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A Guided Tour of Beckonscot Model Village
as part of Architecture Week 2004 organised by The Arts Council and the Royal Institute of British Architects

Building a complete world in miniature allows the Architect of such a world full reign to construct an ideal - to paint a picture of a perfect world. Ideas of perfection are of course unique to every individual, beauty is after all, in the eye of the beholder. Model villages are no different in their attempt to construct such an ideal without fear of the imperfections of the real world entering in.

Of course this is an impossible and the imperfections and contexts of the real world do enter in, because these spaces are made of the stuff of the real world, they are defeated in their search for perfection by the very stuff from which they are constructed, which try as hard as the craftsman might, cannot hold the required level of accuracy for us to really believe.

Despite this failure, they offer us much more. They play games with our understanding of reality. They create fictional pasts, fictional places and remapped geographies. They make fun of themselves and of the subjects they represent. On one hand we can take their speculations and simulations as a starting point for a critical debate about where our ideas and longings for perfection come from and where they might lead us should they come true. On another level we can enjoy the purity of their depictions, their puns and comic narratives. We can also enjoy our changed physical transformation into giants, looking over our new landscape from a privelaged position.

As a young child I was taken to a model village in Bourton on the Water (the Venice of the Cotswolds) and I never forgot the experience. As a student commuting between Oxford and London on the Oxford Tube I passed the road sign on the M40 that signalled the presence of Beckonscot Model Village nearby.
Later I read Will Self's book Scale (in a special limited edition diminutive form) and my interest was piqued once more. I applied for research grants to visit some of Britains remaining model villages (Babbacombe, Bourton on the Water and Beckonscot and as well as Madurodam in Holland.)

The Real vs Ideal tour discussed the micro narratives within Beckonscot itself, in relation to the real world context and histories that shaped it. It also referred to findings from the other model villages I had visited over the two years of research. The tours were part of Architecture Week 2004, organised by Arts Council of England and the Royal Institute of British Architects. I organised a number of tours over a period of three days in the summer of 2004.

architecture week

real vs ideal tour+ Photo by Richard Nicholson commissioned for the YCN Design Catalogue in 2004.