Architectural Models:The Ultimate Guide

The role of architectural model making in the architectural design process is irreplaceable. At present, architectural model is not only a presentation tool in the toolbox, but also an innovative product for everyone. Make an architectural model of the new house you just purchased, or the interior space of the dream house you’ve recently designed. This guide mainly introduces architectural models’ functions and provides what ideal scale, material, and techniques are available. With the help of this guide, everything is possible!
Architectural Models
Chapter 1:

What is an Architectural Model?

What is an Architectural Model?

C 1.1: The Definition of Architectural Models

As we all know, architects’ knowledge, talent, and skills are the keys to the success of any project. However, the design is not a lone genius process. Communication during the design process is equally important to the construction project as well.

The architects consider how the design will look in real life and how it will translate from the blueprint to the build itself. Having an awareness of the ways are used to express architects’ design is necessary.

The luxury architectural model making project-Opus Hong Kong

In order to represent architectural ideas that originate in the mind of architects, the physical architectural models have served as great communication tools in today’s architectural design activity. In simple terms, the architectural model is a physical 3D artifact that results from working out architectural ideas.

It is also an object which is created to show scale physical images of existing or historical buildings. In addition, the architectural model itself is an object of beauty that the observers  can appreciated.

C 1.2: The History of Architectural Models

Architectural models have a lengthy history. In 4600 BC, the first fired-clay model of building from was made. This early model was not used to represent the design idea but was buried as funerary objects, and the earliest architectural model appeared during the Han Dynasty in China.

The scale model of pottery buildings was made of soil embryo, and its appearance imitated wood pavilions.

Models of pottery buildings in Han Dynasty

Models of pottery buildings in the Han Dynasty

Architectural models started to be used in the construction projects in the fifteenth century as the complexity of building projects increased. The intention of making architectural models was to make the design as realistic as possible.

What’s more, during the Renaissance period, architectural models were extensively used to demonstrate finished designs like the Models of Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower.

Model of Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower in 1418

Model of Basilica of Saint Mary of the Flower in 1418

Later in the twentieth century, conceptual architectural models appeared to represent architects’ abstract level of ideas. Subsequently, it became a connection between the fine arts and architecture. Architectural design models were considered as the best objects to embody the design of the projects to the public and the clients since the latest decades of the twentieth century.

Materials were well chosen to represent the building facade’s realism and effects and to create its interior space. In some cases, an abstract architectural model of unbuildable designs was made for the visionary proposals and made the fantasy more real. For instance, a model of Kiesler Endless House fulfilled the visual desire of the public.

Fredrick Kiesler Endless House in 1959

Fredrick Kiesler Endless House in 1959

Since then, innovation has been seen as the key to the success of architectural models. The evolution of architectural models kept going until presentation models appeared and started exhibiting for the public.

Nowadays, together with the CAD (Computer Aided Design) and advanced model-making techniques such as laser cutting machines, 3D printing, and architectural model makers can fabricate high-fidelity scale architectural models with unparalleled detail and precision.

General Superior Naci Ozkan

An architectural model maker is fabricating architectural models with unparalleled detail and precision.

Moreover, architectural model is an art language that is infectious and expressive. In particular, the presentation models are widely used in urban planning and architecture design of homes, hotels, resorts, office buildings and retail spaces, educational institutions and other public facilities and buildings, etc.

A presentation model can be used in urban planning.

With the development of modern advanced technologies, current architectural models can be fabricated in less time and have a higher level of detail. In order to cope with the rapid development of the construction industry’s diversification, these models show the clients and the public the design features,  such as the space layout, structure, surrounding environment, the illumination and ventilation inside the building, etc. How to manufacture an architectural model quickly and without error is becoming an urgent necessity.

Furthermore, after considering the current global environmental issues and sustainable development, it is increasingly important to develop green technologies, including processing model materials and architectural model-making methods.

The outcomes and the applications of architectural models keep improving and innovating. This means that architectural creativity will continue to use architectural models widely.

Chapter 2:

Functions of Architectural Models

Functions of Architectural Models

Nowadays, architectural model is been concerned as a bridge between architects’ design philosophy and present design ideas to clients to overview. It helps to eliminate design flaws before the design being deployed to build.

Moreover, the architectural model plays an indispensable role in the planning, fundraising, construction, marketing and sales process of construction projects.

C 2.1: Communication and Overview

The architectural model helps clients and investors to imagine how the design looks like in reality by visualizing the 2D drawings or 3D digital models.

Making architectural models is an effective and efficient way to help the architect and the client to communicate. Modifications to the design can be made before the building is taking place to ensure desired results.

Architectural Model for communication and overview

An Architectural Model for communication and overview (Image from internet).

C 2.2: Sales and Marketing

Once the project is completed, the architectural model can be used as a sales tool for selling and marketing real estate. It can show the potential housing purchaser the location of their units and its surroundings.

Natural elements such as afternoon shade can also be viewed through the displaying of site models to give life to the goal of an exhibition. It is an excellent way to demonstrate the design of the construction projects by displaying stunning architectural models.

A Residential Architectural Model for sales and marketing

C 2.3: Public Display and Guidance

The architectural model can be served as a sitemap for large complex, for example, a city or a sitemap for a park to give visitors an idea of where they are and how to get to the desired locations.

In addition, local citizens can also benefit from model exhibition to get a better understanding and awareness of the project and how this project will affect them.

A location model for indication

C 2.4: Fundraising

Having a good architectural model can inspire the investors’ understanding, enthusiasm, and confidence, and thus help to attract donors and sponsors in a fundraising effort.

A site model for fundraising

C 2.5: Construction Projects Approval and Permits

Specifically, some governments or housing owners’ associations require architectural models to ensure whether the certain construction project will be cohesive with the local related development plan and the surroundings of the site during the approval process.

It is a perfect way to help to get the construction permit for building projects. A good architectural model can provide a better understanding of the project to the regulators. Therefore, it is easier for the developers to get related approvals.

The Ritz Carton Hotel Model in Moscow

C 2.6: Abstract and Future Architectural Idea

Future concept models for the designs which cannot actually build by using today’s technologies may help people to imagine the possibilities in the future.

An Abstract Model

Chapter 3:

Types of Architectural Models

Types of Architectural Models

The architectural model can be classified by its function, manufacturing technology (computer: aided manufacturing, handcrafted, and mechanical manufacturing, etc), material (paper, plastic, wood, blow molding, and composite material, etc. ) and time (ancient, contemporary and future). Generally, nowadays architectural models can be categorized into types according to their uses or functions.

C 3.1: Architectural Models Classified by Uses

C 3.1.1: Conceptual Model

The conceptual model is made at the initial architectural design stage to discover the desired shape, sketches. It is one of the first approaches to design. Conceptual model is used to analyze the characteristics of the projects as well as the spatial layout, ratio and surrounding environments.

Commonly, these architectural models are made of cheap materials such as foam core and cardboard which can be used and modified rapidly and simply.

As such, a conceptual model is a more cost-effective means of examining particular aspects of a design. These architectural models are easy and fast to manipulate once they are assembled.

An example of a conceptual model

C 3.1.2: Working Models

Working models are objects which can assist to find new solutions and show the course of a design project’s development at the same time. Different from conceptual models, working models are made of complicated materials like metal, concrete, etc.

These models aim to describe detailed shapes, materials and other elements like the building facade. Furthermore, architects are able to communicate their architectural ideas to the clients by showing working models.

An example of a working model

An example of a working model

C 3.1.3: Presentation Models

Usually, presentation model is being made to the scale which required by the clients. It is ranging from town planning to explanation of a Mock-up room. These models are usually made in detail to give the clients or decision-making bodies a true reflection of the architectural design.

Particular viewpoints can be addressed by showing the detailed building facade and other elements of the projects.

For example, in order to bring the architectural model to life, a top-quality landscaping model may include a variety of bushes and trees made out of different colors and materials. Even the actual branches and leaf forms can be seen to add to the overall effect.

An Example of the presentation model, Ain Dubai

C 3.2: Architectural Models Classified by Functions

C 3.2.1: Urban Planning Model

Many city planning authorities use urban planning models to promote urban redevelopment as well as to attract investments and donations.

The present city planning models have two types: Older parts can help people to understand what cities looked like in the past.

Updated parts can provide people a vision of the future. These miniature cities models’ come in different shapes and size.

City models allow the public to gain perspective on the development of the city which includes land use planning, city landscape, and transportation planning, etc. Most city models are fully interactive and can be controlled by touch screen.

Different lighting zone can be displayed once the relevant image on the screen is touched. The model of “Doha City Planning Model” is an impressive example which contains 1000 resin miniature buildings and even every corner of the Doha city was included.

Urban Planning Model

C 3.2.2: Office Building Model

Office building model is created in a high level of detail requested by the clients to provide an impressive and realistic representation of a construction project. Generally, it is used for marketing or building exhibition.

The office building model brings the architect’s design to life by creating various lighting configuration, detailed building facade especially windows details and textures and other encourage elements like people, vehicles, and surrounding landscape.

Office Building Model

C 3.2.3: Residential Building Model

Residential building models are invaluable tools in the retail world for pre-construction approval, building project phasing, design presentation and client approval.

Residential building models can provide the potential housing buyer or investors a good understanding of the architectural design by showing the road and path layout, entrance, building material and the living environment.

Therefore, it is a great tool for the real estate sales office for marketing.

Residential Building Model

C3.2.4: Villa Model

Villa models are usually made in small scale, for example, 1:25, 1:50. Villa model makes used mechanized components for taking the floor levels up and down to show the complete interior design including the furniture, the lighting fixtures, swimming pools and other amenities.

Villa models are widely used by the developers to illustrate the building projects to the potential housing owners and assisting them to sell plots.

Villa model

Villa model

C3.2.5: Shopping Mall Model

The primary function of shopping mall models is attracting investments and merchants to settle down. In order to represent commercial atmosphere, the materials used to make retailing architectural models are always matching with the finished design.

Shopping mall model reproduced the interior designs of a shopping mall.

Other components like backlit signage, LED billboards, etc can help to enhance the overall effect of adding to the shopping mall models.

Shopping Mall Model

C 3.2.6: Hotel Model

The main purpose of making a hotel model is to show a vivid image of the hotel’s features, thus attract investments and potential hotel guests.

A variation of lighting effect is created to make a distinction between commercial and residential areas as well as to highlight the extraordinary designs.

Almost all the sophisticated details are replicated perfectly by the architectural model makers. Components like real water gushing system can produce remarkable effects when it is used to make swimming pools and fountains.

Hotel Model

C 3.2.7: Stadium Model

At present, new stadiums are popping up since the sport is becoming increasingly popular.

The stadium model has two main functions.One is expressing the design concept of the stadium.

The other is displaying the stadium seating plan to the audience.Electric lights and manicured grass are critical when making the stadium models.

Stadium Model

C 3.2.8: Theme Park Model

Theme Park Models are widely used for public display and generate clients’ interest to attract investments.

But most importantly, the theme park model can tell the theme stories which inform and inspire people in an education and entertaining way.

Entertainment facilities like ray speed circuit, startle castle and waterfalls are the key components to make a realistic effect.

Theme Park Model

C 3.2.9: Museum Model

The current design of the museum is tending to be modern and abstract especially its shapes.

In order to reflect these bold design ideas, high-tech and effective technologies and skilled architectural model builders are both indispensables.

In many cities, the museum is being concerned as the landmark of the city.Therefore, the city government requires elaborate and detailed museum model to attract visitors all over the world.

Museum Model

C 3.2.10: Factory Model

The factory model demonstrates how the factory operating after it is built.

Factory model includes varies facilities of the manufacturing plant and waste treatment process, etc.Sometimes the factory model requires customized components such as wind turbine and chimney to represent the real conditions.

And adding some landscaping detail, trucks and workers can bring the factory model to life.

Factory Model

C 3.2.11: Bridge Model

In most cases, bridge model is made for exhibition purpose and architecture design competition.

It requires a high level of detail to represent the features and motion of the bridge.For instance, a suspension bridge model incorporates copper wire and smooth casting premium fishing line to make the model looks as realistic as possible.

Bridge Model

C 3.2.12: Shipyard Model

In reality, a shipyard is divided into several working zones according to different types of work in production. It includes component fabricating area, preassembling and coating area, assembling area, docking area, etc.

The shipyard model illustrates the whole manufacturing process. In order to bring the model to life, a variety of buildings types, shipbuilding facilities, a wide range of ships and cranes made by our marine model makers, as well as lights and other details are required to be produced.

Shipyard Model

C 3.2.13: Airport Model

In most instances, airport model is used to represent the design in airport architecture competition and the operation of the airport to the airport authority.

It is also used for fundraising efforts and community acceptance.Sometimes, airport model is made for private collection as well.

Airport runway, taxiway, control towers, cargo and terminal buildings, airport hotel, passenger bridges and other accurate details like signage on each plane are made to scale to make the airport model look as realistic as possible.

The distribution of hundreds of marking light points is especially important to offer to chase and to flash light effects.

C 3.2.14: Interior Model

Interior models are manufactured according to different functions such as industrial, commercial, office and home interior models.

Once the interior model is coupled with the building project model, the roof is removable to show how the interior space is designed, decorated as well as the selection of furniture.

It is extensively used in real estate market to attract potential home buyers or investments in sales offices.

Interior Model

C 3.2.15: Landscape Model

Generically, a landscape model incorporates a variety of specific features of the area. Landscape model includes the topography, the evolutions on the buildings, various types of settlement like farms and parks, and other facilities like wind turbines and solar PV units.

The purpose of the landscape model is to analyze the impact of terrain changes, building layout, and other possible environmental influence. After scaling down the site to a required small scale, every scenario can be accurately recreated for the relevant departments and authorities to explore new development plans.

Landscape model can assist public consultation process as well.

In some cases, landscape model is being used to attract investments or give the public an insight into their living conditions.

Landscape Model

Chapter 4:

Materials of Architectural Models

Materials of Architectural Models

C 4.1: Introduction

Similar to the function of sketches, the architectural models are three-dimensional objects that are serves as important tools for the architect to present ideas to colleagues, clients, and the public.

With the high-speed development and the diversification of the architecture industry, it has become necessary to produce architectural models as artistically and fast as possible.

For the purpose to present the buildings’ structure and other features, the materials to make architectural models play an increasingly primary role in the model-making process.

C 4.2: Material Types

Approximately 75% of contemporary architectural models are made from solid block materials such as plastic, foam, and wood or fabricated from purchased sheets of board stock, such as cardboard. Material selection is not only about meeting technical requirements, but also requires architects to consider their related characteristics.

The material’s appearance and durability, sensory stimulation and the user’s experience are key elements in the process of creating the architectural model.

The architects’ design vision can be well represented by physical architectural models, and material selection has a huge impact on how a model feels.

Models made by different materials

To choose appropriate model-making materials, the architects need to take into account certain design criteria to identify the best materials for architectural models, according to specific applications.

For example, materials used to create conceptual models are best if they are easy and quick to form, while presentation models requires durable, stable and fade-resistant materials.

Therefore, architects should be provided with sufficient material information about materials to help them to facilitate a constructive material selection process. As a reference the following is a list of architectural model-making materials.

C 4.3: Plastics

C 4.3.1: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

ABS is in widespread use to make architectural models. Because it’s easily to soluble in acetone which allows model makers to weld parts together.

It can also be used to assemble much larger than what architectural models than the admittedly large bed of the printers can accommodate.

Architectural models made out of full ABS are extremely beautiful.

Architectural model made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)

C 4.3.2: Acrylic

Acrylic sheets are lightweight, flexible plastic and with a better finish.

Acrylic has good transmittance, hardness and ease to machining. In most cases, it can be used to create windows and facade of the models to make gloss and fluorescent effects.

However, this kind of building model-making material is expensive and it has to be cut and engraved by using laser machine.

Architectural model made of acrylic sheets

C4.3.3: Polyamide

Polyamide can provide a realistic implementation of complex detail designs for its character of high precision, firmness, and surface smoothness.

Polyamide is considered one of the toughest model building materials among all other 3D printed plastics.

Architectural models made of polyamide are generally printed with selective laser sintering (SLS) printing technology.

Model made of Polyamide

Model made of polyamide (Image from internet)

C 4.3.4: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Sheet

PVC Mirror Sheet is a rigid sheet but it is not as rigid as glass.

It has became a popular choice as an architectural model-making, materials, because of its shatterproof and lightweight properties. PVC Mirror Sheet is mostly used to represent, transparent and translucent areas in the architectural model-making process.

C 4.4: Wood

Wood and wood-based products are the most commonly used materials for architectural model making.

It is a strong material with dimensional stability. The following are the introduction of some frequently-used woods.

C 4.4.1: Basswood

Basswood is a type of fine-grained strip wood. Basswood has outstanding work-ability and finishing qualities.

This architecture model material is widely used to make the architectural model of buildings and their interior miniature furniture.

Architectural model of window and door made of basswood

C 4.4.2: Balsa Wood

Balsa wood is a type of hardwood with a nice finish and texture.

It can be easily cut, painted and sanded. Balsa wood is one of the building model-making materials to make the structure and the framework of the buildings. However, it is fragile and this condition usually leads to material wastage.

Also, some people consider, the slotted surface of balsa wood unappealing.

Architectural model made of balsa wood

C 4.4.3: Medium-density Fiberboard (MDF)

MDF is similar to thick cardboard. It has smooth edges, natural color and it is easy to work with. However, this material is relatively dense and heavy.

Considering the total weight of the architectural model and its stability, MDF is more used by model makers for the bases of the model.

C 4.4.4: Cork Flooring

Cork flooring provides a feeling of nature. It is good for making landscape models such as models of hilly places.

Cork flooring can also be used as a solid base, but better with other materials for its soft and cushiony surface. Some, disadvantages to be aware of are:

  1. It is susceptible to damage
  2. It needs sealing work to protect it against water stains and other damages
  3. It may decolorate if exposed to the sun for a long time.

Architectural model made of made of cork flooring

C 4.5: Paper

C 4.5.1: Cardboard

Cardboard is a common model-making, material and it is used extensively to make models.

Many architectural models use cardboard to show roads, pathways, and certain terrains by building them up in layers. Cardboard is inexpensive, portable, recyclable and exceptionally flexible.

It is very easy to use without the need for special equipment during the production and installation process of the model.

Architectural Model made of Cardboard

Architectural Model made of Cardboard (Image from internet)

C 4.5.2: Kraft Board

When making the large-scale architectural models, a kraft board can be chosen as an ideal model building material, and it is generally used to form the overall structure rather than the details.

In other words, kraft board architectural models made by Kraft board are meant to present the relationship between the building and its surroundings.

Normally, the kraft board is cut cleanly and the edges cannot be made to look 100% smooth. Therefore, an architectural model made of this material has a very strong structure.

Architectural model made of Kraft Board

Architectural model made of kraft board (Image from internet)

C 4.6: Foam

Foam is extremely useful to make mass and study models.

The commonly used foams are styrofoam, compressed foam board, and blue foam.

Compressed foam board is widely used as a model base or to make models.

Blue foam is always been chosen to shape sculptural form. The surfaces of the foam can be painted with any kinds of water-soluble paint.

C 4.6.1: Insulation Board

Insulation board is light and easy to cut.

Insulation board is light and easy to cut.

It is more used to make concept models. Insulation board usually comes in several colors, gray, pink, and brown.

The brown one is rougher and looser, so it is preferred for site models. Architects use this material to make small-scale buildings for the architectural model of a street or a town. Nevertheless, the architectural models made by insulation boards are kind of easy to be damaged, especially the edges and corners due to the fragility of the material. Insulation boards model-making process (Image from internet)

C 4.6.2: Gator Board

Different from foam core board, gator board is easier to build and has a smooth finish. It is an ideal architecture model material to make a quick, large-scale construction of an architectural models since it has a lightweight, moisture-resistance surface that is easy to cut with a knife.

It is generally, it is used as a substrate for displays where light but sturdy scale model materials are required.

It can also be chosen as a base plate for wet materials which require a water-resistant backing while the coating dries.

House Model made of Gator Board (Image from internet)

House model made of gator board (Image from internet)

C 4.7: Glass

Nowadays, glass is no longer used only for window modeling. It can also be used to show water or to highlight cut edges as a design element in architectural models.

Water and building facade made of glass

C 4.8: Metal

When making architectural models, metals are mostly chosen to make building facade, frames, model bases, form-works and other metal structures.

To enhance the appearance of metal sheets,it is necessary to first polish their surface.

Copper, aluminum, and steel sheets, are often used to maker architectural models. Metals are easy to work with and have a remarkable appearances.

Model made of metal

C 4.9: Clay and Plasticine

In the past, clay and plasticize were used to express initial design concepts since these architectural model-making materials are very easy to shape and knead. Clay used for modeling has a fine texture and is easy to smooth. It is one of the best materials for architectural study models.

Also, rolled into thick sheets, clay and plasticize can also be cut to make walls for large-scale presentation models.

When making the architectural model of buildings, the openings are usually represented by cut-out recesses. Other building components can be made in advance and applied to the walls to model elaborate facades.

Model made of Clay

Model made of clay (Image from internet)

C 4.10: Model Plant Materials

C 4.10.1: Dark Green Coarse Turf Bag

The primary use of the Dark Green Coarse Turf Bag is to create low grasses, leaves, and weeds.

What’s more, it can help to add texture and to forms a smooth transition from low ground cover to medium and high ground cover.

Landscape model made of Dark Green Coarse Turf Bag

Landscape model made of dark green coarse turf bag (Image from internet)

C 4.10.2: Forest Green Bushes Bag

Generally, Forest Green Bushes Bag is used to make medium to high ground covers like bushes, shrubs, and trees.

It is also ideal to make medium to large trees and architectural model grass. This model-making material can be used in any scale.

Model of landscape scenery made of forest green bushes

C 4.10.3: Flocking

Flocking is a great base model-making material commonly been used to represent architectural model grass and low foliage landscapes. It seems to be an easier route than the static grass.

Horse-racing course model of landscape scenery made of flocking

Horse-racing course model of landscape scenery made of flocking

C 4.11: Scenery Elements

Scenery elements are the ready-made components which of architectural models which include miniature doors, windows, skylights and other building parts such as furniture, figures, vehicles, scale model trees, and other elements. These products add life to architectural models and offer the clients a comparative sense of scale.

Scenery Elements like figures, vehicles, trees

Scenery elements like figures, vehicles, trees

C 4.12:Conclusion

Modern and contemporary architectural models are diverse in terms of model building materials and their purpose.

Thanks to the diversity of colors, strength, and workability of many materials, the architectural model has become an irreplaceable tool to study and give definition to architectural ideas in three dimensions.

Chapter 5:

How to choose the scale of architectural models

How to choose the scale of architectural models

C 5.1: Introduction

Scale models are recognized as a necessities for the architectural profession. Architectural models are made at different scales. Generally a physical architectural model is usually reduced in scale compared the actual building size.

Scale architectural models in 1:80, City of Dream by Zaha Hadid

When making architectural models, the relative proportions need to be the same as the real architectural objects. Choosing a proper scale before making an architectural model is very important. It will have an effect on the architectural models and so it will impact its cost as well.

The following are some key points that may help to decide what scale to use on an architectural models.

C 5.2:Identifying the Purpose

Generally, architectural models are made depending on the needs of representation. In other words, the overall purpose of choosing the right scale is to make the model look as convincing as possible.

The clients need to define at which stage of the design the scale models need to be presented.

For the design stage, study architectural models are recommended.

Working architectural models are commonly used for design improvements and modifications. The presentation model is widely used in the final design stage of a design project.

C 5.3: Considering the Conditions and Costs

C 5.3.1: Viewing Experience 

The location on which architectural models will be presented is another important thing that needs to be taken into account. The exhibition of the architectural model should leave enough space for public viewing.

And also it should avoid the sense of emptiness of the exhibition hall.

C 5.3.2: Convenient Transportation

In some cases, architectural models have to be frequently moved from place to place. The scale and weight of the models are then especially important. Architectural models for marketing should fit well into a marketing suite.

C 5.3.3: Budget and Deadline

Budget and project deadlines are also need to be taken into consideration when deciding the scale of architectural models.

A detailed architectural model requires a relatively longer producing time and higher cost.

C 5.4: Selecting the Scale and Size

Scale dictates the level of detail that can be presented. Large-scale architectural models have a highly visible level of detailing. The smaller the scale indicator number, the larger the model, and this means more detail can be illustrated.

The scale of the architectural model not only influences how detailed the model can be, but also the texture of architectural model materials in the completed architectural models. In addition, lots of scenery elements are pre-produced by the industrial factories.

Usage of pre-produced scenery elements

When selecting the scale of architectural models, the clients and model builders should consider whether the scale selected will match the standard scales in the modeling industry.

C 5.5: Common Scales of Architectural Models

 C 5.5.1: 1:1-10 Product Model, Interior Model

1:1 to 1:10 architectural models are not very common to see in the architectural model-making industry. Architectural model-making companies only manufacture these big scale models when the clients have specific needs.

Life Sized Model

The 1:1 scale model is also called a life-sized model. These detail models are used as presentation models to show pretty much the same detail as the actual products. Therefore, life-sized models are kind of expensive to produce.

Looking back into the history of architectural model development, since the Renaissance, architects started to build life-sized wooden models of buildings sections situated on the project site to experience its reality.

Life-sized models are made for particular needs. For example, sometimes the real object is really heavy and not easy to transport, therefore a life-sized, lightweight model is required.

Product Model

The product model comes from the design of objects such as furniture. The conventional scales of product models are 1:1 to 1:10. These product models are always used for desktop display of cars and motorcycles.

Product Model, V-engine scale in 1:4

Interior Model

1:5 to 1:10 scale interior model is great for representing a lot of realistic details inside a building. At this scale, the interior model will be one ten of the actual size.

Room layouts, selections of furniture, miniature people, and other detailed components can be well represented.

However, only very few interior models are made on this big scale.

1:5 Scale interior models

  • 1:10-50 Facade Model, Section Part of Model, Interior Model

Facade Model

Sometimes, customers may need a facade model to show the unique design of the exterior wall or the entrance of a building. A facade model is a very authentic representation of several exterior design elements especially the building material, the windows and the doors.

In other cases, facade models are made for exhibitions. These architectural models are a very good expression of different architectural styles throughout history.

1:30 Scale facade model

Interior Model

The interior model is a perfect tool for real estate developers to attract potential home buyers and investors. The 1:10 to 1:25 scale interior model is a good representation of the designed interior space.

It offers a real spatial situation to the viewers. In most cases, the roof of the building can be removed to show the interior design. Different from other architectural models , a large-scale interior model is usually fits in a ‘blank box’ with the ceiling or roof being removed.

  • 1:50-300 Interior Model, Building Model

Section Model

The section part of a model provides an internal view of the architectural model by exposing the construction details of the building.

The structure, foundation and other important features can be clearly viewed. 1:50 is the most popular scale for a section model.

The section part of the architectural model is usually used to present the structural and spatial qualities of architectural design.

1:150 Scale Section Model

1:150 scale section model

Layout Model

The 1:50 to 1:100 scale layout model allows you to see the layout of the rooms on each floor.

That way, the design and layout arrangements of the interior space can be made visible. These architectural models are extensively used by real estate developers to sell houses.

1:50 Scale Layout Model

1:50 Scale Layout Model

Building Model

The most widely used scales for building models are 1:100, 1:150, 1:200 and 1:300. The balconies, windows and detailed building facades, etc can be shown at these scales.

1:100 scale building model

1:100 to 1:300 scales are widely used for making building models. The buildings’ facades can be well represented using these scales. And the biggest scale may be a better choice if specific detailed elements of the building need to be shown,

  • 1:300-1000, Building Model, Site Model

Building Model

Comparing to bigger scale building models, a 1:300 to 1:500 scale models give people a better understanding of how buildings fit to the site and their surroundings. It also allow people to see the building floors and the internal structure.

Building models are very authentic representations usually displayed in the reception area of home, selling office.

1:300 scale building model

Site Model

Site architectural models are widely used for real estate fairs. The most commonly used scale is 1:500 and 1:1000.

Site models are ideal to give a perfect overview of the site layout with a recognizable level of detail. A 1:500 or 1:1000 scale site model is portable and is widely used for exhibitions.

1:1000 site model

  • 1:1000-5000, Site plans, City Planning Model, Islands.

Site plans

For a particularly large site, a smaller scale architectural model is needed. The primary purpose of a site plan model is to represent the essential idea of the design. Another use of the site plan model is to show the relationship between the project’s site and its surroundings.

Compared to larger-scale models, small-scale architectural models are much faster and easier to make. Site plan models with scale of 1:2500 to 1:5000 contains massing representing buildings, road network, greening, water areas as well as other surrounding elements.

By showing the overall design concept and the relationship of the existing and new constructions, the site plan model is a common illustrative tool for attracting investments.

1:1000 Site Plan Model

1:1000 Site Plan Model

City Planning Model

The city planning model is usually made on a really small scale to represent the development plan or history of a city. Local governments use city models to present the new planning proposals or infrastructure to the public.

The most widely used scales for city planning models are 1:1000 to 1:3000. The amount of detail that can be viewed is limited since buildings of the architectural model are always fabricated as massing blocks.

By installing illumination systems to the city planning model, key sites such as new development zones can be highlighted.

Island Scale Model

The emphasis of the island model is on the relationships of the existing natural environment and the addition of new structures.

Island scale models are used for architecture model exhibition in most cases. LED lighting helps to highlight the special sites of the island.

1:5000 scale island model

C 5.6: Conclusion

There are several trade offs in choosing the appropriate scale of architectural models.

Two key affecting factors are the number of details the client wants to show and the purpose of the exhibition.

Others factors are equally important such as the budget, the deadline, the mobility,  and the functionality of the architectural models. Having a well understanding of the model scale will offers a very clear demonstration of the architectural projects.

Chapter 6:

Interactive Architectural Model Display Techniques

Interactive Architectural Model Display Techniques

C 6.1: Introduction

The interactive architectural model is an ideal tool to represent an architects’ design concept and project development. It is also a fresh and interesting model display option in the exhibition like real estate sales center.

At present, interactive architectural model is becoming more and more popular since interactive element to an architectural model can provide the viewers a more impressive presentation.

The interaction with the architectural models creates better communication between the audiences and the project.

Typically, an integrated interactive model consists of a traditional physical architectural model, a computer with supported software, a variety of control panels, and it is surrounded by interactive multimedia walls.

C 6.2:Lighting Control

Illuminating specific areas of the architectural models can add extra visual effects.

The illumination system can be operated via a wide range of equipment.

With just a click of a button or a touch of a tablet, selected areas on the architectural model can be lighted up with color while others are remain turned off. The following are three typical ways to control the lighting system of architectural models.

C 6.2.1: Control Station

Adding interaction of lights to the model can highlight its significant features. Push-button control systems, control stations such as the Inspire Control Station or the Heritage Control Station are extensively used to control the lights.

Lights of architectural models can be activated by certain labeled buttons or by a the combinations of buttons and faders.

In most circumstance, a control station contains several independent lighting systems that can light up different areas of the model.

Lighting effects controlled via a control station

A control station has a relatively affordable low price.

It can be conveniently located in public areas such as in a Museum of Science and Technology. Also, a control station is more durable for public interaction for its simple operational processes and inexpensive maintenance costs.

C 6.2.2: Control Panel

Surface-mounted or rack-mounted touch screens are the most commonly used control to turn on or off, or to bright or dim multiple lighting zones of architectural models.

In the architectural model market, a wide range of touch screens are produced to suit customers’ requirements. Touch screens provide a better user-experience than control stations.

Lighting system controlled via an interactive touch screen for Omkar Worli 1973 model in 1:75

Control panels comprises a variety of control elements and are supported by Ethernet network such as Link Connect.

Users can easily manage the lighting systems by only taping the screen. Individual parts of the architectural models can be illuminated separately or simultaneously.

In general, the control panel is linked to the physical model with LEDs. The architectural model can be pop up, flash, pulsate or rotate when the users pressing a button on the control panel interface. Control panels always comes with a tabletop stand.

The operation of a control panel is based on wide and varied digital servers such as Unison Paradigm Central Control Server.

What’s more, other functions like rotating the architectural models can also be realized through the tapping of the panel.

When users touch the related options on the control panel, detailed information such as drawings, architectural rendering, video, and animations of the project can be played back.

Nowadays, control panels are extensively used in sales offices and exhibition centers, to interact with potential investors or homebuyers.

C 6.2.3: Tablets, Smart-Phones, and Gestures

Taking physical architectural models as the base, the use of mobile devices such as iPads to control lighting, ambiance, and interaction of the model is becoming a popular trend.

This displaying of the model via portable devices gives great mobility and flexibility.

And it is also more convenient for users who could now view the architectural model from different angles.

Model display controlled through an iPad

The use of physical gestures is another new coming technique for interactive model presentations. It helps the architects to demonstrate the design idea in a more engaging and highly attractive way.

Based on movement sensors positioned on the physical model and activated through gestures, users can explore architectural model via entertaining activities.

In the current increasing digital world, multiple cable or Wi-Fi-based lighting control systems, software, and apps (e.g.: LightSwarm and LinkConnect portable jack) are designed to optimize the model display.

Portable model control devices should be easy to use and upgrade to enhance the interaction of architectural models at a greater level.

C 6.3: Mechanically Operable Model Displays

The static architectural model only shows limited aspects of the project. Compared to the traditional architectural models, life-and-up models can better meet the construction market’s demands. A mechanically operable model can represent the building design in a unique and impressive way.

It can give a good level of detail to the architectural model from various viewing angles.

Suzhou Centre architectural mechanically operable model A mechanically operable model is made according to various customer demands and the spatial conditions of the exhibition place.

C 6.3.1: Bottom-Top Model Display

The lifting system is the key part of a bottom-top model display.

A typical lifting system includes a scaled model, a lift installed at the base of the architectural model, a digital control panel, and a remote control. In the first place, the architectural model maker should consider the weight of the scale model before the lifting equipment is manufactured.

If the architectural model is provided with a going up and down effect, that will give the public a more vivid and lifelike model representation.

The model display process would then be accomplished by dynamically raising and lowering the model.

The staff in charge of operating the model could control the lifting height via remote control.

C 6.3.2: Parted in the Middle Model Display

The main goal of the parted in the middle model display is to give the architectural model a good level of detail of the interior design, decoration and other facilities.

The sliding system works as the center of the model display, parting in the middle the model display.

Parted in the middle model dynamic display

C 6.3.2: Customized Model Display

A customized lift-up architectural model must meet various customer demands.

Adjustable components of architectural model can be manufactured, assembled and installed according to the clients’ needs.

C 6.4: Projections and Wall Screen Displays

Projections and wall screen displays are widely used in exhibition centers for architectural models.

These advanced multimedia create a new expression of architectural design.

Istanbul Big City Planning Model in scale 1:1000 projection display

C 6.4.1: System Composition and Operation

Projections and wall screen displays are based on the physical architectural model.

They are supported by a touch screen integrated machine, a lighting control system, multimedia software, and other elements.

To create a perfect illustration of the architectural model, a projector with different accuracies is required according to specific requirements.

Projections and wall screen displays integrate multiple elements including images, animation, project description, and music. Multimedia interpretations play a leading role in the architectural model displays.

After installing several cameras in the physical model, information and images of the architectural model can appear on the screen synchronized with the playing multimedia.

Usually, there are three basic types of demonstration systems:

  • Automatic Demonstration System

An automatic demonstration system is controlled by a computer and operated using a series of software programs.

When there is no public participation, this system is an ideal option for exhibitions with a large number of visitors.

Automatic multimedia model display

Automatic multimedia model display (Image from internet)

  • Remote Control Demonstration System

Equipped with a telecontrol system, the demonstration system can be easily operated from any corner of the architectural model at the exhibition hall.

Remote control multimedia model display

Remote control multimedia model display (Image from internet)

  • Manual Demonstration System

A manual demonstration system allows the visitors to fully take part in the architectural model display activities.

As the user touches a device, such as a fixed touch screen, the model is lit from above by projectors, while the media wall responds to their interactions.

This kind of system is well-suited for small-scale exhibitions or home selling events.

Manual control multimedia model display

Manual control multimedia model display (Image from internet)

C 6.4.2: Functionality and Benefits

  • Artistic and Vivid Demonstration

Wall screens and projections are commonly used to play animations or project images to help viewers visualize and understand the design idea or the future developments of a project.

And it is also an eye-catching way to tell the story of the project that it is been presented.

The use of wall screens and projections allows the users to switch different views or see the project day and night while specific areas are selected.

  • Real Estate Sales Tool

Incorporating physical architectural models, wall screens and projections can assist developers to generate more potential sales and investment opportunities.

C 6.5: Conclusion

Interactive architectural models can give visitors a much more engaging and informative model exploring experience.

Using varied interactive technologies to represent an architectural model can enhance the impact of a design.

An interactive architectural model is also an ideal and sophisticated marketing tool for real estate developers to attract potential investors or homebuyers.

The interactive architectural model displaying techniques develop a new visual language to interpret design ideas.

Chapter 7:

Architectural Model Maintenance

Architectural Model Maintenance

C 7.1: Introduction

Architectural models will become more fragile with time for a number of reasons.

The main factors are the conditions of the exhibition sites, the natural decay, the use, and the transport of the models.

Architectural model maintenance work is especially vital to ensure that architectural models will survive for the enjoyment of future visitors.

Knowing architectural model maintenance techniques like how to transit, display, and store models will add a number of years to the life of the models.

C 7.2: Architectural Model Maintenance

Each architectural model is unique and has its own model maintenance issues. Before making the model maintenance plan and starting the maintenance works, the following questions need to be taken into consideration

  • What risks the architectural models are exposed to?
  • What maintaining practices are in place?
  • How often should be the architectural model maintenance?

The following sections introduce several model maintenance tips which can help to carry on the architectural model maintenance works.

C 7.2.1: Create a Proper Environment

Keeping architectural models in a consistent and appropriate environment is crucial. Changes in temperature, pollution, and the humidity of the environment will affect the useful time of architectural models.

And they will cause deformations such as the cracking of the rooftops and the bulge of the turfs.

Generally, the environment of the exhibit areas is affected by air ventilation systems, heating equipment, solar radiation, and the number of visitors.

Create a stable and properly controlled environment of the exhibition hall is critical to the long-term maintenance procedure of architectural models.

The following are a few measures that help to set up an ideal environment.

  • Assign specialized staff to monitor the exhibit conditions.
  • Install humidity control equipment as needed.

An ideal choice is a humidity level of approximately 30–80%.

  • Control the temperature at a medium and compatible level.

Because architectural models are made of different materials which can withstand various temperatures, it is recommended to have a steady temperature of around 5 to 35 degrees.

Avoid placing architectural models near fireplaces and smoking areas

Avoid placing architectural models near fireplaces or smoking areas, or overexposing them to the sun to reduce the negative effects of high temperatures.

  • Apply pollution control systems

Pollutants like particles and gaseous pollutants will harm the architectural models. It is essential to minimize the models’ exposure to the pollutants.

General housekeeping activities like cleaning the windows, floors, especially the architectural model display stand and showcase can reduce the air pollutants.

Assessing the air quality within the exhibition hall is also necessary.

Adequate ventilation can lower pollutant concentrations. It is important to make sure the display area is well ventilated.

This can be done by incorporating air filtration equipment into the exhibit areas. Using multi-functional sensors for air pollutants is also helpful.

  • Prevent pest infestation

Pests can create big trouble for architectural models.

Keep an appropriate temperature and relative humidity levels can reduce pest activity and mold growth.

Moreover, regular monitoring for pests can discourage insect activities.

C 7.2.2: Install and Monitor Appropriate Lighting

lights of architectural models can improve the display effect of the models.

Lights of architectural models can improve the display effect of architectural models.

However, the colors of the surface of the model will fade and change with exposure to light. Reducing the harmful effects of visible light, UV light and infrared radiation are important factors.

  • UV light is usually coming from fluorescent lamps and natural daylight.

It could be helpful to eliminate the sources of natural light by covering windows with shades.

For fluorescent lights, installing UV filters on the bulbs can help reduce the amount of UV exposure.

  • To reduce the harmful effects of visible light, the lights of architectural models need to be turned off at least once every eight hours.

Make sure the lights are off at closing time.

  • Also monitor and control the light levels of the installed light fixtures installed on the architectural models to reduce the negative effect of lights.
  • Ventilate the lighting switch box to dissipate heat from light fixtures.

The use of electric fans may be a good choice. Lights on the architectural models can improve their display effect.

C 7.2.3: Keep the Remote Control Properly

With the development of modern high technology, interactive architectural models controlled by computers or remote controls are becoming more and more popular.

To extend the useful life of architectural models, not only the model itself but also the control devices need safekeeping.

The control devices need safe keeping.

C 7.2.4: Protection Against Visitor Damage

Considering the vulnerability of architectural models, it is necessary to have additional security measures to protect the models.

  • Place a notice board in the display area of the architectural model reminding visitors to keep a certain distance away from the models.
  • Protect architectural models using protective hardware such as acrylic cover, glass shield, or enclosed glass panels.
  • Do not let the children touch the model to avoid electric shocks or damage to the models.

C 7.2.5: Ensure Enough Storage of Spare Materials and Components

As time goes by, architectural models will have superficial damage and broken and loose parts.

In some cases, model items like figures, trees, vehicles, and furniture may be missing from the exhibition.

These missing pieces or moving parts may sometimes need replacement.

The ideal number of reserves can be 5% of the completed models.

C 7.3: Architectural Model Cleaning

A cleaning job is especially important when architectural projects are taking longer and the model needs to be shown for a long time.

  • Dry clean the architectural model surface.

The architectural model surface can be cleaned with a clean towel, sponge and soft brushes to removes loose dirt and dust.

  • Architectural models without a glass cover should be cleaned regularly.

A specialized dusting machine and a vacuum cleaner are in needed.

  • Some parts of architectural models need washing to remove the dust and blemishes. In this case, a mild detergent will be an ideal choice.
keep an architectural model dust free.

It is not simple to keep an architectural model dust-free.

C 7.4: Architectural Model Conservation

An architectural model needs proper conservation so that the models will remain in good condition for future exhibitions.

And under some circumstances, architectural models will be collected as important exhibition collections.

The following are some architectural model conservation techniques that may ensure the desired safety and stability of the models.

C 7.4.1: Create a Suitable Storage Environment

The model storage area should be separate from the exhibit or working areas. And it should be used only to house architectural models.

constant environment

This area should have a constant environment where temperature and humidity levels are kept at recommended levels.

C 7.4.2: Select an Appropriate Storage Measure

An architectural model which requires long time conservation can be covered with acrylic or glass with an airtight seal.

These storage units should be able to protect the architectural models from sun fading, water damage, dust and pollutants accumulation, and insect damage.

For models that only need temporary preservation or models that cannot have a physical cover, a good choice could be the use of tissue paper, plastic film, or fabric to cover them.

Moreover, one thing that should be kept in mind is that these covers need to be washed regularly.

C 7.4.3: Choose a Suitable Storage Location

Avoid placing architectural models on the ground to protect them against unexpected risks like water damage.

Similarly, to avoid external damage, do not put models close to windows, pipelines, mechanical and electrical equipment.

C 7.4.4: Periodically Inspect Architectural Model in Storage.

Inspections should be carried on to check the condition of the architectural models. This can help timely notice, the signs of deterioration and other damages like insect injury.

C 7.5: Architectural Model Repair

Sometimes, architectural model pieces will be missing or continue to deteriorate over time.

The replacement of missing items and repair work helps make sure that the architectural model can survive for a longer time. In most cases, model-making companies employ a specialist who has vast experience in different fields in the architectural-model repair service.

Missing architectural model items can be remade by traditional hand craftsmanship together with high-tech model-making approaches such as 3D laser cutting.

C 7.6: Architectural Model Handling

Architectural models are at risk of damage in transit or through inappropriate handling. Specialist model packing, handling, and transiting approaches during movement are listed as follows.

  • Hire a professional moving company to transport architectural models.

Carrier personnel with rich experience in lifting, supporting, and handling architectural model is required.

Sometimes, vehicles equipped with shock absorption, temperature control, and humidity control devices are also in needed.

  • Carefully pack the architectural models with suitable materials. Use polystyrene foam, paper, and corrugated cardboard to protect them.

If the models need to be shipped by rail, shock-resistant and sturdy cases that can withstand wide climatic variations are required.

  • Ensure less shock and vibration when handling the architectural models.

An anti-vibration packing case can help to reduce the risk of model breakages while transiting.

  • Control damage from handling via physical protections and appropriate handling techniques for architectural models.

For example, porters must wear gloves to avoid oil from their hands on the surface of the model. Use additional assistance or support underneath when handling heavy or large architectural models.

  • Choose a proper form of transportation.

Architectural models can be transited via air, road and rail, sea, or various combinations according to specific circumstances.

Choose the most appropriate mode of transport to keep the balance between expense and conservation. For instance, small architectural models can be transited in passenger cars when need to be transited a short distance.

C 7.7: Conclusion

To summarize, it is very important to set up an appropriate maintenance schedule to keep the architectural model in great condition. The model maintenance measure varies from model to model according to the use and the condition of different architectural models.

The primary purpose of architectural model maintenance is to ensure that models are stored or displayed in a suitable environment that will not cause them to deteriorate.

In addition, packing, moving, handling, general awareness of physical care of the architectural models are equally important when architectural model maintenance work is carried on.

Chapter 8:

Photography Equipment for Architectural Model Making

Architectural Model Maintenance

C 8.1: Introduction

In architectural model making, model photography has a significant role to play. A good photograph helps smooth the progress, while poorly taken photos can mislead the audience thus preventing them from seeing the real quality of the scale model.

This chapter introduces the necessary equipment required in architectural model photography.

It touches on lighting, viewpoints, and the areas that need attention. Listed below are the equipment frequently used in architectural model photography.

C 8.2.1: Digital SLR Camera

If you are a beginner in photography, we recommend using the fully automated “A” mode. This means that the camera will adjust the aperture, the shutter speed, and the ISO automatically for you.

premade architectural model making materials

Digital SLR Camera

This is because the point of focus set with automatic focus may not be your expected focal point. When taking a photo of your subject, press the shutter button down halfway. When you hear a “beep” sound, fully press the shutter button to take the photo. This will ensure a clear picture.

After these, if you wish to improve your photography techniques further, you need to understand the relationship between aperture, shutter speed, and ISO and how a change in one of these elements necessitates a change in the others.

Then practice with different numerical values to achieve the desired visual effects you want to express through your photo.

C 8.2.2: Fix-focus wide angle lens or 18-105 mm zoom lens

In digital SLR photography, there is often a need to change lens, and in architectural photography, the most common lens to use is the wide angle lens, so we suggest you equip yourself with one.

premade architectural model making materials

Fix-focus wide angle lens or 18-105 mm zoom lens

C 8.2.3: Remote Shutter Release

A remote shutter release is an accessory that controls the camera shutter release without the need to touch the release button on the camera.

In an indoor photo shooting session, a longer exposure is often required.

premade architectural model making materials

Remote Shutter Release

The remote shutter release stops the camera shaking caused by pressing the button during a long exposure and prevents a blurry photograph.

Hence, we recommend using a remote shutter release when photographing indoors.

C 8.2.4: Memory Card

A memory card stores the digital photos taken by the digital SLR. There are many different types of memory cards, but the most common one is an SD card, and in a digital camera, CF (Compact Flash) is often used.

premade architectural model making materials

Memory Card

Memory cards come in an array of different storage capacities.

As the photo resolution of the camera increases, the volume of data increases too. Since the price of a memory card is steadily decreasing, we highly recommend getting a memory card with at least 1GB storage capacity.

C 8.2.5: Memory card reader machine

A laptop frequently comes with a built-in memory card reader (CF card) while desktop computers do not.

premade architectural model making materials

Memory card reader machine

In such a case, you can purchase a card reader to connect to your desktop computer.

C 8.2.6: Tripod

When photographing indoors, the absence of natural light results in slower shutter speeds.

If the camera is held manually, it can cause the camera to shake, as it is unlikely that our hands can keep still and give us a sharp picture.

premade architectural model making materials


Hence, a tripod is an indispensable tool to prevent camera shakes during long exposures as it keeps the camera still.

C 8.2.7: Backdrop

This is the screen used as a background during photography. In architectural model photography, we usually use a black, blue or grey backdrop.

If you use a proper photography background screen or cloth, light reflection is lessened and, compared to paper where seams may show up, the screen is wider, providing a seamless background.

You can fix the backdrop to a wall using drafting tape, but a more convenient and practical option is to invest in a backdrop stand.

C 8.2.8:

Still life stand A platform on which the subject to be photographed can be placed.

C 8.2.9:

Lighting equipment Lighting equipment is a must-have in indoor photography, and there is a large variety of lighting equipment available in the market.

A soft box is made up of a black exterior cloth that prevents light reflecting back into the room, a translucent fabric to diffuse the light, a wire frame, and a light source.

premade architectural model making materials

A soft box diffuses light to produce a softer light.

There are many other types of lighting equipment to choose from, and the kind of lighting equipment to use depends on the type of photo you want to take.

C 8.2.10: Light reflector

When the light hits the reflector, it bounces off and redirects onto the model, further softening the light source.

The light reflector can be replaced with a polystyrene foam board or foam paper.

premade architectural model making materials

Light reflector

For practicality and convenience during use, we recommend investing in a light reflector stand.

This way, we are not restricting the positioning of the reflector. If there is a help to hold the reflector, a reflector stand is not necessary.

However, if you are working on your own, then a reflector stand is essential.

C 8.3: Lighting

The easiest way to resolve the lighting issue with photography is to do your photo shoot outdoor where there is an abundance of natural light.

C 8.3.1:

On the early morning or dusk of a cloudless sunny day, the position of the sun is low, attaining high contrast lighting, rendering a perfect shadow effect on the architectural model.

Photos taking of a model on the early morning

You can rotate the position of the architectural model and through the camera lens observe and experiment the different shadow effect on the model.

Photos taking of a model under sunset

We often photograph our model on the rooftop and in a particular position.

In doing so, we eliminate all other unrelated objects from the photo and the sky is used as the background for the photo.

C 8.3.2:

High temperature can damage a model, so avoid shooting during a scorching day or midday.

C 8.3.3:

During an indoor photo shoot, avoid the model casting more than two shadows.

premade architectural model making materials

Avoiding the model casting more than two shadows

The scene created in a photo will appear unnatural to an audience if an architectural model cast too many shadows.

C 8.4: Viewpoints

During architectural model photography, we usually take a few photos of the entire model including the front view and back view, and in daylight or as a night scene.

The rest of the photos are either various parts of the model or some tiny details.

We can photograph the architectural model using different angles depending on the thoughts we wish to express.

C 8.4.1:

Shooting with a high viewpoint;

Allowing a full view of the architecture model

A bird’s eye view of the entire model allows the viewer to see and feel the whole structure of the architectural model.

C 8.4.2:

Shooting with a low viewpoint

From a person’s perspective

When shooting a model interior using a low viewpoint, it gives the viewer the visual effects of standing on the ground looking up at a building.

C 8.4.3:

Shooting with Eye-level Viewpoint

The camera position is at the same level as the model

Eye-level viewpoint photo is taken at a person’s eye level relative to their height to simulate the visual effect of someone’s view in the space they are standing in.

C 8.4.4:

If a model has a water surface, a photographer can photograph the reflection of the model on the water.

The reflection of the model on the water

C 8.4.5:

At times, we may want to allow the audience to have a feel of the model size.

To do this, we will place an object such as a ruler, or a local coin next to the model to show the size of the model on the photo.

Place an object on the model to show the size of the model on the photo

C 8.4.6:

If the architectural model is a sizable display, we will request a person to stand next to the architectural model so that the audience can get a feel on the actual size of the model relative to the person next to it.

A person stands next to the architectural model

C 8.5: Composition

The composition of a photo is also a crucial aspect of photography, and there are many different rules of composition. We will look at some of them below.

C 8.5.1: Rules of Thirds

During photo shooting, you divide the camera frame into thirds horizontally and vertically.

The intersection points are called the points of interest.

When we look at a photo, our eye will subconsciously be drawn to these points of intersection.

Hence, we always place subjects on or near these points of intersection.

Rules of Thirds

As the camera frame is divided equally into 9 sections, the rule of thirds composition is also known as “tic tac toe composition.”

C 8.5.2: Using diagonal line as a technique in composition

The idea is to place the subject along the diagonal line of the camera frame so that it appears diagonally on the photo.

This diagonal line technique creates more depth to a photo and gives the picture a more three-dimensional effect.

The diagonal line also draws the person line of sight to the point of interest, making the photo more dynamic and giving it more life, while making the subject more prominent.

Using diagonal line as a technique in composition

C 8.5.3: Symmetry Composition

Using the rule of symmetry is to use the subject and its surrounding environment to create an image where one side of the image is the same as the other, and when the image is split into two, horizontally or vertically, it will create a line of symmetry.

A photo taken using the symmetrical composition gives the audience a sense of stability, formality, and balance.

Symmetry Composition

C 8.5.4: Framing

We can use framing when a subject is surrounded by an element that is or resembles a frame such as a window frame, door frame, or the entrance of a tunnel.

premade architectural model making materials

Framing is a slightly more classic rule of composition.

C 8.5.5: Converging Lines Composition

The converging line technique means that multiple lines in a picture extend in the one direction and finally converging to a specific position in the photo.

The use of converging lines in photography gives the photo a converging line composition.

Converging lines composition can create a substantial visual impact and can be used to create depth in a photo and can give the picture three-dimensional visual effects.

premade architectural model making materials

Converging Lines Composition

C 8.5.6: Curving Lines Composition

It does not have to be a perfect curving line. It can be an incomplete curving line or a curving line with a little radian.

As long as there is a curve, we can use it with curving line composition.

Curving Lines Composition

The above rules of composition are the most commonly used. It is also quite usual to employ more than one rules of composition when taking a good photo.

C 8.6:

During a photo shoot, the background should be neat and free of elements that are not relevant to the subject. The settings should also be free of dust.

C 8.7:

Keep in mind to name the photo files using the architectural model name and its scale. This will make it easier to access the photos in the future.

C 8.8: Conclusion

Last but not least, anyone can master architectural model photography and raise the quality of their photography skills to the top standard. To do this, one has to be diligent and keep practicing. Pay attention, experiment and experience the effects a change in lighting can bring.

Keep admiring and learning from the work of other master photographers and 3D architectural rendering.

Chapter 9:

FAQs of Professional Model Making Company by RJ Models

C 9.1:What type of scale models do RJ Models produce?

RJ Models provides high-quality architectural model making service of just about anything, at any size.

Our scale architectural models can range from simple architectural designs, such as facade architectural model, to display scale models which are exhibited at finished construction projects, such as city planning model, airport model, hotel model.

architectural-models-guide faq

High level of detail for model making

We pride our service on a high level of detail, so our scale models may include technical details such as lighting effects and mechanical lifting devices.

C 9.2: Can I afford an architectural model?

There is no definitive answer. Each project is unique and can range from thousands to millions of dollars.

architectural-models-guide faq

Larger more complicated models will cost more than smaller simpler ones.

RJ Models will do our best to give you a realistic estimate based on the information you provided us with regarding detailing, size, etc. If necessary, RJ Models can provide you with a rough guess just based on verbal descriptions, but the more specific information would yield a more accurate assessment.

C 9.3: When can I expect my scale model to be finished?

Because each architectural model is different, it will depend on the scale and complexity of the project. A concept model could take just a few days while a larger interactive model might take several weeks.

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Our architectural model making team will provide you the best model

However, RJ Models takes pride in maintaining high-quality model making service together with efficiency so if needed; an order could be expedited to meet a certain deadline.

C 9.4: How can I get a quotation?

To provide a fixed quotation, we would ideally like comprehensive information about:

  • Master plan with model boundary and dimensions in pdf, jpg or CAD
  • Expected scale or model size
  • Elevations of the buildings in pdf, jpg or CAD
  • Renderings for reference (if any)
  • Delivery and installation destinations
  • Expected completion date

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Once we received your information, we will provide you the quote ASAP.

C 9.5: How should I send in information?

Information can be sent electronically to us in the form of PDFs, JPGs, etc.

If files are very large, it may be easier to send the information over in a USB to help organization. If it’s early on the project and there are only hand-drawn concepts, we are able to work using those too.

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Even the hand-drawn concepts, we will try our best to work on it.

C 9.6: How long is my quotation valid?

The quote is valid for 2-3 months. During this time, assuming the project specs do not change, the only thing that may change during this time is the expected completion date.

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RJ Models operates on a first-come-first-serve basis so any delay in confirming a purchase may allow another architectural model making service to set back your date.

C 9.7: What info do I need to provide for scale model construction?

To create the most accurate scale models we would ideally need,

  • Updated master plan in CAD.
  • Landscape drawings with level markings.
  • Landscape drawings with paving material color or material marking.
  • Landscape plan with tree location.
  • Landscape material sample or Pantone/RAL color code.
  • Elevations of all the buildings in CAD.
  • Plan of all the buildings in CAD.
  • Cross-sections of the whole structure.
  • 3D file in Rhino, sketch-up, 3D Max, 3D AutoCAD.
  • Building material sample or Pantone/RAL color code.
  • Updated renderings for reference.

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Model presentation drawings

C 9.8: Are there materials I will need to provide?

No, RJ Models sources all necessary material ourselves, and we have our own specialized teams to carry out all tasks from planning to construction to transportation.

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This streamlines the flow of the scale model from us to you, by cutting out third parties.

C 9.9: What scale should I request?

While we work in scales ranging from 1:1 to 1:10000, the appropriate scale for your unique model will depend on what you need it for.

The decision will depend on two factors: how large is the area you need to be modeled, and how much detail you require.

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We’d be happy to advise you on the pros and cons of using various scales.

C 9.10: How late could I request a change in the schematics?

We hope that the project is in its final state when the appropriate forms are submitted, but we are willing to accommodate changes as they occur.

If there are simple changes that do not require significant changes in work that have already been done, then the change will be made free of charge.

However, if there is work that has already been done that needs to be scrapped, or if the alteration has a significant effect on construction, there will be an additional charge.

C 9.11: How can I monitor progress on the architectural model making project?

You are free to come in to see progress on the project whenever you’d like. We’re willing to provide you with updates on scale model construction as often as you request.

C 9.12: Can I come to visit in person?

Yes, we’d be excited to have you visit our offices to walk you through the scale model-making process. We also can show you different scale models created before, and answer any questions you may have.

C 9.13: Does it matter if I am not local?

No, RJ Models is an international scale model making company with a highly respected reputation. Communication can be done electronically, and if there are any concerns, we will do our best to resolve them without requiring you to take up unnecessary burdens such as travel. architectural-models-guide faq

RJ Models has an extensive team of multinational and experienced shipping.

C 9.14: How is my privacy/security ensured?

We take your privacy carefully and all of our employees are held to strict non-disclosure agreements. We do not make any material which we receive public or use them for any commercial purposes.

If you have any concerns, feel free to contact us and we will do our best to accommodate your needs.

C 9.15: Do I need to see the final product of scale model in person before it is shipped out?

You do not need to come to see if it in person, but you may if you’d like.

The majority of our clients find photo confirmation sufficient, and we’re willing to take photos at any angle or perspective of scale model to meet your satisfaction.

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Before we shipped the model, we will take many photos for your checking.

C 9.16: How will I receive the scale model?

The delivery method varies from model to model. A more compact model can be delivered by a dedicated shipping company, which will minimize costs.

Larger projects such as display/exhibition models will be delivered by our own staff, especially if the project requires careful setup or has an element of demonstration.

Scale models which are exported will require a special case.

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Delivery arrangements will be discussed in the process of reaching a final quotation.

C 9.17: How will my scale model be protected during transportation?

Our scale model makers have over 26 years of professional packaging experience.

We will create a custom-made box to fit the needs of each scale model and will use multiple layers of packaging protection if necessary.

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Our custom-made box for model packaging protection

If the installation is necessary, we will send a scale model maker team to travel along with your scale models to ensure proper handling.

On the extremely low chance that your scale model is damaged during transportation, we will repair the model for free.

C 9.18: How should I display the scale model?

This is up to your discretion and will depend on the model.

A scale model which is smaller can fit on a surface such as a desk while larger models may require model bases made with various designs and materials which we are able to provide.

Our bases range from a solid base to a wheeled stand with a protective covering.

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We are able to offer our advice on how to best display it, using our prior experience.

C 9.19: Can I get my scale models repaired/upgraded?

Yes, we do! We just need the information that we would require with a regular model as if it was being built from scratch, and will be able to give you a quotation.

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If the scale model was somehow damaged while in our custody, we will repair it free of charge.

C 9.20: What can I expect from RJ Models after the scale model is set up?

Maintaining long-term product quality is just as important to us as the construction process is.

We are happy to provide you with advice on how to best store/present your scale model to maximize its lifetime. We can provide you with extra segments/pieces of the model if need be.


Architectural Model
Physical architectural models are powerful and irreplaceable tools to examine and express architectural designs as well as to fascinate the public during exhibitions.
As architectural models are varied and used for different purposes, choosing the appropriate model type, scale, and materials to make the models is distinctly important.
Relatively new and advanced model-making techniques are coming out to enhance the functions and aesthetics of architectural models.
Also, there is a great need to know how to maintain architectural models to optimize their value-in-use. The use of architectural models is at the peak of its history and it will continue to develop.
Exploring the role of architectural models will not only help designers present and communicate their design ideas, but it can also bring a building, or a complex, to life off the plan.

Contact RJ Models & Start Making You the Top

Founder Notes

Our vision is making the top quality architectural models to everywhere in the globe.
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