The Eye of the Architect - A Profile of MH1 & MH2 Designer Wes Christensen
by Carol Morehead
This modern house model by architect Wes Christensen is my all time favorite house. It is so perfect for modern design. It showcases cutting edge mini furniture like the work of Paris Renfroe, Doris Nathansen of the incomparable minimodernistas, and the Peter Tucker and pinchofpepper I own.
"I developed MH1 in 2009 in a response to the many requests from people in the Modern Mini world. There are so many choices for traditional or Victorian mini houses on the market and just a small few Modern houses available. When I read this I figured I could design a Mini house, especially a Modern one. So, I worked up a design that was clean and simple (being influenced by the shipping container module from a project I was working on, building a guest house out of a shipping container) and MiniHouse1 was born. I posted some computer model images to the modern mini community and the response was wonderful."
Wes had shared 4 designs through Mini Modern's blog:
Based on the feedback and discussion on that blog post, he went on to develop two models, and posted more sketches on flickr for feedback.
You've probably guessed that the design on the bottom right was one - here are a couple of the original views from flickr:
Yep, this became the MH1!
It was based on a real-life design which Wes built:
The original 1/1 shipping container guest house by Wes Christensen,
with landscape design by Greg Gorby, Tuscon, Arizon
Here is the MH1 1:12 model in my house:
It is a sculpture. It is not too heavy, being made in two main parts and I have carried it all over my house, up and down stairs! I think it is the kind of mini house that frames the design and does not impose limits on what you can do in it. It is also not overwhelming. It is a 1/12 scale which is important as my favourite furniture is too. Don't even get me started on how my Paris Renfroe kitchen looks in it...
Creativity with the MH1
The MH1 is easy to play with. Not just for carrying around but for reconstructing any way you want! Above I added an antique Triang facade from #50 that had been ruined and I had spray painted stainless steel in 2009. Also a piece of glass and the top to a conservatory. I have more pictures on my modern design blog http://leftcoastmini.blogspot.com/.
My friend Pubdoll, architect and lego builder extraordinaire, was inspired to create the MH¾:
Eye of the Architect
Wes was born Wesley Allen Christensen in Payson, Utah. He says, "My dad is an old cowboy and a Barber. He cuts hair at his original barber shop with the spinning pole and game mounts on the wall on Main Street in my home town, and my Mother is a wonderfully passionate woman that gave me my drive and desire to always create. Their talents along with the talents I picked up from my grandpas have formed my artistic creativity and that desire to build and construct."
Architectural image by Wes Christensen
The influence of the West is evident in his work.
He had 3 brothers and no sisters.
"As a boy," he continues, "I was always into art and drawing. I seemed to always have a sketch book that I would draw and put down ideas in. I remember being very interested in plastic models as a boy. Cars, Trucks, Planes, boats, anything. I remember my brothers and I would get plastic car models for Christmas and have them built the day they were given to us. A lot of times we would trade parts of our models or use the engine parts on the outside of the cars and come up with our own designs."
Isn't it amazing how realistic they can be made to look?
"My love for art, drawing, and building things naturally led me to Architecture. I love the design aspect of the profession. I was taught of the importance of a scale model to a design of a building. The real, tangible, aspect of a model can communicate a design or idea to people that aren’t accustomed to looking at floor plans and flat elevations. I love building models for projects, if a picture or drawing is worth a thousand words, then a scale model is worth a million. Whenever I am around a model I pick it up, bring it close to my eye, and really “get into” the space. I think this is why so many Miniature collectors love their mini houses. They can decorate, furnish, and make the space their own, and with a camera or their own eye really get into the spaces they work with and bring others into their creations with photography."
He expresses the intrigue of the model so well. I want to see this from every angle. Of course I want to live in it too...
Mini House 2
The other design which Wes shared on flickr was this:
This developed into the beautiful MH2:
It is 1/6 scale and one of a kind made for an artist at Disney Studios. That made me wonder how many MH1s are out there. Mine is signed by Wes. He said he made 10, and one in 1/24 scale. That delights the collector's heart in me. And there is only 1 MH2!
Wes continues "As far as Miniature influences, I remember being very interested in small scale things. I loved small vehicles, houses, action figures, anything that was “real” or “everyday” but small. I would play for hours with toys called “Adventure people”. (Fisher Price made them in the late 70’s, early 80’s.) These were action figures and vehicles of everyday, real, people or occupations that were small. Forest rangers, construction workers, shark hunters, etc. I loved the small version of real things," he said.
The importance of play can not be underrated! Can it?
"I build architectural models as part of my profession and was thinking what other avenues could this model making take me. So, I jumped online and looked up dollhouses and discovered an entire world of great people that collect, buy, decorate, furnish, and inhabit (with mini residents) dollhouses. However, I wasn’t really interested in building small traditional houses; I wanted to go modern."
"Then, I thought, I have a design for an awesome house I did for a project in school and would love to implement as my own “big” house someday. So, I designed in the computer MiniHouse2 (MH2). This was a huge mini house that I built and will only build once. It was 36” square and pretty extensive to build. I do admit, it was freaking sweet, for lack of a better term and the buyer was awesome (a fine lady at Disney Toon Studios), however, I am sad to say the next MH2 I build will be full size."
I want one. Don't you... Full size!
What is Next for Wes Christensen, architect and modern mini house pioneer.
"My lovely and very supportive wife has put up with all my hobbies since we met, she and my three children have really taken an interest in the Modern Miniature world since this endeavor began." Wes said.
"My oldest daughter and I have been designing and re-designing an ultimate mini house for her, but she is a lot like her dad in that a design is never finished!!"
“At this time we are living in Spanish Fork, Utah and I am working for a commercial Architectural firm in Provo Utah. I am designing and overseeing construction of large educational buildings, high schools, elementary and secondary schools, and loving every bit of it. However, I love expressing a little creativity in the mini world to help give some variety in my life of design," he concludes.
Thank you, Wes for taking the time to tell us about your work and share your beautiful family with us. As a major "player" of dollhouses I can only underline how good the MH1 is to play in. I find it brings out the best creativity in my designs and I use it more than any other mini house I have. I am so happy to learn all about its background.