Mini Sculptures in Front of Monuments Help Visually Impaired People Explore Architecture

Scale Model of Aachen Cathedral for the Visually Impaired

Aachen Cathedral. Aachen, Germany. (Left: Stock Photos from r.classen/Shutterstock | Right: Frans Berkelaar [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Dom St. Peter 3D Model

Dom St. Peter. Worms, Germany. (Photo: Immanuel Giel [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons)

Dom St. Peter. Worms, Germany

Dom St. Peter. Worms, Germany. (Photo: Stock Photos from Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH/Shutterstock)


Scale Model of Matthias Cathedral in Budapest

Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Einemnet [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. Budapest, Hungary.

Matthias Church and Fisherman's Bastion. Budapest, Hungary. (Photo: Stock Photos from LostintheCity/Shutterstock)

They often include braille descriptions to help the blind orient themselves.

Model of Market Square for the Blind in Poznan

Market Square. Poznan, Poland. (Photo: MOs810 [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Market Square. Poznan, Poland.

Market Square. Poznan, Poland. (Photo: Stock Photos from taranchic/Shutterstock)

German sculptor Egbert Broerken has created over 100 of these bronze models over the past 20 years.

Model for the Blind of Urban Landscape

Photo: Mbdortmund [GFDL 1.2], via Wikimedia Commons

Aerial view of Old Town. Muenster, Germany.

Aerial view of Old Town. Muenster, Germany. (Photo: Stock Photos from 360degreeAerial/Shutterstock)

Related Articles:

Archeologist Spends Over 35 Years Building Enormous Scale Model of Ancient Rome

Designers Use Aerial Scans to Turn Any Street in Chicago into Detailed 3D Models

LEGO Designs Braille Bricks to Help Visually Impaired and Blind Children Learn How to Read

Masterpieces Turned into 3D Printed Sculptures for Blind and Visually Impaired People to Enjoy

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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