Home > Professional Architectural Model Maker, Founder of RJ Models, Ray Cheung was interviewed by Hong Kong Online Radio, Star Internet Radio.

Professional Architectural Model Maker, Founder of RJ Models, Ray Cheung was interviewed by Hong Kong Online Radio, Star Internet Radio.

As the saying goes, there is a master in every trade.

Who can progress from the professional scale model maker to a full-blown business and one that is second to none in the industry?

Of course, behind every success, there is dream and determination.

Today, in Star Internet Radio “Toy Spirit” program we invited the renowned professional architectural model maker, Ray Cheung, to share with us how he first got into this trade and the challenges encountered when setting up his company including all the fascinating facts.

In fact, success is never far from you, as long as you are determined and know how to seize the presented opportunity!

Host Bryan:

Welcome to season 3, episode 23 of “Toy Spirit.” Our guest today is a little unusual due to the nature of the work undertaken by his company, which differs from all previous guests.

So why did we invite Ray to be our guest?

Other than a friend’s recommendation, the main reason is that the work that Ray is engaged in is relatively interesting for our listeners.

Firstly, let’s have Ray introduce him and the kind of work he does that our listeners may be interested in.

RJ Models-Ray:

Hello everyone, I’m Ray.

I’m actually a professional architecture model maker.

I believe every model lover or architectural model maker has the wish to have an architectural model which they can admire or have as a collectible.

▲An architectural model is able to directly and visually display an architectural design. It is also a convenient way to study the plausibility of a design concept. The picture shows a model constructed for a project by Swire Properties Limited. The design is by renowned architect Frank Owen Gehry, and this is his one and only grand residential project in Asia – Opus Hong Kong.


Host Bryan:

Do you have an interest in architectural model building as a child, which resulted in you developing your career in this area?


RJ Models-Ray:

Not exactly.  I never come in contact with any professional architectural models building sets, and I couldn’t have afforded one anyway.

However, to be able to stay in this trade for more than 20 years, I must have a very profound interest to display such determination.


Host Bryan:

Is it true that Ray, you started architectural model building as a summer job many years ago, and this is how you got in contact with the model building profession?


RJ Models-Ray:

By chance, I was introduced to the art of architectural model making by some friends in high school.

I remember a friend’s company needed a lot more help to make the architectural model of the trees for the Sino’s Hong Kong Tuen Mun Gold Coast project and he contacted me.

In 1989, the tree models were made by printing the tree leaves on A2 or A4 papers.

The tree leaves were then cut out and coil round together by iron wire to create the tree model.

During that time, it was possible to purchase the trees, but the cost was very high at about 30, 40 Hong Kong Dollars per tree.

It is, therefore, cheaper to make it ourselves.


▲Ray and his Partner of RJ Models, Hakan were discussing the details of the making of an architectural model.

Host Bryan:

Based on the conditions and environment then, how was an architectural model created? What materials were used?

RJ Models-Ray:

There was a high expectation of the craftsmanship.

For example, the ability to saw a silky thin sheet out of 0.5mm thick acrylic, with a 2mm saw.

We bought a single block of acrylic and carved the different components out of the block with a saw.

We then used spray paint to create the various effects such as the windows and the stone structure.

A one meter tall 30-floor residential building required two professional model makers and took two weeks to complete.


▲Architectural model construction requires meticulous attention to details. The picture above shows the carving of Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank 1:100 bronze lion statues.

Host Bryan:

Unimaginable! The professional model makers at technical expert level indeed display exquisite craftsmanship!

So how was the scaling of the architectural model done during that time?

RJ Models-Ray:

There were no computer-assisted programs in the 90s, scaling was done using the blueprints supplied by the properties developers.

During the building process, we enlarged the drawing using the photocopier and redrew the entire design.

And during the drawing process, we also consider and make plans for the different materials needed for the different sections to be used afterward.

The most challenging part is the planning process!

▲Before a completed architectural model is presented to the world’s government dignitaries, the planning process behind the scene is the most challenging task. The picture above shows Prime Minister Wen and Dubai President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum admiring Dubai Phoenix City Planning Model.


Host Bryan:

I’ve benefitted so much from the understanding of the making of the professional architectural models.

Previously, I didn’t fully introduce Ray to the listeners. Ray started the model making company with a small workshop of 4 or 5 people before becoming today’s RJ Models.

According to reports, it is one of the very professional model making companies in the industry.

The scale of their company is massive too.

Many of the world’s famous landmark buildings have their architectural models constructed by RJ Models, especially those in the domestic market in China, the Middle East, India, and Turkey.

Since the expansion of Ray’s company, Ray no longer involves himself in the making of the models.

His primary responsibilities are engaging in business discussion, planning, training, and management.

Since you are here in the program, why not tell the listeners how you progressed from a part-time model maker to becoming a huge professional model making company’s director.

This will provide not only excellent guidance but also the encouragement to the listeners who like model-building who also want to start-up their own business or wishing for a breakthrough in their career.

You now have a brilliant career, a blissful life without worries.

But did you experience any difficulties or crisis during the growth of your company?

▲RJ Models’ professional model makers built an Istanbul City Planning Model for MIMIP in 2015.

RJ Models-Ray:

We did come across many obstacles, and in my most desperate moment, I even thought of giving up model making.

Thinking about it now, I was also too young then.

In the 90s, after relocating the company to mainland China, there were only about 10 of us.

In Hong Kong, we were considered to be the largest model construction company.

But in Shenzhen, we encountered a shortage of workers and needed at least 20 professional model makers for us to function.

To increase our workforce, we started recruiting with a salary that was 20% above the average in the model construction industry.

Little did that we know that this move offended many of those in the same trade.

Once, a couple of months after arriving in Shenzhen, our professional model makers and I worked till about 2, 3 am in the morning before heading home.

Then at 6, 7 am, we received a call to inform us that our entire office was smashed and destroyed.

We called the local police station though that didn’t settle the matter.

I felt helpless and lost! But I couldn’t do other work.

I was lucky that we still had the trust of our clients.

So, relying on my passion for model making, I persevered.


▲When the model making company first relocated to mainland China in the 90s, there were only about 10 or so employees, and today the number of employees is in the hundreds.

Host Bryan:

When going through trial and hardship, as long as we persevere, we will eventually see the light at the end of the tunnel.

 I heard that not long after, the company took a turn for the better.

RJ Models-Ray:

Yes! While working in Hong Kong, I noticed that the designs from the foreign architects to be a little more unique and that got my attention.

And at that time, a lot of the world-renowned architecture firms had offices in Hong Kong.

From hence on, I began to pay attention to their upcoming projects and fought to win over their business.

For example, the Hong Kong Airport Model Project by Norman Foster, Terry Ferral’s Hong Kong Peak Tower, SOM’s Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre.

▲An architectural model of Hong Kong International Airport Terminal designed by Foster & Partners.

▲An architectural model of Hong Kong Peak Tower designed by British Architect Terry Farrell.

▲An architectural model of the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre by American architecture firm SOM.

An opportunity came in the year 2004 when we received an unexpected email from Norman Foster whom we worked with before, asking if we were interested in participating in some of the architectural model projects in Dubai.

We gladly accepted and flew to Dubai, and this marks the beginning of vigorous growth in my career.

Host Bryan:

Ray, you have been in this trade for a while and have seen many architectural designs.

Which of these designs gave you the most satisfaction or left you with the most profound impression?

RJ Models-Ray:

There was this client, Zaha Hadid. She was British of Iraqi descent.

She is behind many of the famous landmarks architectural designs.

For example, Taiwan’s Danjiang Bridge, Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, Beijing International Airport Terminal 4, also the world’s largest airport.

The reason I like her work is that every piece of her work is full of originality and full of challenges to build.

▲Above are architectural models constructed by RJ Models for Zaha Hadid. They include Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stadium, Beijing Daxing Airport Terminal 4, Morpheus Hotel at City of Dreams Macau and Taiwan’s Danjiang Bridge.

But the model that left me with the most profound impression is the Doha City Planning Model in the Middle East.

The dimension of the city planning model was approximately 700 square meters.

Besides the scale of the project, it was also the challenges we faced with the attainment of project requirements and the communication that I remember most.

The scale of the model is a challenge in itself, and the model had to be completed on time.

However, the details needed for the model construction were never supplied on time.

As a result, it really tested the team’s ability to assign and organize workload accordingly to produce the different parts and components.

Ultimately, our client was still the King of Qatar, and any last-minute modification to the model’s ornamental details must be satisfied.

▲Model of Doha City in Qatar, the Middle East, covers an area of 700 square meters. Both the scale of the model and the challenges faced in obtaining all the necessary requirements left a deep impression.

Host Bryan:

Ray, in your line of profession, you are very fortunate to have the opportunity to admire the works of many of the world’s famous architects.

So, in which part of the world would you say the best architect is from?

RJ Models-Ray:

Our customers are mostly from America, United Kingdom, France and so on and many of whom are world-class architects.

And among the architects, there is considerable diversity in nationality such as Chinese, Europeans, Middle Eastern, Indian and so on.

Hence, different countries have their own talented and outstanding architects.

▲As the leader in the model building industry, it is not unusual to come across works from many of the world-renowned architects. The picture above shows Taiwanese leader Ma Yingjiu and well-known architect Rem Koolhaas inspecting the model of Taipei Performing Arts Center.

Host Bryan:

What a shame! On a separate note, there had been reports that suggested a rapid slowdown in Dubai’s economy in the year 2008.

With Dubai as your primary market, did the Dubai 2008 economic crisis affect you?

RJ Models-Ray:

It must be October 2008, thereabouts. Dubai’s economic crisis was at its peak.

By December, all the projects in Dubai were stopped, and that was 90% of the company’s business.

The model makers in the company came together to talk over this matter, and some were in tears, worried about their livelihood if they lose their jobs.

From this crisis, we learned not to focus solely on one market. We started going into China, India, Turkey and other markets. The company began developing in a diversified manner.

▲After the hard lesson from the Dubai economic crisis, RJ Models starts moving into the new markets. Today, RJ Models handles projects from more than 90 different cities around the world. The picture above shows Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan admiring the model of Turkish largest medical institute.

Host Bryan:

After a courageous confrontation with the setbacks caused by external factors, resulting in a company crisis, did you learn anything from this experience and how you could better handle it the next time?

RJ Models-Ray:

Yes, for example, the Dubai experience pushed us forward to open up new markets, if we were in a similar situation again, we would not be in a passive state.

Fortunately, I was young and driven, that also gave me the time needed to adjust to the adversity that was thrown at me.

And every obstacle I encountered, I tell myself that it is a great and valuable experience.

I thank the divine for such precious experience.

▲The work from RJ Models repeatedly received admiration and recognition from the international government officials. In the picture above is the architectural model of Hong Kong Xiqu Centre.

Host Bryan:

Actually, it is good to have such a positive attitude.

Everyone knows that in any business there will be ups and downs or unexpected developments.

If we, however, confront the problems with a positive attitude, these problems will become a blessing in disguise.

Now that your business is on track, and is top of professional model making in the industry, do you think this fame brought along more business?

RJ Models-Ray:

Yes, but on top of that, being in this profession for such an extended period of time, we can readily show our potential customers our most beautiful works from some of the high profile projects.

When the potential customers see our professional architectural model making work, they will naturally develop confidence in us.

Professional Model Makers

▲The experience accumulated through the years of building the many high profile and challenging models give the potential customers the confidence to engage with RJ Models service. The picture above shows the model of Taiwan’s Kaohsiung Port Terminal designed by RUR Architects.

Host Bryan:

As this is such a rare opportunity. I would like to understand your thoughts when it comes to doing business with people in countries other than China?

RJ Models-Ray:

The difference between working with foreigners and our own people from China is that we are most astute but slightly lacking in good faith.

The Indians loves negotiating price and are very determined.

The Jews are very trustworthy, and when doing business with them, everything goes by the contract.

Doing business with the Europeans or Americans is more reassuring, as they are the most genuine.

The Germans and Japanese expect not even the slightest deviation in details even for unrelated matters, gaining our admiration for their excellent work efficiency.

India Building Maodel Makers

▲Ray flew to Mumbai, India to help with the erection of the 7-meters tall 1:75 model of Omkar Worli, a luxurious residential block designed by Foster + Partners.

Host Bryan:

With the advancement in technology and us entering the era of the Internet, are you worried that the model making trade may be replaced or suffer a decline?

RJ Models-Ray:

With time, there are always new techniques involving model making, and naturally, this will worry people a little.

But the fact is, the presence of technology has only aided us in coming up with better models.

As long as we are willing to follow the trend of the world and not put us at a standstill, we will always be at the forefront of the industry.

Turkey Master Plan Model Making Project

▲As a leader in the professional architectural model industry, following the trend of the world and not be at a standstill is the way to be in the forefront of the industry. The picture shows the display of the architectural model of Turkey Istanbul city plan in France.

Host Bryan:

Indeed, technology cannot defeat an enterprise. We are the ones who can crush a business.

Just as with publishing, what has changed is the way we read. The content of the book is still the most important and form the core of the competition.

We have now come to the end of our program, is there anything you would like to add, Ray?

RJ Models-Ray:

It is an honor to be featured on your program and a chance to reminisce about the hardship encountered in the past 20 years.

If I hadn’t come to this program, there would be no cause to recall those memories.

To think that my childhood ambition was to be a painter.

As a grownup, reality hits home, and I felt that model making is still a form of art.

I have the vision to develop the building of architectural models as an art form globally and be the most professionally trained in this territory.

So if you have a liking to do certain things and the interest is there, then go for it with determination!

About RJ Models

For 23 years now, RJ Models has grown to be a leader in the professional architectural model makers in the world. It offers a range of top quality architectural model with a tight deadline for competitive rates.

With RJ Models, clients can enjoy all our team support to focus on your project.

At every stage, RJ Models aims to provide top-quality architectural models to boost our client’s business to all architecture in the world.

Contact RJ Models & Start Making You the Top

    "Our vision is making the top quality architectural models to everywhere in the globe."
    Ray Cheung RJ Models
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