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Miniature Parks and Model Villages

Madurodam

Some of the biggest collections of model buildings are contained in what used to be thought of as model villages but are now more commonly known as 'miniature parks'. That is, parks containing miniature buildings rather than small scale representations of parks. I have long been a fan.

Since I now spend much of my time in the Netherlands, let me begin with the Madurodam park located in Den Haag. Which I love. It entrances adults as well as children and spans the whole spectrum from traditional Dutch farmhouses to the Rotterdam Docks, Schiphol airport and the tourist highlights of Amsterdam and elsewhere, all modelled at 1/25 scale. One of their slogans is 'Holland in an hour'. It was opened in 1952. The picture at the head of the article is just one of the palaces on display.

One of the village greens at Bekonscot

A few years ago I would have begun this article with Bekonscot at Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire or the model village at Bourton on the Water. Which are very different. Both focus on small domestic subjects. I mention those two for the purely personal reason that they were part of my daughters' childhood. And therefore part of my life. I suspect we went to them as much for my pleasure as theirs.

Both have been in existence for a long time. The model at the Old New Inn (yes really) opened on Coronation Day in 1937 and Bekonscot in 1929. It claims to be the world’s oldest and original model village.

Part of the Bourton village

The village at Bourton, in particular, seeks to recreate the real village in which it sits but at 1/9th the size and using the local Cotswold stone for the models. I don't know if the scale is unique but it is certainly unusual.

My enthusiasm for miniature buildings is just a hobby. It probably is for you too, though you may be involved in the production and operation of one of the many parks, towns and villages. In which case you know much more than I do. If you want to contribute some of that knowledge please do write to me at MiniatureBuildings.

But for some it is a much more serious matter. Esan Osmanoglu of the Department of Architecture at the University of Istanbul wrote his thesis about the Turkish park 'Miniaturk'. This is the abstract of the full text.

AN ARCHITECTURAL STUDY ON MINIATURE PARKS AND MINIATURE MODELS: MINIATURK This thesis is an architectural study surveying on miniature parks and miniature models exhibited in them and particularly focuses on Miniaturk - the first miniature park of Turkey- located in Istanbul. It is established as an environment containing a group of miniature models of buildings and landscapes, which display the variety, and richness of the cultural tradition of the previous and contemporary Anatolian civilizations, and especially Ottoman grandeur. In this study, it is argued that Miniaturk stands as a hybrid category between a museum, a public park and entertainment centre. Miniaturk is also conceived as an architectural environment providing a possible ground to discuss the conceptions, misconceptions and presuppositions about architecture in the popular realm and in the professional and disciplinary framework. Thereby, Miniaturk is investigated through the processes of its production including the initial design idea and all the stages of its construction. iv This study also tries to discuss the miniature models from different points of view. Whether they are considered as tools of architectural representation or not by the professionals, the popularity and the communicative advantage of these models can be used to arouse interest in the cultural and historical heritage as well as the contemporary architecture. The daily life of man on the street is strictly connected with architecture; therefore Miniaturk requires recognition as an environment for realization of these connections and relations.

Really? I'm afraid there is something about academic theses that invites ridicule. Mr Osmangulu 'argues' that Miniaturk "stands as a hybrid category between a museum, a public park and entertainment centre". I don't think anyone is going to disagree too much with that proposition though I do think that "an exhibition of models" might belong somewhere in that list. But the idea that it "is also conceived as an architectural environment providing a possible ground to discuss the conceptions, misconceptions and presuppositions about architecture in the popular realm and in the professional and disciplinary framework" seems to me to over complicate what is going on.

As always, please feel free to write to me at Miniature Buildings

David, October 2019