Dieter Cöllen's cork architectural models

Cork is made from the thick bark of the Mediterranean-based Quercus suber tree. Usually found in bottle stoppers and wine bottles, the material can also be used for a range of architectural purposes, including model making.

Cork modelling began in 16th century Italy, where the material was first recognised for complementing classical Italian architecture. An age-old craft, cork modelling requires years of artistic skill and one that German designer, Dieter Cöllen, has mastered. Cöllen creates cork-based models of ancient buildings, carving the cork in minute detail to illustrate the architectural splendour of the historic structures.

Although cork is one of the most lightweight materials with 50% of the material’s cell volume consisting of air, the material is tough and durable and can be compressed with great pressure without breaking. Cork’s tightly packed cellular structure also results in it being resistant to water and having a low thermal conductivity. These properties added to cork’s popularity as a model making material as it could be easily transported, with cork models becoming a popular souvenir of the Grand Tour.  

Cöllen discovered cork in the 1990s and has been building hyper-realistic cork models for the 25 years since, basing his method on classical cork modelling techniques. Carving buildings and ruins of Roman, Greek and Egyptian architecture, Cöllen’s work has been exhibited across the globe in exhibitions, museums and private collections. His detailing of the texture of stone demonstrates how cork can be used to create exquisite architectural models, blurring the lines between architecture and art.

Cöllen has an exhibition opening in Frankfurt on the 6th of December 2018 and an exhibition at The Bruce Museum in New York until the end of January 2019.

To view more of Cöllen’s architectural models, click here.

By Anna Marks

All image credit: Dieter Cöllen


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