Architectural models or maquettes are visions of tiny little worlds. Sometimes, they represent the purest form of our architectural journeys.
I’ve always had a strong affinity for models, from Lego blocks, action figure set pieces to movie environments and dioramas. There is a certain charm to being able to physically observe and interact with your thoughts, and seeing a story unfold.
We have seen physical models become less and less popular with the advent of increasingly advanced computer modelling software and tools. I remember having a discussion with one of my colleagues about the use of physical models in contemporary practices outside of presentation and marketing, and so I figured why not explore these thoughts further and try to show how we work with models in our studio.
First, it is important to note that there are different kinds of architectural models. The ones people probably see most often are the marketing models that are highly accurate scale reproductions of various buildings and developments. Then there are the presentation models that convey architectural ideas and massing or sketch models that form part of the design process.
What purpose do physical models serve? What can you do with one that you cannot do with a virtual model?
Massing models are incredible idea generators. They are tools for both contemplation and collaboration. There are very few tools that allow each member of a team to have simultaneous and diverse views and experiences of a form or space. They are almost cubist abstractions of an idea or form. These models act as collaborative platforms to discuss and explore ideas. They give a better sense of scale and geometry and show the physical relationship of a project with its site and surroundings.
A model is a medium that we can hold and touch, as well as manipulate with our hands. You can bring them up close or hover over them, allowing you to have simultaneously broad and particular viewpoints. Changes and articulations are immediate and particularly apparent in them. Massing models are often made with foam and cardboard or other ad hoc materials. They are unfinished and unpolished giving a very malleable and indeterminate yet physical sense of exploration.