Worlds Under Glass: 33 Miniature Cities & Architectural Sculptures

Sheltered by glass vessels like tiny self-contained biomes, these miniature buildings and cities seem to have their own atmospheres and variable gravity, with houses teetering on the edges of cliffs or springing out of clouds in the sky. Artists craft small-scale structures from balsa wood, paper, cardboard and other materials and house them under domes, bottles, teapots and Victorian terrariums.

Balsa Wood Architecture by Vera van Wolferen

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Often incorporated into animations, Vera van Wolferen’s tiny balsa wood structures can also be structures telling their own stories. A recent series of structures perches tiny dwellings on stilts or stretches them several stories into the ‘sky’ beneath a glass dome, often emerging from cotton ‘clouds.’

Paper Cities by Ayumi Shibata

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Slivers of two-dimensional cities and landscapes curl around each other within glass vessels in rosebud-like arrangements or stack up into faux hillsides to create a three-dimensional whole in these works by Ayumi Shibata. The artist uses traditional Japanese paper cutting techniques, noting that the Japanese word for ‘paper’ is ‘Kami,’ which can also mean ‘god,’ ‘spirit’ or ‘divinity.’

“Kami move freely beyond time, universe and places, appearing during events, as well as in our houses and our bodies,” she says. “These spirits also dwell in paper. In the religion of Shinto, white paper is considered a sacred material.”

Micro Matter by Rosa de Jong

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Enclosed within glass domes or test tubes, Rosa de Jong’s ‘Micro Matter’ sculptures bring unfathomably small worlds to life, each one seemingly floating in its own low-gravity atmosphere. The works often feature dilapidated homes, farm buildings, mines and construction sites, exploring the ways in which built environments interact with nature. The sculptures are created in a way that’s similar to building a ship in a bottle, snugly inserting the pieces to fit their vessels just right.