Presidents and prime ministers love to point at tiny models of cities.

The leaders of the free (and not-so-free) world love themselves a good city model. Whether they're taking credit for a development they likely had nothing to do with or trying to feign interest in a facility they probably don't care about, city models can be a prime minister's (or a president's, or a queen's) best friend. These 25 world leaders and heads of state from today and the recent past show how looking at small-scale models of big city projects can create the impression that they actually have some semblance of control over how their domain is built and developed.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy looks over a model of proposed construction in Issy-Les-Moulineaux, a suburb of Paris on February 13, 2012. The sashed mayor of the town is also there, as is the Paris police prefect. Photo credit: Reuters/Eric Feferberg

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez points to models of houses during a TV broadcast about a new Socialist city named "Caribia City," located outside Caracas. The city has been slowly rising since 2007. Photo credit: Reuters, August 27, 2011

In this picture from 2008, then Russian First Deputy Prime Minister and current President Dmitry Medvedev looks at a model of a proposed industrial project in the southern Russian city of Krasnodar. Photo credit: Rueters/Ria Novosti, January 31, 2008

Then-North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong Il inspects a model of a new E-Library at Kim Il Sung University in Pyongyang. Photo credit: Korean Central News Agency, April 2011

Dubai crown prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum looks at the model of 'The World,' a now-stalled project consisting of a number of artificial islands off the coast of Dubai laid out in the shape of the earth's land masses. Photo credit: Reuters/Anwar Miza, May 3, 2005

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is shown a scale model of the Lisbon urban area Expo 98 by Portuguese officials. Photo credit: Reuters/Jose Manuel Ribeiro, December 10, 2005

Then Cuban President Fidel Castro looks at a panorama model depicting the atomic bomb exploding over Hiroshima during World War Two at the Peace Memorial Museum in Hiroshima in this picture from March 3, 2003. Photo credit: Toshiyuki Aizawa

Then-Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yushchenko looks at a model of the concrete sarcophagus that covers the exploded fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant during a visit to the plant in 2000. Photo credit: Reuters/Gleb Garanich, April 25, 2000

Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono examines a model of a tsunami warning system at the meteorology and geophysics bureau in Jakarta. Photo credit: Reuters, November 11, 2008

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan examines some proposed real estate projects during the Cityscape Abu Dhabi Exhibition on April 19, 2009. Photo credit: Reuters/Nikhil Monteiro

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin inspects a model of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport during a visit on March 28, 2011. Photo credit: Reuters/Alexei Nikolsky

In this photo from 2010, then-British Prime Minister Gordon Brown (2nd R) views a scale model of a plan to build Europe's largest combined deep-sea port and logistics park. Photo credit: Reuters/Luke MacGregor, January 5, 2010

German Chancellor Angela Merkel talks with architect Daniel Libeskind about a model of a new university campus in Hamburg. Photo credit: Reuters/Christian Charisius, October 9, 2008

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah looks at the model a housing development project being built in the city of Rafha. Photo credit: Reuters, May 8, 2007

Nechirvan Barzani, the Prime Minister of the Kurdish Regional Gdministration in Kurdish Iraq, looks at a model of Hyundai Heavy Industries' factory at the company's information centre in Ulsan, South Korea. Photo credit: Reuters/Jo Yong-Hak, February 25, 2009

Iran's then-Vice President Parviz Davoudi reviews a model of a proposed petrochemical complex at a 2009 oil industry conference in Tehran. Photo credit: Reuters/Morteza Nikoubazl, April 21, 2009

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff shakes hands with Brazilian soccer star Pele overlooking a model of Wold Cup reconstruction plans for the Minerao soccer stadium in Belo Horizonte. Photo credit: Reuters/Washington Alvez, September 16, 2011

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak looks at a model of the future development of Kuala Lumpur. Photo credit: Reuters, September 21, 2010

Then-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi overlooks a model of the bridge on the Strait of Messina during a TV show taping. Photo credit: Reuters/Tony Gentile, April 6, 2004

Pakistan's then-President Pervez Musharraf inspects the model of part of an expressway project then being built in Karachi. Photo credit: Reuters, February 11, 2008

Then-Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok walks carefully through the miniature streets of Amsterdam at the amusement park "Madurodam" in The Hague. Photo credit: Reuters/Str Old, March 27, 1998

Russian Prime Minister and President-elect Vladimir Putin looks over a model of a combined cycle gas turbine unit during a visit to the Kirishi state district power plant in the Leningrad Region. Photo credit: Reuters/Ria Novosti, March 23, 2012

Then-United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan examines a model of Olympics-related construction in Beijing ahead of the 2008 games. Photo credit: Reuters, May 23, 2006

Franz Muentefering, then-leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party, places a building into a model railway during an exhibition in 2009. Organizers invited most of the German political parties to design their 'Idealland' (Ideal country) within the model. Photo credit: Reuters/Christian Charisius, September 5, 2009

Pope Benedict XVI points to a wooden carved model of Bethlehem and the controversial Israeli barrier built in the city to separate it from Jerusalem. Photo credit: Reuters/Fadi Arouri, May 13, 2009

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. photo: South Korean soldiers attempt to disinfect the sidewalks of Seoul's Gagnam district in response to the spread of COVID-19.

    Pandemics Are Also an Urban Planning Problem

    Will COVID-19 change how cities are designed? Michele Acuto of the Connected Cities Lab talks about density, urbanization and pandemic preparation.  

  2. Coronavirus

    Why Asian Countries Have Succeeded in Flattening the Curve

    To help flatten the curve in the Covid-19 outbreak, officials at all levels of government are asking people to stay home. Here's what’s worked, and what hasn't.

  3. Equity

    The Problem With a Coronavirus Rent Strike

    Because of coronavirus, millions of tenants won’t be able to write rent checks. But calls for a rent holiday often ignore the longer-term economic effects.

  4. photo: a bicycle rider wearing a mask in London

    In a Global Health Emergency, the Bicycle Shines

    As the coronavirus crisis forces changes in transportation, some cities are building bike lanes and protecting cycling shops. Here’s why that makes sense.

  5. An African healthcare worker takes her time washing her hands due to a virus outbreak/.

    Why You Should Stop Joking That Black People Are Immune to Coronavirus

    There’s a fatal history behind the claim that African Americans are more resistant to diseases like Covid-19 or yellow fever.