Model-maker exposes derelict Irish properties through detailed miniature models

Model Maker Nathan Wheeler (Niall Carson/PA)
Model Maker Nathan Wheeler (Niall Carson/PA) Model Maker Nathan Wheeler (Niall Carson/PA)

A Dublin model-maker is exposing the large number of derelict properties across Ireland by creating detailed models of the buildings.

Nathan Wheeler said he wants to highlight the issue in Ireland by allowing people to focus on the miniature details of the properties.

Mr Wheeler, 30, who lives in Dublin, also wants to use the models to draw the Government’s attention to the issue.

He developed an interest in making models of houses after his father-in-law’s mother died and her house was sold.

“I thought it would be a lovely gift for him to build the family home, so I made a perfect model of it and then I gave it to him on Christmas Day a number of years ago,” Mr Wheeler said.

“Then people asked me to build models for their houses, especially homes that had burned down or had to be sold off.”

As Mr Wheeler made his daily commute through Dublin city centre, the number of derelict buildings caught his attention.

“It is just wall to wall, there’s so many buildings left empty,” he said.

“They’re literally falling apart around us and while they are sad there’s something really pretty about them.

“They haven’t been modernised and they’re just very much trapped in the moment when they were boarded up.

“I thought this is really, really cool.”

Mr Wheeler uses mainly recycled materials with modelling equipment to recreate the buildings.

“I want to catch people’s attention that this is a serious issue,” he said.

“I’m working on a series of about 15 pieces from all over the country and recreating these buildings.

“Some of them are famous and well known, and some of them aren’t. But it’s about framing the histories of these buildings, of where that came from, when they were built and who lived in them.

“I’m tracking down that history and then figuring out how they ended up in the way they did.

“I’m working on a building in Bishopstown in Cork. It’s a lovely building and it’s over 200 years old.

“The building was rented out in 1916 and was rented to a family intergenerationally for over 100 years.

“Three different generations of the family growing up in this one house, which is wild.”

Mr Wheeler has worked on a number of Dublin buildings, including the City Arts Centre at the City Quay.

He added: “There’s so many of these buildings right across the country that are sitting there, and for one reason or another they’re left to essentially rot.

“My intention is to create and build a sense of history around Ireland to really show the incredible hardship that we’re facing in Ireland right now.

“We’re talking about needing to build houses but we’re simultaneously looking at all these buildings we have around us that we have left fall into disrepair and we’ve left become derelict.

“The more and more rebuilding we do and the more and more history I find, it’s a consistent story of just being left to rot and being caught up in people’s obsession with development and fashion.

“We then leave things and they’re abandoned and they rot, it just becomes nearly impossible to save them and then inevitably, they go on fire.

“I’m using my skills as a model-maker to really show the issue in a very stark way because it’s one thing seeing pictures, it’s another thing actually looking at something in miniature detail and really focusing on the details to really take in what’s being said.”

Mr Wheeler, who often spends up to 100 hours building a model, hopes to hold an exhibition to showcase all his buildings in the summer.

“In a homelessness crisis and a housing crisis and a cost-of-living crisis, it seems absolutely insane that more than ever, there are so many of these buildings sitting and rotting and we seem not to take it seriously at all.”