poor storage. In 2016 we had the opportunity to do something about their condition. In many cases they just needed cleaning, which specially trained volunteers and staff were able to do.Others had broken parts and more extensive damage. As part of our historic collections, we had to consider whether to conserve the models or restore them.Conservation would involve stabilising the models and cleaning them, but not fixing broken parts. The damage had occurred prior to our acquisition, so is considered part of the story of the individual object. Restoration would involve stabilising, cleaning and fixing the models.Staff advocated for the models to be conserved rather than fully restored as this would preserve the life story of them and how they had been treated after their original purpose was over. In the end it was decided to fully restore them in readiness for display to the public at Milton Keynes’ 50th birthday celebrations.What do you think should have been done?