When you think of miniatures, perhaps images of old ladies meticulously constructing dollhouses and shut-ins building ships in bottles come to mind. But, whether they’re commercial ventures or individuals’ all-consuming projects, there are quite a few miniatures out there that could actually be described as awesome. A scale model of New York City that reproduces every single building from Staten Island to the Bronx? Amazing. A Mayan temple made out of nine tons of chocolate? Incredible (not to mention delicious). A teeny tour of old Hong Kong? Fascinating. We’ve collected some of the coolest — and one of the most depressing — miniature models of cities and landmarks from around the world. Take a guided tour after the jump.
New York City
The Queens Museum may pale in comparison to the Met — or even the Brooklyn Museum — but it does have one incredible work that ought to make those two institutions jealous: The Panorama, a 9,335 square foot model of New York that includes all 900,000 or so buildings in the five boroughs. Built by Robert Moses for the 1964 World’s Fair, it was last updated in 1992, which means its version of Brooklyn is blissfully free of all the ugly condos that have gone up in the past decade or so. You can see a whole lot more pictures of the model here.
Disneyland Main Street Electrical Parade
If you visited Disneyland in the ’70s, ’80s, or ’90s, you probably remember the theme park’s long-running Main Street Electrical Parade, in which floats and performers alike were decked out in countless tiny lights. Multidisciplinary artist Alex George remembered the parade, too, and decided to make his own mechanized version using the Robert Olszewski Main Street miniatures he had collected. The uncannily realistic result involves a chain-and-sprocket track and hundreds of programmable LEDs, and took months of work.
At 29 years old when he completed it in 2008, French artist Gerard Brion had spent over half his life creating Le Petit Paris. He constructed the intricate model, which has taken over his garden in the South of France, out of concrete blocks and assorted trash. Visit The Sun for a slideshow of Le Petit Paris images, including a gorgeous nighttime shot (yes, of course the miniature City of Lights lights up).
Great Spinx of Giza
If you’ve got an eye for perspective and have ever wanted to confuse your friends by posting Facebook photos of yourself at the Taj Mahal, Parthenon, Great Wall of China, Empire State Building, and Notre Dame de Paris all at once, you may want to plan a trip to Japan’s Tobu World Square. Completed in 1993, this Japanese attraction features 102 reproductions of historical landmarks from around the world at 1/25 their actual size. The sphinx, above, is only one of many Ancient Egyptian sites you can “visit” at the park.
Hamburg, Germany’s 12,378 square-foot Miniatur Wonderland is the largest model railway in the world. Built by a pair of twins, Gerrit and Frederik Braun, it features sections that recreate European countries and cities (with Hamburg as a highlight, of course), as well as the United States. In addition to the brightly lit Las Vegas you see above, the American portion of Miniatur Wonderland includes Mount Rushmore, the Grand Canyon, and even Area 51. (The Braun brothers seem pretty into UFOs.) And the attraction isn’t finished with construction yet — Italy and France are both in the works, with African or Japanese railways possibly on the agenda after those are completed.
Mexico’s Temple of Kukulkan
Not only is this a gorgeous miniature recreation of an ancient Mayan temple that still stands in Chichen Itza, Mexico — it’s also the world’s largest chocolate sculpture. Weighing in at 18,239 pounds, it’s the creation of Qzina Specialty Foods and was built in honor of the company’s 30th anniversary and the opening its Institute of Pastry and Chocolate. Those who know their food history will realize that Qzina’s pairing of the Maya civilization with chocolate is no accident. See more photos of this mouthwatering monument at Designboom.
Photo credit: Juliana Loh
Old Hong Kong
For an exhibition called In Retrospect: Hong Kong Zoomed in Miniature, a group of artists created tiny versions of the homes, restaurants, and shops that make up Old Hong Kong. As the photos taped to the mirror and light-up barbershop poll above illustrate, what makes these pieces so incredible is the attention to tiny details. See more pictures from the show here.
The Miniatures Museum of Taiwan, in Taipei, promises untold tiny wonders, but perhaps its most breathtaking piece is a startlingly intricate recreation of Buckingham Palace. The work of British miniaturists Kevin and Susan Mulvany, it recreates everything from the royal family’s fringed curtains to the surrounding peasants’ homes. See a great shot of the exterior here.
How can you be in Amsterdam and The Hague at the same time? Pay a visit to the latter’s Madurodam, a 1:25 scale model of a Dutch city that recreates a selection of landmarks from around the country — including Amsterdam’s canals, airport, and Rijksmuseum. The miniature city is named after George Maduro, a Jewish member of the anti-Nazi Dutch resistance who died at Dachau.
While most of the items on this list seem to have been created in the spirit of obsessive fun, there are few pieces of art darker than this pair of models from Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum. The first shows the city before the detonation of an atomic bomb in August, 1945, while the other (above) reproduces the same area in the days after the explosion. If there’s ever been a more convincing argument against nuclear proliferation, we haven’t seen it.