Edward Rensin has had more than a passing interest in architecture most of his life. Initially, he planned to study Landscape Architecture in college. “The first assignment I did in college was make a building model - a very detailed model - of Lincoln Center. I spent a lot of time on it,” he said.
After he submitted the project, he never saw it again, and he didn’t receive any feedback from the professor.
Model Experience Leads to Music
Rensin has no hard feelings, and now happily looks back at a successful career as a music teacher, instead of an architect. He continues to collaborate with musicians worldwide.
In addition to his love of music, over the decades, his appreciation of architecture has remained intact. And while he never did find out what happened to that first project, he has no shortage of building models now.
“I have about 3,000 little buildings,” he says, and quite a few landmarks, as well. He has been collecting them for nearly 50 years.
“I’m drawn to the very detailed ones,” he says, “I like them because they’re intricate, and very precise.”
Not surprisingly, the precision and attention to detail of Little Building Co. models captured his interest the first time he saw one.
World Travel Leads to Little Building Co. Discovery
Rensin first encountered a Little Building Co. model of the Sydney Opera House in the airport gift shop when he was headed home from Australia. “I brought it home as a souvenir,” he says. He has since completed both the Guggenheim Museum and the Johnson Wax Complex, which are displayed among his vast collection of models.
Curious about any of these models? Find out more.
Building from Scratch: A Unique Perspective on Model Building
Rensin's collection is certainly more unique than most. He not only appreciates handmade models, in fact, he makes quite a few ‘scratch builds’ himself. His method is to craft three-dimensional paper models from pictures he’s taken.
Creating the models from photographs requires that he “isometric-ize” the images, using special computer software and a very good printer, so he can render them without perspective and turn them into models.
Rensin, who has been an active member of the Souvenir Building Collectors Society for almost 25 years, insists his architectural model creation habit is “just” a hobby. It might be fair to label him as semi-professional, however, as one of his creations is for sale.
The model, of a synagogue in Uganda, is available as a souvenir at the synagogue site.
See more information on Rensin's unique models, below
“The synagogue itself is no longer there,” Rensin explains, “but quite a few people still visit, and they like to take home the model,” he says.
While most of the models he builds or collects are tangible reminders of places he’s visited, sometimes he trades models with other collectors of interesting buildings that he hasn’t seen.
Rensin, who lives in New York, has visited the Guggenheim Museum many times, and he enjoyed building it.
“The model of the Guggenheim turned out really beautifully.”
Creating a Tangible Travel Experience (until we can travel again)
Although he has not yet visited the Johnson Wax Complex in person, he hopes to go once travel cautions are lifted. In the meantime, he thoroughly enjoyed building it in miniature.
"What a great model! I thought it would be more complicated to assemble, but the process went very smoothly.”
Since he had to cancel several planned trips due to the pandemic, Rensin says, he’s had a little extra time for his hobbies. Happily, Rensin’s hobbies help keep him connected to friends around the world.
Rensin enjoys collaborating with other musicians in the US as well as in Africa. (You can see him playing keyboards in some Rachman Music videos.) And of course, he’s biding his time and planning more trips to visit friends in the States and abroad, as soon we’re all able to travel a bit more freely.
During the pandemic, Rensin notes, “In many ways, our hobbies have become our work.”
Why not take pride in building a masterpiece with your own hands today, until you can visit the actual building again, or for the first time? See the whole collection here.
Build Something Beautiful to Satisfy Your Wanderlust
What landmarks would you like to visit, or revisit? Building a precisely scaled, detailed model of an architectural icon might be a good way to channel your creative energy and at least partially satisfy your desire to travel. See our architectural collection, which includes the Guggenheim, Tate Modern, Johnson Wax Museum, Unity Temple, the Mid-Century Modern Farnsworth House, and the Sydney Opera House.
Which will you build first? We’d love to see your creations! Send us a picture with the tag #BuildSomethingBeautiful if you'd like to be featured here.
Delightful Details: Original Uganda Models
The three scratch built card models from Uganda in the image above are of the Moses Synagogue at Nabugoye Hill (now demolished and replaced by a larger, more modern building), the clock tower in Mbale, and the equator monument, Mpigi District. Photos courtesy of Edward Rensin.
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