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Collage, Montage and Assemblage

The Architect and the Making of Architecture through Collage, Montage and Assemblage

Sjef van Hoof, Juliette Bekkering

Published Apr 14, 2021

Collage (as a noun)

A two-dimensional object resulting from the superimposition of images and materials of different nature

Collage (as a verb)

A method of representation and production of space replacing the sketch

Montage (as a verb)

The action of layering several and different materials or parts in order to create a two-and-a-half-dimensional object

Assemblage (as a verb)

A method of production of space by assembling building fragments to create a three-dimensional architectonic object.


In today’s world, the architect is no longer the leading figure in the design of a building but mainly an expert ‘figure’ within a large group of specialists. Compared to the past, thus the architect is no longer a key figure in the architectural design process, but the process itself. In the contemporary city, a lot of urban blocks and individual buildings give the impression that they have been simply constructed on their site without any connection with their close environment. They look like objects resulting from collages, montages, and assemblages of different approaches from various disciplines that have been unified through computer programs, e.g. BIM.

The goal of this paper is to use the “collage, montage, and assemblage” techniques in order to re-connect the architect’s creative process of analyzing and designing the building with the ‘making’ of the building. We’ll explain our approach through the description of a design workshop activity carried out in the city of Ankara (Turkey) within the Erasmus+ program titled ‘Materiart’.

The workshop: 3 actions

We structured the process in three phases, namely collage, montage, and assemblage.


In the first phase, students were asked to make nine collages on cardboard cards of 20x20 cm2, as a reflection on the scale of the city, by studying a 200x200m2 part of the city. The students worked in groups of three and took a whole day to make the first collage. The last was done in only five minutes. The first was a very rational and well-considered drawing, the last one was a collage made intuitively using leftover materials. The other collages were based on discussions, impressions, and drawings. Together all these collages provided a good representation of the character of the location. By studying three typical locations in the city, students created an interpretation of that part of the city. What was interesting was the unpredictability of the students’ actions when they started playing with the cards. First, the nine cards were arranged in a square, then students tried to decide what the interaction of the cards, in this shape implied. The students kept playing around with positioning the cards, with the shapes becoming more extreme: lines, cubes, even a card house. Each different card formation led to a different interpretation of the location, sometimes static, sometimes dynamic.


In the second phase, the study focused on the scale of the façade and the detail of a typical representative building in the researched areas. After drawing the existing façade, students zoomed in on a segment. This part was rebuilt as a model in three dimensions. This led to the discovery that the façades at the location we were researching were not necessarily a reflection of the function of the buildings in the site-specific, but rather a means to convey a certain impression e.g. grandeur. One could consider this as a montage of façades in layers.

In the next step, the students redesigned this fragment of façade according to two extra conditions: the first one related to sustainability principles, like collecting rainwater or producing energy; the second one required the student to take a design approach which was the opposite of the architecture of the existing facade.

The newly designed fragments were represented through three-dimensional models, with the same measurements as the collage cards. The result added a new layer to the initial impressions of the city.


The third phase consisted of the design of a building in the researched area. The students made use of the collage cards and the façade fragments to reflect on, to get inspired, and even as a toolbox to design the building. The main aim was not the function of the building, but its contribution to the city and its interaction with the surrounding environment. The students worked directly with modelling in three dimensions, shaping the buildings at the same time from the outside as well as from the inside, as a total object. The model represented the building within the scale of the neighborhood.

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