The first museum in Japan devoted entirely to architectural models opened recently, aimed at archiving and preserving the miniature prototypes of Japanese architects’ structures now scattered around the world. Located in a large Tokyo warehouse in the Shinagawa district, Archi-Depot holds models designed by esteemed names including Kengo Kuma — picked to design the 2020 Tokyo Olympics stadium; Riken Yamamoto; and Shigeru Ban, known for his attention to environmental-friendly details. Among the displays are everything three-dimensional preliminary studies to polished final models, offering a visual timeline of building construction that is rarely seen by the public, particularly in the same place.
“Recently, architectural models are treated and valued as significant archives that pass Japanese architectural culture on to the next generation, and also as artworks,” the museum wrote in a statement.
Founded by Warehouse TERRADA, a storage company that typically stores fine art and wines, Archi-Depot displays its objects in a neat, utilitarian way. The models line 116 shelves in the nearly 4,900-square-foot space, with 17-foot-high ceilings. Each miniature building is also accompanied by its own QR code, which, upon scanning, leads visitors to photographs and blueprints of the work as well as more information on the architect’s other projects. Besides a display of its permanent collection, Archi-Depot will also host special exhibitions and educational events.
Although it represents Japan’s first museum for models, Archi-Depot is not the world’s first display of its type. The Victoria and Albert Museum has a partnered collection with the Royal Institute of British Architects that holds 300 architects’ models, 55 of which are on view in the same gallery. More specific is Jersey City’s Richard Meier Model Museum, which features a large section devoted to Meier’s small-scale designs. Japan’s fascination with the miniature is well-established — see netsuke, the teeny carvings that date to the 17th century; the micro-homes that dot its landscape; and the recent viral sensation of miniature cooking videos — so it’s only natural that the country should honor the small designs that have helped propel its architects to worldwide renown.