Why do Architects use Models?

building concept design

One of the primary reasons architects use models is to aid in the design process. Crafting a physical or digital model offers a tangible platform for architects to explore and develop their ideas. By manipulating a model, they can experiment with the design’s various aspects, such as its form, space, and structure. This also provides a hands-on opportunity to test different materials, colours, and textures, which can significantly impact the final look and feel of the structure.

Beyond serving as a design tool, models play a crucial role in visualisation. They offer a three-dimensional perspective that blueprints or drawings simply cannot replicate. This aids not only the architects themselves, but also clients, contractors, and other stakeholders involved in the project. With a model, non-technical stakeholders can better understand the proposed design, making it easier to communicate ideas and foster collaboration.

Models also serve as an effective tool for problem-solving. By studying a model, architects can identify potential issues with their designs, such as structural problems or functional inefficiencies. This early detection allows them to address such problems before construction begins, saving time, money, and resources.

In many cases, models can be used as a part of the formal presentation process. They can help to sell the concept of the building to clients, local authorities, or in architectural competitions. Models often have a level of detail and realism that can help people imagine what the finished building will look like in a way that drawings or computer renderings may not be able to achieve.

Materials used in Architectural Model Making

Architects use a wide variety of materials when constructing physical models, depending on the scale of the model, the level of detail required, and the purpose of the model. Here are some of the most commonly used materials:

  1. Cardboard or Foam Board: These are often used for quick study models due to their low cost and ease of use. They can be easily cut, folded, and glued together.
  2. Balsa Wood and Basswood: These lightweight woods are easy to cut and shape, making them ideal for models that require a high level of detail.
  3. Plastic: Plastic sheets and rods can be cut and glued into precise shapes. Clear plastic can be used to represent glass elements in a building.
  4. Metal: Thin sheets or rods of brass or aluminium can be used for models that require a high level of durability or for parts that need to be particularly rigid.
  5. 3D Printed Parts: With the rise of 3D printing technology, architects can now print highly detailed parts of their models. This is particularly useful for complex shapes that are difficult to make by hand.
  6. Paper: Architectural models can also be made entirely out of paper. This is especially popular for origami or pop-up models.
  7. Clay or Modelling Paste: These materials can be used to represent the landscape around the building or for creating organic shapes.
  8. Acrylic: Acrylic is often used when a more polished, professional look is needed. It can be cut precisely and comes in a variety of colours and finishes, including clear, which can simulate glass.

The choice of materials depends largely on what the architect is trying to convey with the model. A quick study model might be made from simple and cheap materials, while a final presentation model might be made from more expensive and durable materials to show off the design in the best possible light.
 architectural planning model

How Detailed are these Architectural Models?

The sophistication of architectural models can vary widely based on their intended purpose, audience, and stage of the design process.

In the early stages of design, architects often create simple, rough study models. These models are primarily for the architects’ own use, to help them understand the three-dimensional qualities of their designs. They are typically made from inexpensive, easily manipulated materials like foam, cardboard, or balsa wood, and they might not include much detail. The focus at this stage is on the overall form and layout of the design, rather than the specifics.

As the design progresses, the models often become more detailed. These may include elements like windows, doors, or other architectural details, and they might be made from more durable materials. These models can be used to present the design to clients, stakeholders, or regulatory bodies, so they need to be more polished and professional-looking. They might also include elements of the surrounding context, like nearby buildings or landscaping.

In some cases, architects might create highly detailed, highly accurate models for presentation or exhibition purposes. These models can be works of art in their own right, crafted from high-quality materials like acrylic or metal, and they may include every detail of the final design, down to the furniture inside the building.

With the advent of 3D printing and computer-aided design (CAD) technology, architects can now create digital models that are extremely sophisticated and precise much more easily than they could in the past. These digital models can be manipulated in ways that physical models can’t, allowing for a deeper exploration of the design. They can also be used to create photorealistic renderings or walkthroughs that can give clients a very clear idea of what the finished building will look like.

The key requirement in determining how sophisticated the model needs to be is that it should provide the level of detail and accuracy necessary to effectively communicate the design ideas at the current stage of the project.

Why work with JH May on your Project?

architectural model 3D

At J H May, we take immense pride in our esteemed clientele, which includes globally renowned architectural firms, structural engineers, and infrastructure planning consultants such as Foster & Partners, Zaha Hadid, and Arup. We deeply value their relentless pursuit of excellence and their steadfast dedication to quality, speed, and budget-consciousness.

In this dynamic and demanding environment, we strive not just to meet, but to exceed their consistently high expectations. This often poses considerable challenges, especially when faced with delivery timelines that seem nearly unattainable. However, at J H May, we see these challenges as opportunities to showcase our commitment and skill.

One of the key strategies we employ to minimize lead time is empowering our architectural model makers to engage directly with the architects and design teams. This direct line of communication allows us to gather essential information swiftly and resolve issues efficiently. Our model makers embrace this flexible approach throughout the process, which we’ve found to be the most significant contributing factor to expedited delivery without compromising on quality.

Our willingness to initiate projects still in the design phase demonstrates our adaptability and eagerness to fulfil our clients’ stringent requirements. This approach is possible due to our clients’ unwavering trust in our skills as architectural model makers and our comprehensive understanding of their operational practices. This synergy often transforms what initially appears impossible into a feasible and successful project.

At J H May, we are not just model makers; we are problem solvers and partners in making architectural visions a reality.