Where Have All the Models Gone? A Lament for the Past.

Models have gone the way of the buggy whip, the Dodo bird, and my plaid bell-bottoms. No, I’m not talking about fashion models. They’re still around, just skinnier. I’m talking about physical, architectural models, crafted from cardboard, wood or even metal. They have all but vanished from the architectural world, supplanted by computer models like the one below.

Computer model of a modern kitchen

Why? You might guess it’s because of the time and expense involved in building a physical model. And you would be correct – I have never built a physical model of one of my kitchen designs due to their limited budgets, but I always construct a computer model.

Yet, there are a myriad of other reasons. For example, with a computer model, the architect is not limited by the modeling materials. Further, it is quick and easy to digitally experiment with various ideas and to use the model as part of the design process rather than merely as a finished representation of the building. Limitations of shape and form are nonexistent. And, let’s not forget the ability to “walk” inside the model. Now, that’s cool!

Another limitation of physical models is their inability to accurately convey color and texture. Typically, additional renderings are also required incurring even more expense. The wood model below is excellent for describing form and massing, but is incomplete without the associated color renderings.

I’m not the least bit nostalgic over the loss of my drafting table, parallel bar, T-square and triangles… and if I had to choose between computer models and physical models, the computer wins hands down. But a piece of me still yearns for lovely physical models. Today, the only time we build them is for projects with large budgets or for clients to display.

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Tim Bjella

Principal architect and interior designer for Arteriors / Bjella Architecture.

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