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I want to explain first of all that i’m writing this from the perspective of someone who has had knowledge of having to make architectural models with limited resources. Although We are now a professional model maker I was once a student at the Welsh School of Architecture where they viewed models just as one important part of the design process. Through my 3 years on the course and subsequent several years in the model making profession I have seen, or made myself, almost all of the common mistakes people make when setting out to produce an architectural model. Hopefully I can help you avoid these errors and save you a lot of wasted effort and time.
Planning your architectural model
The foremost and most important step for any architectural model making project is placed a clear goal to the model. In other words, exactly what is the model for, precisely what is its purpose, exactly what does it need to communicate? Few people have the budget and resources to generate a model that shows everything with regards to their project. It is more realistic to decide on an aspect of your design how the model can show well.
For instance, if you are designing a structure in a sensitive area, a monochrome massing model can present the overall form and layout of the design and how it sits rolling around in its context. This will give viewers an immediate general understanding of assembling your shed. The colours, materials and any other detailed elements may be explained through additional drawings, photographs, swatches, etc.
Another approach is always to let your drawings show the general overview of your project and make use of an architectural model as an example one of the detailed aspects. As an example you could make a part-model of an particularly interesting section of the building; an entrance feature perhaps or possibly a decorative elevation. Or you will make a sectional model that slices with the building to show the inner spatial organization.
The important thing is always to start with a clear purpose for the architectural model then work out what sort of model will best achieve your goals.
What scale if the architectural model be?
Once you have decided what your model must illustrate, the next step is pick the most appropriate scale. This decision is affected by two things; how big a place you need to model and just how much detail you wish to show. If you need to show a big area, perhaps for any site context model, you should choose a smaller scale, say 1:500 and even 1:1000. This can be to avoid the model becoming too big to be practical. But at these smaller scales you have to be aware that is not really simple to show much in the way of detail.
When the purpose of the model is to show just the building itself you could look at 1:200 as well as 1:100 scale. At these scales you are able to show windows, doors, balconies, etc. However, in case your goal is to illustrate a particular area or detailed element of the building you may well require bigger again, say 1:50 scale as well as 1:20 scale.
Whatever the purpose of your model, having the ability to understand scales will allow you to work out practical, achievable selections for your particular project. Most students will already have a clear understanding of scales and people who have can skip the following bit, but if you are a little unclear about the subject it is probably worth reading.
Scales have been very simple. The scale of architectural models is really a ratio – to put it differently, the relative size the model to the real thing. For example, 1:1 scale (we would say it as “one to one”) will be a life size model. Whereas, 1:10 scale (“one to ten” or “one tenth scale”) would be one tenth of actual size. Likewise, 1:100 can be one hundredth of actual size, and the like. The larger the scale indicator number, the smaller the model, which suggests less detail can be shown.
Another useful approach to think about scales is always to work out how many millimetres represent one metre on the particular scale you consider hiring. We do this by dividing 1000 with the scale indicator number. By way of example, for 1:200 scale, divide 1000 by 200 and you get the answer 5. Which notifys you that one metre in real life will be represented by 5mm around the model. So if the region you need to model is 100 metres x 100 metres square, your 1:200 scale model would be 500mm x 500mm (100 x 5mm).
For particularly large sites you will need to use a much smaller scale, say, 1:1000. With this scale the architectural model will probably be one thousandth of the actual size. To exercise how many millimetres will represent a metre we redo the sum we did above, 1000 divided from the scale indicator number (in cases like this also 1000). The solution is obviously 1, meaning that one metre on site will probably be represented by 1 millimetre for the model. A square site 1000 metres x 1000 metres would therefore be 1000 millimetres square as a 1:1000 scale model.
Architectural model making methods and materials
For the purposes of this general guide I will not go into a lot of specific detail on architectural model making techniques and materials since this is a very broad area and will be covered in a separate article. Here are several basic rules to check out though.
Be realistic by what you can achieve with the time, materials and facilities accessible to you. Don’t try and make the model show every piece of information of your design or you just won’t finish it. Usually it is students with higher model making skills that do not finish their architectural model, due to the fact their enthusiasm gets the better of them with tried to show too much. Or, the model does get finished nonetheless it has taken up most of their time and energy that other important aspects of their presentation need to be rushed or do not get done at all.
It can be tricky to get the balance right however it is better to be a little less ambitious together with the model and focus on submitting a coordinated, fully realized overall presentation.
The usage of colour is another area where models will go wrong. Sometimes it’s safer to keep things monochrome (white, for example, can look quite “architectural” and trendy) unless you’re very more comfortable with colour or it’s actually a vital part of what your model is wanting to show.
Always present your model over a good, solid base using a clean edge finish – this acts similar to a picture frame and increases the general appearance of your model.
As far as materials have concerns, unless you have easy accessibility to a workshop along with a reasonable level of knowledge of machinery, it would be far better to work with card or foam-board or similar, easy-to-cut materials such as Balsa or Lime wood. To put it differently, anything that you can cut with the sharp blade or junior hack saw and stick along with conventional shop bought glues.
And when you are cutting, if at all possible, try to use a square, especially if you are cutting out floor plates or elevations. Keeping everything square is important if you want to achieve a neat, crisp finish to your building. It is also worth getting a metal ruler because you will find a plastic or wooden ruler are certain to get damaged very quickly.
Whether you’re cutting with a craft knife or even a scalpel, it’s safer to use several light passes as an alternative to trying to cut throughout with one go. You will get a cleaner cut and you really are less likely to slip and trim your finger.
Sourcing materials can be hard, but your best bet would be to investigate your local Art & Craft shop and view also if there is a hobbyist model shop in the region. These shops will most likely have a good range of materials but don’t realize what you need early. It can be surprising how quickly several students all implementing a similar design brief can empty the shelves of all the so-called best materials. 3D Rendering
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