Sculptor Creates Detailed Miniatures of Philadelphia and New Orleans’ Gritty Architecture

Urban Miniatures by Drew Leshko

Philadelphia-based artist Drew Leshko is creating a sculptural archive of the city's most at-risk architecture with his detailed scale models. Working primarily in paper and wood, Leshko produces these miniatures with love and care in order to preserve the history of Philadelphia's grittiest neighborhoods. From local dive bars to pawn shops and convenience stores, each commercial space is transformed into an artistic sculpture that is filled with nostalgia.

The artist also works on scenes of other cities with deteriorating architecture, such as New Orleans. Regardless of the specific city or state, Leshko prefers to prioritize his attention and skill on rapidly changing, or gentrifying, neighborhoods. He selects the most vulnerable pieces of architecture as his focus, as these historic storefronts will soon transition over to slick corporations that push out the individual merchants who had once defined the area. In this way, Leshko's work is a push to ponder the history of buildings and how they inform our lives. “It's great to have brand new, shiny buildings but let's not completely erase our architectural heritage,” he tells My Modern Met.

Leshko's creative process is exacting, as he uses both personal observation and photography to accurately render every detail of a building. While the scale he works on—12:1—is typical of dollhouses, Leshko's results are wildly different. By eschewing premade items, kits, or pieces cut from computers, the artist's sculptures are a true testament to his skill. Paper is the primary component of each miniature, which is cut to exact sizes and then painted using small brushes. A medium-sized building can take up to 120 hours of production time, which shows his dedication and commitment to getting every detail correct.

Looking at the sculptures is a lesson in urban architecture. By including accessories like wood pallets and dumpsters, Leshko reminds us of how these accessories help shape our cities. And in viewing the buildings, many of which no longer exist in real life, one ponders the development of our cities and gains a renewed vision of what is considered derelict.

Drew Leshko creates detailed sculptures of Philadelphia and New Orleans' gritty urban architecture.

Drew Leshko SculpturesUrban Miniatures by Drew LeshkoScale Models of Philadelphia by Drew LeshkoScale Models of Philadelphia by Drew Leshko

Made primarily from wood and paper, they're filled with incredible detail.

Urban Miniatures by Drew LeshkoUrban Miniatures by Drew LeshkoUrban Miniatures by Drew LeshkoScale Models of Philadelphia by Drew LeshkoContemporary Scale Models by Drew LeshkoContemporary Scale Models by Drew LeshkoContemporary Scale Models by Drew Leshko

Leshko often focuses on storefronts that are vulnerable to change due to gentrification.

Urban Sculptures by Drew LeshkoScale Models by Drew LeshkoUrban Sculptures by Drew LeshkoScale Models of Philadelphia buildings by Drew Leshko

It can take up to 120 hours to create a medium-sized building, as Leshko cuts and paints everything by hand.

Painting a Miniature Ice DistributorUrban Miniatures by Drew LeshkoScale Model DumpsterScale Model of Derelict BuildingMiniature Painted SignsMiniature Painted SignUrban Miniatures by Drew LeshkoDrew Leshko: Website | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Drew Leshko.

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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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