Meet Ben Taggart
Ben Taggart founded his model-making and design business 2.5 years ago. As well as producing historical pieces for museums and architects, he undertakes private commissions, including beautiful framed miniatures of period homes, compelling architectural drawings and fascinating house histories, each of which offer a unique narrative.
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Originally I wanted a career in film or television, so after graduating from St Martin’s School of Art, I joined a design company that made sets and props for the film industry. But I became slightly disillusioned seeing pieces I’d helped to create appear in adverts or films for just a few seconds and then disappear without trace. I wanted to work on projects that had more substance and longevity.
It can be hard to explain what I do. Primarily I make models, but my work goes to the heart of understanding buildings, their structure and their layout. I’m also passionate about the history of houses and the social history of those who occupied them.
I’ve always loved to make things. My parents were artists and let me craft endless creations from cardboard and junk on our kitchen table. I also believe skills can be in the genes. I have an ancestor named William Siborne who was a military historian and created an amazing model of the battle of Waterloo – it has just returned to public display at the National Army Museum.
Most of my models are simply portraits. Miniaturising an elevation of a buildin g tends to emphasise its detail and individuality. People see features on the model that they may not have noticed on the building itself. I also make tabletop models. These comprise an entire 3D building, plus some surrounding landscape, all made in miniature.
Every model is constructed by hand, mainly out of wood, with the finer architectural details rendered in plaster, plastic, fibreglass resin and brass. Individual components are made for each commission and the construction process can take several weeks, depending on the complexity of the building.
My favourite projects are those in which I’ve been asked to do more than just recreate a structure. Piecing together lost or demolished buildings has become a particular focus. For example, I built a model of Nonsuch Palace, one of Tudor England’s architectural gems, which disappeared when Charles II’s mistress pulled it down to pay off her gambling debts.
In 2007, I moved house and that led to a new dimension to my business. The previous owner left us several beautiful deeds and old documents and it struck me that it would be wonderful to have all this information in one place in a legible form. So Archistory was born. It involves creating an architectural drawing, which is surrounded by text that explains the history of the building. I work with a brilliant specialist called Paul Murray, who helps me with the historical research.
I think our fascination with house history is very natural and my work feeds into it. I can’t imagine not being curious about living in an old house and wondering what happened there.
Ben Taggart, Modelmaking & Design, 020 8766 6822, modelhouses.co.uk; archistory.co.uk.
Photography/ Alun Callender