David Rockwell shares photographs of detailed theatre set models

New York architect David Rockwell's models of his flamboyant set designs for Broadway shows and movies, from Hairspray to Team America, are documented in these photographs.

On top of architecture, interiors and furniture projects, Rockwell and his team have designed over 30 sets for productions both on and off Broadway.

David Rockwell's set design for musical She Loves Me features a 1930s parfumerie that pivots open to reveal its interior, and won a Tony Award in 2016

He won a Tony Award in 2016 for his backdrop for the musical She Loves Me – which included a "jewel-box" parfumerie based on 1930s Budapest that pivoted open to reveal an opulent interior – and his portfolio also includes hit shows Hairspray, Legally Blonde and Kinky Boots.

"For me, theatre is a microcosm for so many of my emerging interests that became focused in practicing design," Rockwell told Dezeen. "That is, design as a social experience, as a means of communication, as a collaborative process to create, and as an aesthetic universe only limited by imagination."

Rockwell designed models for 2004 cult movie Team America: World Police, which was filmed using puppets

As well as his theatre work, Rockwell designed and built the sets for 2004 cult puppet movie Team America: World Police, including a hidden lair inside Mount Rushmore.

His latest set design is for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Delcorte amphitheatre in Central Park, running 11 July to 13 August 2017 as part of the annual Free Shakespeare in the Park programme.

Rockwell researched 1930s trains to recreate one for the set of On The 20th Century

The photographs by Chaunté Vaughn sent exclusively to Dezeen offer a look at the breadth of the studio's stage-design work through models.

These vary in scale depending on the level of detail required, and many of them move as they would at full size to demonstrate narrative sequences to directors and choreographers. Before these presentation models, multiple hand drawings and sketch models are created during the design process.

The dark, sinister atmosphere of a 1930s circus was evoked for Sideshow

Each stage set fits the mood and feel of the production. The designs for Hairspray are brightly coloured and patterned to evoke 1960s Baltimore, while a darker, more sinister atmosphere of a 1930s circus for is created for Sideshow.

"We always begin by reading the script, listening to the music, and meeting with the director to try to absorb and understand the possibilities of the story – the backstory and the intent," Rockwell said. "Then we move on to a lot of research about the show, its emotional qualities, and its time period – the set is really another character on stage and needs to help propel the narrative."

Kinky Boots is largely set in a British shoe factory

Born in Chicago in 1956, Rockwell gained his interest in the theatre while growing up watching and participating in community productions in New Jersey. He got his first taste of Broadway aged 12 when he saw Fiddler on the Roof.

"I was hypnotised by movement, dance, and design," he said. "There was something about that form of storytelling that I found amazing. I became aware that environments could actually be controlled, manipulated, and ultimately designed. Then I was hooked."

Smaller-scale pieces were used for the musical adaptation of Legally Blonde

Rockwell's first Broadway set was for The Rocky Horror Picture Show in 2000, which led to his appointment for Hairspray in 2002. Today he continues to be heavily involved in his studio's projects for the stage.

"I think the power of theatre is the fact that it is temporary, and experienced in the moment, and a particular performance cannot be repeated," Rockwell said.