Model Making Workshops at Glenn Howells Architects

By Beth Astington, Glenn Howells Architects 

Ikon Gallery and Glenn Howells Architects have been linked for thirteen years through Glenn’s membership of the gallery’s Board of Directors, including being its Chair in recent years. To mark the end of his tenure as Chair GHA sponsored Ikon’s current exhibition Internet Giants : Masters of the Universe by Langlands & Bell. As an architectural practice, GHA are fitting sponsors due to the exhibition’s architectural theme that explores how buildings are designed for large corporations.

As part of the sponsorship, GHA hosted workshops during the Easter holidays. The workshops involved making models reminiscent of the ones that appear in the Langlands & Bell exhibition, to give an insight in to the world of architects and architectural modelmakers, and (most importantly) to have fun. The workshops were led by Flora Ikon’s Learning Team and Pierre Greenway, one of GHA’s modelmakers, and assisted by various members of staff from GHA.


On the day of each workshop families assembled in the ground floor of Glenn Howells Architects in Digbeth eagerly anticipating what would happen that afternoon. Following a short introduction in to the world of an architect’s practice and how buildings are designed, everyone was led upstairs to Pierre’s domain: the GHA modelmaking workshop. The unmistakable aroma of sawdust greeted the group as they walked in. The group was presented with an operational workshop – a state of the art 3D printer sitting alongside more traditional woodworking tools; a laser cutter in the corner that hummed as it churned out the people that would end up occupying the models that were about to be created; and materials of all different textures, shapes and sizes.  Models in various stages of completion were dotted around the walls and shelves giving further insight and inspiration to the task that was about to be undertaken. Some were simple sections of buildings while some models were much larger and more elaborate, some even included lighting.

The groups returned to their workspace on the ground floor of the building and Pierre and Flora explained the task at hand: design and build a model apartment. Apartments could incorporate whatever features were desired – the only limit was imagination. As pencils were put to paper it was clear that many members of the groups took this to heart and created spaces featuring swimming pools, helipads, cinema rooms, mini football pitches, dancefloors, accommodation for their cats, or rooms dedicated to their hobbies like model trains or recording music. The whirlwind of glue, scissors, foam core, card, pencils and tape showed that creative ideas were not just restricted to the function of the rooms, as curved walls and windows, irregularly shaped rooms, secret passages, and slides instead of doorways or stairs were constructed. Connections with the outside world were regular features as many designs included balconies, large windows or even entire rooms dedicated to admiring the views of the outside world.


At the end of a very industrious hour of making, the models were complete and ready to be proudly presented to the rest of the group and Pierre. Everyone was struck by the variety of ideas and creativity on show, as well as the skills and attention to detail that went in to the making of the models. The models were then placed on to a tower and then transported to Ikon Gallery to be displayed in a mini exhibition alongside other creations from the Easter family activities.

Feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with one participant saying “I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop experience at the architects, it has inspired me to want to become an architect!”

Pierre was just as happy after the event, saying “We really enjoyed having Ikon and the kids over to make stuff with us. It always surprises me – their eagerness to learn and get stuck in, and the passion and creativity they have is just astonishing! They worked really well as a group and came up with some very cool designs and models. It’s a real pleasure to be able to show-off what we do here at GHA Modelmaking. We’re all very passionate about it, we love talking about it, and we love teaching it. We saw some real potential from the groups, and I hope we inspired some of them to become young budding architects and (better still) modelmakers of their own.”

Internet Giants : Masters of the Universe by Langlands & Bell continues until 10 June 2018.

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