A determined commitment and a solid career endorse the ICO Museum as one of the greatest exponents of the Spanish architectural culture in recent years. From February 16th to May 14th, the exhibition “Modelling for the camera. Photography of Architectural Models in Spain, 1925-1970” can be visited, organized by the ICO Foundation in collaboration with the Ministry of Development and FAME research project in the framework of the PhotoEspaña festival.
In 2014 we had the opportunity to 'dress up' the ICO Museum’s complicated rooms to host the exhibition “Photography and modern architecture in Spain, 1925-1965”, the first time the result of the exhaustive research of FAME was showed. It is well-known that the design of exhibitions always presents itself as a complicated challenge, a kind of a family portrait in which the designer doesn’t know very well where he should be located. It is not easy to negotiate an intended good design with the required discretion. Both projects were based on the premise of attenuating the clear difference between the rooms on the ground floor and the first floor, as well as answering the need to multiply walls on which to display the works. Then the limelight was exclusively conferred to the photographs: the designer was missing, or so it seemed. Now, however, drunk perhaps by the torrent of suggestive evocations of the subject and the contents, we decided to explore other ways.
A great model is proposed, a topography similar to an urban plot that suggest the visitor, as a tourist, the possibility of escaping from his reality and getting lost between their intricate streets and squares to gradually introduce him into an other-atmosphere that is more favourable to contemplate the photographs of the buildings, fleeting reflections trapped in the window frames. In that game of dualities, the ‘fantastic’ game of confronting mirrors ends up blurring the whimsical geometry of the original room and embeds the misplaced columns. This feature solves the difficult boundary between two worlds and introduces providential suggestions to the fabulous universe of ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass’.
As usual, the happy and spontaneous illusion is nothing but the result of a rigorous work of modulation and geometrical framing. 51 centimetres are the keystone, the cornerstone on which is built the trace that integrates or dodges all the columns, the walls (204), the stands and showcases (102), the benches and even the frames of the photographs.
Finally, we need a required reference to colour. An indispensable, economical and effective tool to build spaces, the colour establishes a clear distance between the original room and the limits of the intervention and contributes to determine a vibrant distinction between the two content categories.
For the first time ever, this exhibition pays double tribute to two important systems of architectural representation: the model and the photograph. Rescuing more than one hundred original photos of models of major projects —well-known and less known, built and unbuilt— of 20th-century Spanish modernity is a visual, critical and historical discourse of great magnitude, a sort of a parallel visual narrative of the modern evolution of our architecture. Beyond the analysis of its technical or compositional structure, the exhibition underscores the documentary value of the image (most of these models no longer physically exist) as the bearer of an independent and essential legacy of architectural design. The goal is not to review the history of modern architecture and its main players, but rather to explore the identity and scope of its portrayal, in this case on two accounts.
The model is an illusion in itself, a dream in miniature of what the architecture wants to become. The photograph, a particular emancipatory version of that reality, superimposes a new degree of interpretation onto the latent aspiration contained in the model. Appearances, portraits, simulacra, trials, secrets, desires and dreams: by looking back over this selection of photographs of models of Spain’s modernism, we open a surprisingly wide range of narratives and readings from both a photographic and an architectural perspective.
The central subject of this exhibition, 125 photos of models, is presented on this ground floor alongside several complementary contents. Original covers of the architectural magazines of the time illustrated with photos of models, photographs of architectural models including people, photo albums and the contact sheets and a number of brief audiovisual fragments of the NO-DO, the official news show of the Franco regime, enable the historical and social context and invite the viewer to delve into the construction processes and methods of the image.

Iñigo Beguiristáin

Graphic Design:
Gráfica Futura

Iñaki Bergera
Julio César González