The rural New England town of North Adams, Massachusetts has had its share of attention from the international art world. The home of Mass MoCA (the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), it has hosted the likes of Jenny Holzer, James Turrell, Laurie Anderson, and Sol LeWitt (and those are just some of the exhibitions on view right now). And soon, fellow living legend Frank Gehry is coming to North Adams to create a spectacular ode to model trains — and the towns and cities they transit through. The Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum doesn’t debut until 2020, but it’s already breaking down the boundaries between hobby and high art.
“Frank Gehry to Design Museum for Architectural Gems (and Model Trains),” the New York Times headline read — as if the trains were secondary. In reality, model trains take top billing in a 75,000 square foot space that will span multiple blocks, and reproduce diverse regions and their railroads. Each set of trains and scenery will be recreated at the same monumental scale, with structures like the Empire State Building reaching up to 12 meters (40 feet) tall.
The project is the brainchild of Mass MoCA museum director Thomas Krens, who has also worked with Gehry on four other museums including the celebrated Guggenheim Bilbao. By creating an ode to both great architectural works and the feats of railroad engineering that helped to build them, Krens and Gehry are giving model trains their due — while ensuring that architecture buffs are just as satisfied as railroad enthusiasts.
The question remains: how many of these new structures, trains, and scenery will be 3D printed at Shapeways? A newsletter from the project cited Shapeways as a possible source of digitally fabricated components. Time will tell — and either way, we’ll be the first in line when the Extreme Model Railroad and Contemporary Architecture Museum opens.