One of the most fascinating parts of traveling is taking in the size and scale of famous monuments. Whether it’s marveling at the height of the Eiffel Tower or gaining a new appreciation for the decorative tiling at the Taj Mahal, seeing these famous sites with one’s own eyes is one of the biggest pleasures of travel. But what about those with visual impairments? How are the blind able to experience these same feelings of wonder? Across the globe, strategically placed scale models help the visually impaired take in the size and scale of monumental architecture.
Often cast in bronze to stand up well against wear and tear, these miniatures are a vital source of information for the blind and visually challenged. These tactile models also include information in braille to help more people read about individual monuments or even entire city centers. One of the most famous creators of these models is German sculptor Egbert Broerken. Using the lost wax method, over the past 20 years Broerken has cast more than 120 city centers and individual monuments across Europe.
It typically takes Broerken eight to ten months to complete a model after taking extensive photographs and moving through the casting process. The resulting gold bronze sculptures, which are installed close to the sites they describe, unlock a whole new world for the visually impaired.
“When blind people finger their town for the first time it is a completely new experience for them,” Broerken writes. “Before they could feel the walls of the town but only the model gives them a chance to understand the dimension of the town they live in.”
By bringing architecture to life on a small scale, visitors can take a walk through the city using their fingertips and marvel at the incredible detail they might have otherwise missed. Of course, new technology like 3D printing has made scale models more affordable and so tactile models have become increasingly commonplace. So the next time you walk past one of these beautiful miniatures, take a moment to consider its important role in unlocking the details of the world’s greatest architecture.
Across the world, bronze scale models of famous monuments help open up architecture to the visually impaired.