What do the illuminated snow flake that hangs above Fifth Avenue in New York at Christmas time, the building of the Bank of Kuwait, and the Kermit the Frog telephone have in common?
All three existed as models long before they were fully realized.
And all three models were constructed by Hans Clausen, master miniaturist and scale model builder extraordinaire.
Clausen’s appreciation for the art came when he followed in his father’s footsteps and studied architecture. One assignment required building a scale model. Clausen remembers looking at the model of the building from different angles, seeing through a window from one room into another. “It was all exactly as I had conceived it in my head, but I was able to look at it in 3-D,” he reminisces, “It was like an epiphany – wow, what a wonderful art form that allows you to totally comprehend.”
After graduating, Clausen moved to New York and called on Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the largest architecture firm in New York. SOM had an in-house model studio. Clausen was hired and told to be prepared to work long hours. “I had no idea!” he says. On a model for the Bank of Montreal, made of plexiglass and highly refined details, he was up four nights in a row to meet the deadline.
The lavish presentations SOM put on often included several scale models – one of just the building, another of the lobby, a third of a sliced-through floor revealing interior rooms, and one covering several blocks showing the building situated in its neighborhood. Not all models were produced in-house. By the time Clausen left SOM two years later, he was coordinating commissions at I.M. Pei’s firm and other advanced model studios. It was not unusual for him to run around by taxi at three or four in the morning to different studios to make sure the models were on track for a nine am presentation meeting.
About the time Clausen felt he was ready for a change he applied with a freelance agency. He got called back later that day with an offer to work at the Muppets on the Kermit the Frog phone.
After life at an architectural firm the Muppets was an explosion of colors. “It was like working in a fantasy world,” says Clausen. He loved the open, creative atmosphere encouraged by Jim Henson and Frank Oz, who did Miss Piggy. “If you had the talent, they would just let you go ahead,” Clausen recalls. He created and installed a Muppet display covering a good portion of the second floor of FAO Schwartz, the well-known toy store on Fifth Avenue. He also built models of some of the sets of “The Muppets Take Manhattan” movie.
During his six years as a freelancer Clausen worked for the top fifteen or so architecture and design firms in Manhattan. He created window displays for the exterior windows at Tiffany Jewelers and worked on the exhibition commemorating Rockefeller Center’s 50th anniversary. Says Clausen, “As I grew through these companies I was being given a wonderful education.”
Moving back to Sarasota he started a model building business, “Architecte Miniatura.” Since then, he has been working for resorts, golf courses, and condominium builders throughout Florida and the United States. He makes all different kinds of models – everything from rough paper study models to miniatures finished in exquisite detail
- DOWNTOWN SARASOTA & BEYOND