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Architectural model

An architectural model is a type of a scale model, tangible (also called sometimes physical) representation of a structure built to study aspects of an architectural design or to communicate design ideas to clients, committees, and the general public. Architectural models are a tool which may be used for show, presentation, fundraising, obtaining permits, and sale purposes.

Rough study models can be made quickly using cardboard, wooden blocks, polystyrene, foam, foam boards and other materials. Such models are an efficient tool for three-dimensional understanding of a design, used by architects, interior designers and exhibit designers. For a highly detailed presentation model, architects would employ a professional model maker or model making company.

                                                             Architectural model promoting highrise condominium.


Architectural models are used by architects for a range of purposes -

  • Quick, ad-hoc models are sometimes made to study the interaction of volumes, or to get an idea of how they look from different angles. Designing a building using rough models can be a very open-ended and practical method of exploring ideas.
  • Models are an efficient method for exhibiting and selling a design. Many people, including developers and would-be house buyers, cannot visualize a design in three dimensions (3-D) from two-dimensional (2-D) drawings. An architect may employ small-scale physical models, or digital computer models, to help explain the ideas.
  • A model may be useful in explaining a complicated or unusual design to the building team, or as a focus for discussion between the design teams such as architects, engineers and town planners.
  • Models are also used as show pieces, for instance as a feature in the reception of a prestigious building, or as part of a museum exhibition (for example scale replicas of historical buildings).


Some types of model include -

  • Exterior models are models of buildings which usually include some landscaping or civic spaces around the building.
  • Interior models are models showing interior space planning, finishes, colors, furniture and beautification.
  • Landscaping design models are models of landscape design and development representing features such as walkways, small bridges, pergolas, vegetation patterns and beautification. Landscaping design models usually represent public spaces and may, in some cases, include buildings as well.
  • Urban models are models typically built at a much smaller scale (starting from 1:500 and less, 1:700, 1:1000, 1:1200, 1:2000, 1:20 000), representing several city blocks, even a whole town or village, large resort, campus, industrial facility, military base and so on. Urban models are a vital tool for town/city planning and development.
  • Engineering and construction models show isolated building/structure elements and components and their interaction.
 Model of a museum building.

Virtual modelling

Over the last few decades, detailed construction has been increasingly designed in CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems. The technology is improving rapidly. Early virtual modelling involved the fixing of arbitrary lines and points in virtual space, mainly to produce technical drawings. Modern packages include advanced features such as databases of components,automated engineering calculations, visual fly-throughs, dynamic reflections, and accurate textures and colours.

While virtual tours are undoubtedly useful, they are still limited to images on a computer screen and lack the sensory impact, or qualia, of a physical model.

                    Model of a building interior.


Common materials used for centuries in architectural model building were card stock, balsa wood, basswood and other woods. Modern professional architectural model builders are taking advantage of twenty-first century materials, such as Task board, a variety of plastics, wooden and wooden-plastic composites, foams, foam board and urethane compounds.

A number of companies produce ready-made pieces for structural components (e.g. girders, beams), siding, furniture, figures (people), vehicles, trees, bushes and other features which are found in the models. Features such as vehicles, people figurines, trees, street lights and other are called "scenery elements" and serve not only to beautify the model, but also to help the observer to obtain a correct feel of scale and proportions represented by the model.Increasingly, rapid prototyping and solid free form fabrication ('3D printing') are used to automatically construct models straight from CAD plans.

The challenge with using these tools lies in the CAD file format. The majority of 3D printers accept the stereo lithography (.STL for short) file format, which is basically a mesh that wraps around the object in 3-dimensions. It helps to visualize this as a bag of oranges wrapped in a mesh bag. If there is a"tear" in the bag, the oranges will spill out. This is similar to what happens when an STL file is not cleanly produced and prematurely sent to a 3D printer. Clean STL files are a major challenge for architecture models produced using this technology.

Other rapid prototyping technology, also CAD based, which become very useful for architectural model making is CNC carving. Large CNC carving plotters are able to carve out of high density foam boards up to 10' x 4' topography for architectural or urban model.

Recently a small profile CNC carving plotter has been released which allows low-cost rapid prototyping of buildings and topography from other file types, including Google Sketch Up's KMZ format and ArcGIS.

                   Model of an historic building


Architectural models are being constructed at much smaller scale than their 1:1 counterpart. Standard architectural scales are different, although some of them are close to the standard scales acknowledged in the model/hobby industry. Such similarities allow us to provide high quality scenery elements for architectural models.Sometimes model railroad scales such as 1:160 and 1:87 are used due to ready availability of commercial figures, vehicles and trees in those scales,and models of large buildings are most often built in approximately that range of scales due to size considerations. Models representing1-2 buildings and a modest piece of surrounding landscape may be built at a larger scale such as 1:50 or even 1:24. Here is a useful *Scale Guide to obtain more information about standard architectural scales and to help with scale selection.

Architects usually employ a professional model maker or model making company to create such models.

          Ancient Chinese model of two residential towers,
         made of earthenware during the Han Dynasty,
        2nd century BC to 2nd century AD

Paper Architectural Model

Today, printable architectural models exist and are like origami. This takes a high level of skill in order to accomplish in a proper manner.
Paper Architectural Models of (left to right)
                a Bungalow, an Office and a House.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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