For more detailed information, please change to the German version of this website.

Dr. Ralf Liptau

Dissertation Project

Constructing Drafts. The architectural model in design processes of post-war modernism

Architectural models belong to two temporally and spatially divergent realities: on the one hand, they are real objects in the immediate presence of a beholder, and on the other they are specifically intended to point beyond that present immediacy toward a future that usually remains to be built. It is this oscillation between reference beyond themselves and intrinsic value that grounds the unique expectations that have traditionally been placed upon architectural models in the context of both their design and presentation. Under the title Constructing Designs, the dissertation aims to investigate the role of the three-dimensional model in post-war modern architecture and to situate this role in the context of other visualization strategies such as drawing two-dimensional plans. It proceeds under the assumption that a unique "affinity for models" is particularly inherent to (post-war) modern architecture in the twentieth century. By this, I mean that the cubic or three-dimensional-sculptural buildings of this period were developed to a special degree from models, and that this can be clearly seen in works of architecture realized from this time. Particularly in this historical moment, the complexity and sheer size of the buildings from this period, which extended to include the development of entirely new urban spaces, appears to have additionally favored working with models. Models accordingly assumed a key role both in the phase of draft development and in the presentation of developed architectural concepts. The historical framework for this investigation is defined, on the one hand, by the design practice that was focused on two-dimensional drawing and oriented toward historical models from approximately the late nineteenth century, and, on the other, by contemporary designs that, beginning in the 1970s, were increasingly influenced by digital design tools. One aim of the dissertation is to trace the specific characteristics of architectural design with and through models. Another aim is to reconstruct the concrete practice of design discovery in the case of selected, exemplary architects. In addition to this historical focus, a second main area of focus is the question of the specific visualization potential of models in relation to third parties in the context of presentations and of their distribution, including in the media.

Please note that these listings appear in the language they were originally published.



From 2006–2014, Ralf Liptau completed a BA and MA in art history at the Freie Universität Berlin. From 2009–2010, he studied in Paris at the Sorbonne IV and as a guest at the German Forum for Art History. From 2012–2014, he was an undergraduate assistant at the Center for Advanced Studies BildEvidenz: History and Aesthetics at the Freie Universität Berlin.


„Häuser im Herbarium. Medien der Architekturvermittlung am Beispiel der internationalen Bauausstellung 1957“, in:, Onlinepublikation des Graduiertenkollegs „Das Wissen der Künste“, Nr. 3 „Entwurf/Modell“, November 2014, URL:

„Übersetzungen in die Architektur. Seifenhautmodelle von Frei Otto“, in: Hillnhütter, Sara (Hg.): Planbilder. Medien der Architekturgestaltung, Berlin: De Gruyter, 2015 (=Bildwelten des Wissens. Kunsthistorisches Jahrbuch für Bildkritik, Bd. 11), S. 24–32.

„Film in der Architektur – Der Kinosaal und seine Rolle im Film“ (zusammen mit Moritz Schumm), in: Haitzinger, Nicole / Kollinger, Franziska (Hg.): Überschreitungen. Beiträge zur Theoretisierung von Inszenierungs- und Aufführungspraxis, München: epodium Verlag, 2015 (=off epodium #5), S. 59–67.

"Architekturen bilden - Das Modell in Entwurfsprozessen der Nachkriegsmoderne", Bielefeld: transcript, 2019.