architecture model

Every thing You Want To Know About Architectural Model Making

Table of Contents


As architects and college students we’re deeply fascinated by architectural models, and as designers they supply a far broader understanding than most, if not all, 3D applications and rendered representations and/or visualizations.

Architecture fashions allow us to rapidly take a look at how a building is constructed, interacts with pure parts, makes use of scale, and influences its customers, all in a extremely environment friendly and interesting method.

A effectively crafted mannequin nevertheless takes time, endurance, dedication, a transparent understanding of mannequin making supplies, and naturally a pointy and top quality set of modelling instruments!

On this information we breakdown this course of, and focus on the artwork of architectural mannequin making, frequent varieties and scales, current an summary of supplies and instruments, and introduce a sequence of ideas to assist enhance your mannequin making expertise and strategies.

What’s an architectural model?

For these unfamiliar; merely put, an architectural mannequin is a three-dimensional bodily illustration of a building, normally made to a smaller scale than that of the building itself.

Architecture models enable architects to visualise and manipulate the buildings they design, and supply a presentation instrument when sharing concepts with others.

They’re typically constituted of paper, card, wooden, foam and/or plastics, and might be constructed by hand or through the use of know-how comparable to laser cutter or 3D printer. Immediately, bodily fashions are sometimes used alongside CAD (computer-aided design) fashions.

Historical past of architectural models

Architectural models have been used for hundreds of years. The oldest identified mannequin, which was found in modern-day Bulgaria and is manufactured from clay, is believed up to now from 4,600 BC. Nonetheless it was most definitely created as a present, or to be positioned in somebody’s tomb, fairly than for architectural design functions.

Mannequin-making as we all know it didn’t actually take off till the Renaissance (14th to 17th centuries), when buildings turned extra advanced.

Renaissance fashions have been supposed to indicate buildings as realistically as doable. Nonetheless, by the 20th century, architects usually used fashions to current their concepts in additional inventive and summary methods.

What’s the goal of architectural models at this time?

Whereas sketching, by hand and by laptop, they play a necessary function within the design course of, however have totally different functions at totally different levels of the design course of.

In the beginning of the method

Conceptual fashions take a look at and present an architect’s preliminary thought processes. Made early within the design course of they’re usually summary, with the ultimate building bearing restricted little resemblance to the conceptual mannequin.

In the course of the course of

In the course of the design course of, architects would possibly make a working mannequin(often known as a sketch mannequin).

Working models enable architects to review proposals from totally different angles, see how varied parts work together, and the way mild falls at totally different occasions of day. Additionally they enable architects to hunt suggestions from purchasers (or different members of the design staff) on concepts in progress.

On the finish of the method

The third kind of mannequin is a presentation mannequin, which is used to exhibit a scaled reproduction of the completed building.

There are numerous causes for making a presentation mannequin: to present details about a building or scheme to the general public; to promote a building or scheme to purchasers; or to get funding or approval from our bodies comparable to councils.

Bodily vs CAD architectural models

Though CAD models depict buildings in three dimensions, human imaginative and prescient solely ever lets us see them in two.

Physical models enable architects to expertise their buildings in a really totally different means – as an illustration, to see how totally different areas relate to one another.

Bodily fashions additionally enable for a lot simpler experimentation and correction. Most architectural practices will use a mix of each bodily and CAD fashions when working up their building designs.

The cost of architectural models

The price of producing an expert architectural mannequin, is extremely dependant on its scale, dimension of building, and the supplies used to create it. Nonetheless, skilled mannequin making is a extremely expert occupation and because of this they’re occasionally low cost!

Though the associated fee is usually a small sum relative to the general charge a consumer pays, many are reluctant to fee a mannequin.

They might see physical models as pointless because the creation of CAD models, and this has decreased the variety of bodily fashions being made by most corporations to only one or two per yr.

Nonetheless, bodily fashions give purchasers a direct, real-world understanding of a building in a means that CAD models can not at all times obtain.

Types of architectural model

There are 5 foremost kinds of architectural model: exterior, inside, engineering, landscaping design, and concrete.

Exterior model – Exterior models present the skin of a building, in addition to a few of its surrounding parts.

Inside model – Any such mannequin is extra generally utilized by inside designers than architects. It reveals the organisation of area in a room, in addition to colors, finishes and furnishings.

Engineering model – Engineering fashions present only one ingredient of a building. They assist engineers perceive how that ingredient will work in observe, and so they could include transferring components.

Landscaping design model – Any such mannequin contains vegetation, bridges, walkways and road furnishings. Landscaping design fashions typically symbolize public areas, with particular person buildings of secondary significance.

City – City fashions present how bigger areas, comparable to a college campus or perhaps a entire city, are organised. They’re essentially constructed on a really small scale (1:500 and even much less).

Architectural model scales

In distinctive instances, an architectural model is likely to be life dimension (1:1). Extra generally, nevertheless, fashions will probably be produced at one of many following scales, with the relative proportions of the building and the mannequin stored the identical.

To provide a true-to-life impression                  

To point out inside area                                 

To point out a façade or part                        

To point out a building structure                         

To point out a web site plan (e.g. a campus)        

To point out a metropolis map                                      

1:2 or 1:5

1:10 or 1:20


1:100, 1:200 or 1:500

1:1000 or 1:2500

1:5000 or smaller

This isn’t a definitive information. Many components will have an effect on the selection of scale for an architectural mannequin, together with the associated fee, the out there time and supplies, and whether or not it must be moved between places.

What materials do architects use to build scale models?

Traditionally, architectural models tended to be manufactured from cork. (Artists and designers on the Grand Tour of Europe within the 17th and 18th centuries usually bought cork models of classical monuments.)

Immediately, they’re extra more likely to be manufactured from cardboard/paper, wooden, foam, plastics, or ultra-light trendy supplies comparable to taskboard. It’s turning into extra frequent to make use of 3D plastic printing as a technique for producing architectural fashions.

The next are the principle supplies in use at this time.

Sulphite paper – Sulphite paper could be very skinny, that means it bends and folds simply. This makes it ideally suited for any building with curved traces.

Card inventory – Thicker than sulphite paper however nonetheless versatile, card inventory is offered in all kinds of colors. Utilizing a impartial color of card inventory and a handheld torch permits architects to evaluate the impact of sunshine on their building.

Paper inventory – is barely thicker once more. It may be purchased in duplex (two-sheet) and triplex (three-sheet) varieties.

Madeira balsa – This skinny wooden is simple to chop, and presents higher longevity and element than paper or card. It additionally has a neat, skilled end which is advantageous if the model is to be proven to a consumer.

Basswood – Basswood is denser and heavier than balsa, which suggests it’s barely more durable to chop and sand. Nonetheless, fashions manufactured from basswood are more likely to final.

Foam – A favorite of architecture college students, foam is reasonable and can be utilized to generate a primary mannequin in minutes.

It’s particularly efficient for volumetric testing, when the main points of a building are much less necessary than the kinds. Flat foam boards (made of froth sandwiched between cardboard) are additionally out there, mostly in thicknesses of 3mm and 5mm. These might be lower simply with scissors.

Polyamide – Polyamide is probably the commonest plastic utilized in 3D printing. It’s robust, has a easy end, and may deal with intricate designs.

ABS – ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is one other plastic used for 3D printing. It’s a standard selection for architectural fashions because it dissolves in acetone, which suggests components can neatly be welded collectively.

Acrylic – Although it have to be lower and engraved with a laser machine, this type of plastic has a number of benefits. Acrylic is mild and versatile, and it produces convincing home windows and different parts that may be added to fashions manufactured from different supplies.

Taskboard – Taskboard is a wood fibre board that’s inflexible when dry, however might be sprayed with water and curved if essential. It is a perfect materials for laser-cutting as a result of the sting burn (marks left by the laser on the fabric) can simply be sanded off.

What tools are used for model making?

Totally different instruments are required for making fashions with totally different supplies. Nonetheless, the next objects are thought of important by most architects.

Self-healing slicing board – This type of board is designed for longevity. Though it seems to have one strong floor, it’s truly manufactured from hundreds of tiny items. Your blade falls between them as you chop, that means the floor of the board doesn’t get broken.

Cutting knives – There are lots of of slicing knives out there, and you’ll most likely discover your personal favourites by means of trial and error.

Nonetheless, two knives which might be generally utilized in studios are the Olfa 9mm, an all-purpose knife with adjustable blade size, and an X-ACTO knife (with quite a lot of blades) for detailed work. The latter is extraordinarily sharp and needs to be used with care.

Glue – Sizzling glue (i.e. glue utilized with a gun) is mostly most well-liked for joins that won’t be seen, since this technique is quick and simple however imprecise.

For tiny particulars, or for parts that will should be repositioned, white glue – which takes a very long time to set – is a better option. Main manufacturers embrace 3M, Elmer’s and Sobo. These white glues might be inserted right into a glue syringe for exact utility, or for reaching into difficult corners of a mannequin.

In case your mannequin is manufactured from wooden, search for wooden glue particularly designed for this materials. You’ll most likely additionally want a glue remover to tidy up your mannequin earlier than presenting it. There are merchandise designed particularly for this, however nail polish remover is an inexpensive and efficient various for eradicating glue.

L-square – An L-square (often known as an engineers’ sq.) is a right-angled body that means that you can create 90-degree corners, and verify that the traces of your mannequin are straight.

Since L-squares are normally manufactured from chrome steel, which might simply slide, some architects discover it useful to stay masking tape to the underside.

Rulers – One ruler won’t suffice for all duties. Most studios are geared up with a six-inch metallic ruler, which is simple to govern, and an eighteen-inch one for work on a bigger scale.

Scissors – Some duties are too labour-intensive for knives, which is the place a small pair of scissors can turn out to be useful. Fiskars’ scissors are sometimes really helpful as they keep sharp for a very long time.

Tape – Varied sorts of tape are utilized in conceptual and dealing fashions; in presentation fashions, tape can look considerably untidy. Which tape you select is dependent upon the job at hand.

Painters’ tape has a mild adhesive that gained’t injury surfaces, and can maintain parts in place in your mannequin whereas glue dries. For those who don’t like the brilliant blue color of painters’ tape, beige drafting tape is comparable although not fairly as robust.

Double sided-tape is helpful for invisible bonding of flat parts, whereas on a regular basis workplace tape is ok for tape loops.

How to buy and store architectural model making supplies

For those who can afford it, purchase your supplies in bulk. This may prevent money within the long-term – you would possibly think about shopping for your provides with a buddy if cash is tight.

Additionally it is smart to purchase merchandise made by respected manufacturers. As tempting as it’s to scrimp whenever you’re on a funds, that is almost at all times false economic system. Market-leading manufacturers comparable to Olfa (for knives) and 3M (for adhesives) will work higher and last more.

When storing your supplies, discover a place that’s dry and away from direct daylight.

The place to purchase architectural model making provides

Many of the provides described right here will probably be out there in artwork provide outlets or model-making outlets, however shopping for on-line at Amazon or eBay might prevent cash.

The architecture departments of universities and schools may even promote the commonest objects you might be more likely to want for model-making.

Ten ideas to assist enhance your architectural mannequin making

1. Select your instruments and supplies properly

Purchase the highest quality instruments and supplies you may afford – but additionally ensure that your supplies are appropriatefor the actual mannequin you’re making.

For instance, within the majority of instances it might be pointless to make a working mannequin from costly acrylic.

2. Be sure that your blades are sharp

Uninteresting blades will destroy your supplies! The one option to ensure that your blade is sharp sufficient is to check it.

One technique for checking that is to carry a chunk of scrap paper vertically, and attempt to carry your knife downwards. If the blade cuts the paper simply, you’re good to go. If the paper crumples up, get a brand new blade.

3. Benefit from laser slicing and 3D printing

Laser slicing and 3D printing give wonderful precision. To make parts of your mannequin with a laser cutter, take your floor dimensions from Sketchup, switch them into AutoCAD drawings, then lower and assemble the items.

You can too 3D print from Sketchup, saving time and decreasing the complexity of the model-making course of.

4. Do not forget that working fashions are working fashions

Working fashions are manifestations of your thought course of. They don’t should be excellent, so don’t spend hours agonising over them.

Use low cost card, tape or no matter is handy, and prioritise creativity over accuracy.

5. Make one half at a time

In mannequin making as in life, it may be arduous to see the large image! You’re more likely to make fewer errors, and waste much less materials, should you construct one a part of your mannequin at a time.

It’s additionally psychologically simpler to interrupt down an enormous job into smaller parts. Full one part to your satisfaction earlier than transferring on to the subsequent – and don’t neglect to construct your mannequin on a strong base.

6. Don’t embrace every little thing…

Until you might be aiming for an actual scale replica of your building, you don’t want to incorporate each element. To determine what to incorporate and exclude, take into consideration the aim of your mannequin and who’s going to work together with it.

Leaving out non-essential parts attracts consideration to extra necessary ones.

7. …however do think about together with prefabricated parts

Prefabricated parts comparable to human figures and autos give architectural fashions a way of scale.

Additionally it is price experimenting with synthetic plant supplies comparable to darkish inexperienced coarse turf (for leaves and weeds), forest inexperienced bushes (for bushes and shrubs) and flocking (for grass).

8. Use templates

You’ll virtually definitely have repeated parts in your building design, so save useful time by creating reusable templates.

This doesn’t need to be sophisticated – a template might simply be a sq. of card lower to the peak of the home windows or the gap between them.

9. Wash your fingers

Mannequin-making will make your fingers soiled and oily. There is no such thing as a option to keep away from this, so wash your fingers each hour or so.

This may cease you getting marks in your materials and enhance the general look of your mannequin.

10. Flip the lights on!

Architectural model-making is detailed and fiddly work, and you’ll simply pressure your eyes (or lose focus and drop off in dim mild!). Make your workspace as brightly-lit as you may.

Well-known architectural fashions to be impressed by

For those who’re on the lookout for inspiration, these 5 fashions are thought of among the many most creative in architectural historical past.

Dome of Florence Cathedral, Filippo Brunelleschi (c.1418)

Many have been sceptical that Brunelleschi might construct a dome on the prevailing, octagonal base at Florence Cathedral, which measured virtually 46 metres throughout.

Brunelleschi’s plan was so technically advanced, he felt fashions have been the one option to present his workmen what to do. His fashions additionally ensured that the development of every a part of the dome had been examined prematurely, albeit on a a lot smaller scale.

Tatlin’s Tower, Vladimir Tatlin (1919-20)

The Soviet artist and architect designed his Tower to be a logo of modernity in iron, metal and glass.

The 400-metre excessive structure was by no means truly constructed, as a consequence of an absence of funds and doubts about its structural integrity, however fashions of Tatlin’s iconic creation stay on show at museums all over the world.

Clusters within the Air, Arata Isozaki (1960-62)

Arata Isozaki’s radical plans for housing in Tokyo noticed modular residences suspended above the capital like leaves on tree branches.

Though Isozaki’s Clusters within the Air, like many designs proposed by the Metabolists group to which he belonged, have been by no means constructed, his ingenious fashions have been an inspiration to architects in every single place.

Geodesic Domes, Buckminster Fuller (1950s onwards)

Fuller believed that his geodesic domes – robust however light-weight buildings constructed of triangular panes – have been the way forward for human shelter.

The energy-efficient domes have been first displayed on the 1954 Milan Triennale with the fashions, manufactured from cardboard, measuring almost 13 metres throughout.

Representatives from the US navy have been so excited by Fuller’s fashions they started creating their very own domes based mostly on his designs.

Paper reliefs, Zaha Hadid (1990s onwards)

Hadid represented the biomorphic types of a lot of her buildings with intricate white paper reliefs.

The flattened fashions are so abstracted they’re typically thought of artworks in their very own proper, however additionally they give the viewer an intuitive understanding of the types of Hadid’s buildings in three dimensions.


Making architectural fashions is a necessary ability for any architect, significantly if you’re a pupil – even when fewer bodily fashions are being made because the creation of CAD – and like most expertise it may be improved with observe.

Create bodily fashions usually, for enjoyable in addition to for work or examine. Ask for suggestions from friends, tutors or senior colleagues. Do your analysis, and take inspiration from others’ work.

Mannequin-making is likely to be one of many trickiest components of a up to date architect’s work, however it can be one of the vital satisfying.

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