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Date published: March 03 2017

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Timothy Richards; an artist who creates miniature replicas of famous buildings

Timothy Richards makes exquisite plaster models of well-loved buildings, from the Pantheon in Rome to the Chrysler Building in Manhattan, which attract high profi le clients from around the world, including Sir Terence Conran, to Harvard University.

These treasures add lustre to interiors - they are as seductive on a desk as if they were to be displayed in a bespoke cabinet.

Timothy loves and understands architecture which adds an emotional quality to his models, beyond technical perfection. He masterminds a team of 10 in a workshop which was converted from a Victorian school building in Bath.

The origins of his craft go back to pre-revolutionary Paris when Jean-Pierre Fouquet and his son, Francois, were making models of this quality.

Richards has worked as a sculptor and model maker for the past 25 years. Over the decades, he has miniaturised, among many other masterpieces: the US Capitol, the Flatiron Building in New York City, the Lincoln Memorial, Buckingham Palace, the Glasgow School of Art by Charles Rennie Mackintosh with its windows and balconies in pencil-thin lead, and a 35cm Ca’d’Oro in Venice with a turquoise glazed panel at the back.

The models are handmade in British Gypsum plaster, using a complicated process that involves constructing a master from styrene sheets, then casting in silicone-rubber moulds.

Most models range in size from 20 to 70cms, and the accuracy is so remarkable that people can mistake photographs of them for the real thing. 

He has completed more than 150 models in Gypsum plaster, an effective masonry look-alike, and for tiny details he uses brass, lead and glass. Everything is done by hand by the workshop team.

From the age of five, he made models of ships from card or wood - a box of cornflakes was transformed into a tea clipper.

He went to art college in Taunton and traveled around Europe looking at furniture design (he loved the Wishbone chair by Danish designer, Hans Wegner).

He taught art and design for six years before he set up his model making workshop in 1988. He showed his first four models, which included a Georgian terrace house, at various art fairs around the country. Sheer persistence won him a commission from Sir Terence Conran to create a 20cm Michelin Building, complete with the tiny fi gure of Bibendum.

Over the past 25 years, he has completed over 150 commissions. Some models are produced in blue, which look ethereal, as if they were illuminated from within. ‘The colour strips out the history from a building and allows the observer to look at the pure form,’ says Richards.

He has attracted collectors from around the world, with a particularly large following in America. In 2013, he won the Arthur Ross Award, the US Institute of Classical Architecture and Art prize for artisanship in the classical tradition.

Bath will celebrate its 250th anniversary with an exhibition of Timothy Richards models. ‘From Rome to the Royal Crescent’ which runs from February 11th until June 4th. One Royal Crescent is a magnificently restored Georgian town house that creates a vital picture of life in late 18th Century Bath.

Designer: Timothy Richards

Company: Timothy Richards

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