This article outlines a novel approach to the role of models in innovation processes: showing how innovative architectural outcomes result from the strategic management of multiple physical models in a design process. Drawing on actor-network theory, we explore architect Frank Gehry’s designing in action to trace the work done in translating design ideas with architectural models. We observe how certain practices constituted around material models are Gehry’s means for unsettling and resetting the clients’ receptiveness and willingness to embark upon a particular architectural path. We find that the physical models, as actants in these activity flows, are rendered strategic in ways currently overlooked. When approval for an innovative design is secured, through the unfolding of models, their strategic role is realized. Our approach goes beyond current accounts of the role and nature of architectural models to reveal how architectural models as strategic actants are mobilized in an innovation process.
- Actor-network theory