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Ella Jiang
The Architecture of “Edward Scissorhands”, 2023

My project depicts the neighborhood from the fantasy movie “Edward Scissorhands”. The neighborhood will be arranged on a large piece of cardboard, which is decorated as the landscape. The castle will tower over a town of four houses atop a large mountain. The houses are painted with bright pastel colors and share a similar architectural style. Each house sits on a neatly trimmed lawn of grass. It could be inferred that the people of this town value conformity and orderliness. The dark castle, which is covered in black paint and deteriorating, serves as a sharp contrast to the colorful town. While the castle is poorly maintained, the front garden is full of flowers and shrubs trimmed into small structures, hinting that the occupant of the castle cherishes their garden and enjoys maintaining it. A person’s beliefs, values, and hobbies could be revealed through architecture, as demonstrated in the buildings of “Edward Scissorhands”.

I started with a rough sketch of the project’s layout, which consisted of 4 houses and a mountain that takes up about a third of the total area. I planned out the dimensions of the first house through reference photos, Google Maps, and other online resources. These websites helped me figure out the proportions of each building compared to each other. Using these proportions, I sketched out specific dimensions for each house in inches. During construction, cardboard was used as the foundation of the walls and roof. Each cardboard piece was attached together with hot glue. The edges of the roof were covered with wood. I chose specifically balsa wood because it is easy to cut with a regular utility knife, and available in bulk. The same wood was used for the window and door borders. Then I cut strips of thin cardboard sheets for the roof tiles. Each tile was placed individually with hot glue to replicate the texture of the real roof. The exposed sides of the cardboard walls were filled with wall filler, allowing me to paint over the model smoothly.

When I first saw the movie set, I immediately noticed the castle. The contrast between the dark abandoned castle and the bright, well-maintained streets below sets the occupant of the castle to be an antagonistic character. However, the town itself gives off an unsettling atmosphere. The houses are painted with pastel colors and have similar structures. The streets are unusually clean with no rogue pieces of trash or even decorations to show individuality. Without the people living there, the neighborhood feels dystopian. After watching the movie, I realized this was intentional. The people living in the neighborhood turned out to be the antagonists against an innocent Edward Scissorhands, who lives in the castle. I found it interesting how the architecture of the movie set could also convey the movie’s message. Each house’s similar minimalistic architecture unifies the town while isolating the castle, similar to how the neighborhood people didn’t accept Edward Scissorhands because he was different.

My goals for this project were to learn about the structure of houses and how to use different tools and materials to build a miniature model. I’ve learned about small details I’ve previously overlooked before building the houses myself. For instance, I noticed that another layer of tiles was placed on the apex of the roofs. These are called ridge tiles, and they cover the intersection between two roof planes, sealing out rain, heat, or wind. While experimenting with different materials, I’ve learned that wood in general is hard to cut, even soft balsa wood. I’ll try to use less wood for small details in future projects, and I might replace it with clay. My initial plan was to build a total of 6 townhouses, as well as a mountain with the castle. I was trying to challenge myself as an artist to finish the ambitious project by the end of the summer. Now as someone with more experience, I know the complexities of recreating architecture accurately. While this project will definitely last more than a summer, I will still continue to work until completion.

During this project, I learned how to use different tools and materials to build miniature models of houses. The project was a starting point that gave me my first building experience. While it does not look as I had originally planned because of the movement of two houses, each house was more detailed than what I envisioned. After the project, I know what materials are best used for certain house features. This knowledge will help me continue to make more models with higher efficiency, which will prove especially useful for my club which is focused on dioramas. Through this club, I can share the skills and knowledge I’ve learned from this project with other people with similar interests. I hope to continue learning about the architectural features of different houses while building them.

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