SOAS in miniature

SOAS maquette architecture

Currently on display in the Wolfson Gallery, SOAS is an architect’s maquette of the SOAS campus, dating from the early 1970s.


The maquette was used by architect Sir Denys Lasdun when he was commissioned to design the Philips Building to house the SOAS Library.

The Philips Building was completed in 1973, and given Grade II listed status in 2011.

The maquette itself was made by model-maker Philip Wood, who also created 3D scale models for Lasdun’s numerous projects on the South Bank, and is a particularly fine example of an architect’s model, notable for its attention to detail, even down to including the position of the trees on campus.

SOAS lasdun maquette

Then and now

The SOAS campus has undergone many changes since the time of Lasdun’s maquette.  The five-storey, glass-fronted, Research Block has added extra space for administrative, postgraduate study and even beekeeping(!) functions, and the extension of the Library Terraces has provided additional reading and work spaces for students and researchers.

SOAS maquette

SOAS maquette

Amidst all the changes, it is good to see that the trees, which Philip Wood so lovingly crafted on his model, still exist in real life, and appear to be flourishing.

Looking at SOAS anew

The maquette provides a unique opportunity to view a significant part of the SOAS estate in its entirety.  As it would have done for the architect at the time of its creation, it allows the imagination to run free and visual the campus in a way that is not possible in the normal course of everyday life.

SOAS maquette

Significant details appear, which are easy to either take for granted, or fail to appreciate: the skylight windows in the ceiling of the Library, which open to let in natural light; the sloping concrete, perimeter walls, which are reminiscent of flying buttresses on gothic cathedrals; the seamless blending of the original brick building and the innovative, concrete Brutalist extension.

Above all else, I find myself left with one question.  How did those people get up to that particular corner of the roof when it is now an area of restricted access?

SOAS maquette

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