Art and Design

Making Buildings Look Bigger

The architect Clough Williams-Ellis started building his fantasy village at Portmeirion in 1925. He wanted to create an Italian village in North Wales but he didn’t have very much money. He used cheaper materials like concrete and sheet metal. He also played tricks with scale. He made buildings smaller to save time and materials when building them but he made them look full-size.

One of his tricks was forced perspective. This is when designers make objects smaller so that they look further away. The technique is used in the theatre to make it look as if there is a long building or garden on the stage. Most of the buildings at Portmeirion are about two-thirds the size of the buildings they were modelled on.




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Look for examples of scaling down or forced perspective in the video walkabout at Portmeirion?

  • The buildings are placed up a steep slope to make them look taller.
  • The bell tower gets narrower towards the top.
  • Unicorn Cottage is made to look like a huge mansion by having a scaled-down gate, flight of steps and windows.
  • The great dome is about half the height of similar buildings in Italy.
  • Look at things in your classroom and think what they would look like if they were two-thirds the size. For example, if the doorway is 2 metres high it would be 1.33 metres.


Visit Portmeirion in Gwynedd.