Modelbox Library and Waste in Production Design

Modelboxes can be expensive, time consuming, and a source of frustration. Most end up getting trashed at some point after production, and those that don’t will spend 90% of their life unused.


The idea for a library came about a while ago, during discussions among fellow designers, who often found that when working at fringe and smaller venues there would not be a model box made available by the theatre. Without it, it takes that much more time to get started on the design, and that much more money. Money which would be better spent getting to the actual design process itself, and would not be vastly complex.


With modelbox expenses for these shows frequently being in the £200 or less region, and inadequate for larger venues still, not having to make and pay for the construction of the model of the theatre itself was a huge time and money saver, and facebook frequently had pleas from designers asking 'anyone got a model of the Southwark Large?’. If there could be a modelbox library, we reasoned, then it would be a no brainer. A room where designers stored the boxes they’d made, to free up space in their studios, and checked out model boxes of other spaces as and when they needed them.


If as many designers as possible were to use this resource from the smaller venues right the way up, the design process could be made more efficient. The saved time and budget could be invested in any other part of the production, including on the actual model to go in the box, which already often splits its costs into the model of the space itself - Not to mention the obvious implications of trying to reduce our carbon footprint, and reuse and recycle.


Of course, this mythical room did not become a reality, as the needs of a physical space, management and cost etc was prohibitive – so I did the next best thing and made a digital library. This is, very simply, a shared document that designers can browse, and edit to add their own boxes. If you have models for three or four venues, you can list them with a contact for you and your location, enabling other designers to borrow it from you when they need it, vice versa. This keeps the models in studios but helps spread the load among a wider group.


And it is not just smaller venues and fringe spaces that could benefit from this. Many larger venues including West End spaces and large regional venues do not have models available to use. We need as many people as possible who are keeping a model of a space, however large or small, sitting on a shelf gathering dust, to add their model to the library, and to help keep our carbon footprint smaller, and our costs and energies focused on where they really need to be placed. In the time that the library has existed, with even a modest list of spaces, already designers have started using and benefiting from this.


But really, you know what would be even better? All theatres to have 3 or 4 boxes of their own that they store themselves and lend out to incoming designers. If any venues are reading and fancy some, then I am very sure that we, the designer and design associates’ community, can make some for you for a fair price. Your incoming designers and their work will be better for it. Or, next time someone makes a model box of your space, buy it off them at fair rate to use in your other productions.


If you are a designer and would like to join the modelbox library, please email max@theatredesign.org.uk with subject heading 'Modelbox library'

If you are a theatre and would like to discuss in-house modelboxes and having them made for you, please contact iwillmakeyourmodelbox@gmail.com

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