A Galaxy Far, Far Away

A selection of some of the more interesting advertising campaigns that I worked on. If you find yourself inexplicably drawn to see what I used to make as an architectural modelmaker, then scroll far enough and you will go back in time, past the digital age, to a place of old fashioned and poor quality scanned photographs…

Ahh, the highs and lows! The last job I worked on was to see my life-long hero, Yoda, sell out his little Jedi soul, and flog mobile phones. Star Wars fans, like myself, were rightly upset. However, I decided to follow Yoda’s example, and trouser the cash.

I had to sign some very big and scary confidentiality contracts with American lawyers, in order to receive the original wireframe cgi model that we could then work with. I used to joke that I could retire by selling it on Ebay, but Im not sure if everyone else found that so funny. I wonder what Netflix’s Baby Yoda will sell as he grows up?

I can’t quite remember how I met Sarah Howell, an up and coming Australian artist, living in London, but we hit it off and decided to do a collaboration together, with fantastical CGI architecture overlaid by Sarah’s free-flowing, anarchic designs. The resulting images featured as the first non-conventional ‘photograph’ to feature in the prestigious photographic journal, 125Magazine. And also featured in a coffee-table book entitled Pixel Surgeons.

Sarah is now a successful artist with a host of achievements under her belt.
Check out her work here.

My inspiration for these images was an architect called Tadao Ando, who was known for using a whole heap of concrete in his designs. OI marvelled then, and I suppose I still do now, at the abilities of this grey wonder material… Well things change, and however beautiful a material it can be, I now understand concrete to be one of the most environmentally unfriendly building materials there is, A behemoth like the global cement industry is going to take a long time to change it’s ways. In the meanwhile, for anybody who’s vaguely interested in long term multi- species survival… to wean us off the hard stuff, I propose Hempcrete, a solid weed and cement combo. To see what a sustainable building industry could look like if there was political will for anything but short-termism… voila! The plywood town, complete with eighty five-story tower blocks, was sourced from renewed forest plantations on the edge of their town.

A personal project, inspired by a love Islamic architecture, and a love of texture, heat, dirt and dust.

We had both Virgin and British Airways as clients, and I worked on many a boring image of a plane flying in a sky. Virgin’s ads always had the funk though, with lots of quirk versus BA’s corporate shlock. This ad for flights to Cuba won some award or another. I like the ad, but think it’s a shame that Branson’s become such a dick.

Pepperami! Not sure how these guys market their mashed together pig-sticks now, but back then, they went down the anarchic route, with a suicidal sausage, seemingly on speed, as their star turn.

Shout out to all the ageing cheesy quavers out there! The Ministry of Sound cover was created by a team of us, working for a company called Solid State Industries. We took the boss’s Technics 1210 apart, to reference all the many parts of the record player that we needed to re-create. My faith in Technics 1210’s is solid, they’re built like tanks. Mine are still going strong after 25 years of regular use. Just make sure you don’t strip one down. The boss’s deck never did get reassembled back to working order.

As I write, Corona Viruses, are all the rage. Back in the Noughties and the Coronavirus de jour was still HIV. This ad was for an anti-retroviral drug and was supposed to convey a scared virus, cowering in a corner. For fuck’s sake, really?! How to make a scared-looking, but not jokey, virus? You tell me? How did I do, does it look scared?

I’ll let you into a secret, I didn’t know what on earth to use as a base texture for the virus, but in the end settled on using a picture of a testicle. Who’s testicle, I can’t say.

Below is an advert for Intel. Yeah, I know… me neither.

Cars, alcohol, diamonds and wet droplets on half-naked women. We were living the CGI gangsta life.

Playstation shows it’s all heart; our in-house drug supply; three monkeys for Philips, showing their new customer relations policy; Jaffa cakes with added psychedelics; British Airways doing their bit for climate change; and Digit-Al doing a spot of breaking-and-entering.

After seeing how well Jaffa Cakes did, a well-known breakfast cereal manufacturer adds LSD into their flakes and runs an ad featuring crop circles. Well, well, well, indeed.

Fig Rolls get in on the act, possibly dropping one too many, with an experimental pineapple flavour that didn’t cut the mustard, so to speak.

Kellogs then declared the whole industry-wide episode a “bummer man” and reverted back to sugar-topped wholesomeness to flog their crusty flakes.

It’s a brave new world we find ourselves in, where actual species are going extinct at a truly alarming rate, while digital species proliferate like a slingshot graph curve.

OK. Even in my hedonistic heights, I had a little seed of hippyness germinating away, and whilst arting and farting about with the more creative ends of CGI was fun, it was the Big-Bad-Boy Corporations that were dropping the solid gold breadcrumbs from the boardroom tables, that fuelled our company and many other bottom-feeders of the Advertising World.

Disclaimer: I’m a pacifist at heart. So you can imagine my inverted joy at being asked to work on a recruiting ad to get some young ‘uns into the idea of scrapping at sea. This was also around the time of my own dismay at the futile nature of the protests attended in New York and in London to try and prevent Bush and Blair’s illegal war. Still, my fellow directors put me right on the company policy in regards to earning money, and my position within that structure… and so… I give you…

Actually, from a job perspective, it was loads of fun, and making stormy seascapes is a lot easier, and more fun, than being a photographer out in real stormy seas!

I worked with a very skilled bunch of retouchers, who are the backbone of professional image creation. The image above is comprised of a stock photo of a warship, photographic clouds, a computer-generated sea, and retouched all together with added rain.

A retouched boat searches some murky CGI waters for some very naughty drug smugglers.

Whilst a computer model of a helicopter searches a dodgy looking CGI floodwater below, spot the people needing a rescue from their roof raft. Personally, I’m more worried about the telephone wire that the chopper’s about to fly into. The pilot has watched Top Gun one too many times methinks…

Oooh, look! A big phallus-shaped nuclear sub, which looks somehow happy, moments before it careers into a giant rock. Again, I suggest that the Royal Navy needs to pay more attention to Health and Safety training.

Below, is a CGI tampon.

One for all the conspiracy theorists out there. See, the dastardly BBC admits they make things up!

While we’re at it, here’s some multiplying viruses being washed away in a torrent of some latest pharmaceutical wonder! Yay!

Hey Mum, look! I’m famous!

If you’re this far down into the deep underbelly of the website, then you should probably be asking yourself whether there isn’t something more productive that you could be doing with yourself. I would urge you to stop here, throw down your device, tear off your clothes, and run into the night. Or day.

If that doesn’t work for you, then here are some old photos of architectural models …

Modelmaking by royal appointment… the rebuild of Windsor Hall after the Queen Mum left a fag on the go, and burn’t the gaff down (allegedly).

Tate modern confession: attending the ‘topping out’ party on the top floor, I found myself desperately needing a pee. However, with the cue for the makeshift builder’s lifts, the only way down from the roof, being too long, I had to pee from the roof into the London night. Sorry about that London.

This could have been the entrance for The Victoria and Albert Museum, had Daniel Liberskind won the competition.

What was known as The Millennium Dome, like Yoda, also sold out to the Telecoms industry.

The British Museum turns The Great Court into a greenhouse with some old fashioned wooden craftsmanship. The team of modelmakers at Arup were a glorious bunch. I loved it! It was the only workshop at the time still predominantly working in wood, mainly red and yellow cedar. The onset of computer-controlled cutting has changed the role of modelmaking dramatically, and this kind of wooden modelmaking is not seen anymore.

One of my first jobs was working as part of a U.K. team of modelmakers, working in La Coruna, Northern Spain, creating some truly giant models for the Seville Expo of 1992. Here is a 1:25 scale model of Santiago de Compostela, complete with every single statue, every window, every door. Someone had the bright idea to fly the model into the Expo site by helicopter, so a steel frame was fibreglassed to the inside of the structure to keep it rigid. I presumed they would have hired a Chinook helicopter to lift this beast, but hey ho, turns out they hired a little whirlybird instead. The model was eventually transported by truck.

In the photo above, behind the model of the cathedral can be seen a giant map of France, two stories high, which had kilometres of optic fibre wired in to illuminate every town in the model of the country. We planned to visit Seville for the Expo after our contract was up, but in truth, I was so drained after so many hours put in, that I went straight back home and slept for a month.

This model of a traditional Japanese ‘Paper House’ was the first architectural model I ever built, whilst studying at college.

Below is a model of the Sydney Opera House, as it was originally conceived by Jorn Utzon. The design proved to be an engineering impossibility, and it was re-designed to look as it does today. I managed to obtain a copy of the original plans from Ove Arup, bought a circular saw, and built it in my mum’s shed.