Learn About Architectural Modeling as a Fun Hobby

Creating architectural scale models is a smart way to get a physical image or three-dimensional figure of a project you will develop. Architectural modeling is also a huge help for architects to know how to proceed with the building process of their design. Aside from that, architectural modeling could also be a fun hobby since you’ll be able to exercise your creativity and logical thinking. 

What is an Architectural Model?

digital architectural model of a building with a red car

Architectural models are tools commonly used by architects to show a small real-life design or masterplan of their building projects. They show the physical image and scale of a building design, making them very helpful in all design stages. 

Architectural models are 3D replicas, usually smaller than a full-sized presentation. Before, architects created architectural models by hand using materials like balsa wood, cardboard, cork, foam board, and many more. But, over the years and with the continuous development of technology, architects can now use digital techniques, including 3D printing and laser cutting, in creating architectural models.

The modern techniques and digital methods in architectural modeling allow a faster and more efficient way to produce a miniature project model. Aside from that, it’s more detailed, so you can get a good glimpse of how the project will turn out in the future.

But when you are a student or even an ordinary person who likes doing architectural modeling as a hobby, you’ll need to master the art of architectural modeling by hand. Even when you’re making architectural models by using challenging model kits or creating your own models of famous landmarks, architectural modeling will enhance your skills, develop your logical thinking and, at the same time, improve your creativity. 

Three Types of Architectural Design Models

architectural model of a street with huge buildings and trees

Concept Design Model

This type of architectural design model is mainly used throughout the initial stage of the designing process. It helps you see the form and shape of your project from the beginning. The concept design model is easy and inexpensive to make as you’ll only need materials, such as balsa wood and foam, that you can put together easily.

Working Design Model 

As soon as you get a concrete idea of your project and what you want to happen, you can now turn your concept design model into a working design model. Here is when you can address flaws or issues you may have encountered during the initial building process. 

The working design model allows you to create new and innovative ideas that would help improve your project. In creating this architectural model, they usually use sturdier materials, such as concrete, metal, and wood. 

Concept Presentation Model

After creating your working design model, you can proceed to the concept presentation model. In this stage, you’ll be making a more detailed design of your physical model, and you need to ensure that your model will be a bit identical to your project when it’s finished. This is usually created when you are ready to show your architectural models to the public.

Since you’re making a more detailed design, you’ll need high-quality materials representing your finished design better in terms of scale and materials used. They usually use resin or 3D printers to create the concept presentation model at this stage.

What Materials Do You Need to Make an Architectural Model?

miniature wooden house

Choosing materials for your architectural model would depend on several factors, including what type of architectural design you are making. Determine whether you’re making a conceptual, working design, or presentation model. Another factor is your budget and the time you spend making your architectural model. 

When making a presentation model, you want to ensure that the materials you’re using are durable, sturdy, and won’t fade when exposed to too much sunlight. You can create your architectural models using various materials, depending on what type of model you’re going to make. Some of the materials needed for architectural modeling are as follows:

Cardboard- Cardboard is one of the best materials you’ll need for architectural modeling because you can easily cut and shape it. This material comes in several colors and different finishes and is an affordable yet versatile material you can use in making architectural models.

Cardboard is usually used in making paths, roads, and terrains in a model. It can also support itself properly since the material is sturdy.

Wood- There are two kinds of wood commonly used in architectural modeling – balsawood and basswood. Balsawood is the more commonly used wood in creating architectural models. You can cut it easily, it’s affordable, comes in various weights, and produces a highly accurate architectural model. 

Basswood, on the other hand, is the other type of wood that is also often used in creating models. It is ideal for carving and many other wood crafts you’ll need in making your model. 

Foam- Foams are commonly used when creating massing models. They come in different sizes and thicknesses, and you can cut and shape them easily while still being sturdy. However, since foams can be fragile and damage easily, they aren’t used often in creating presentation models. 

Cork- If you are looking for a more flexible alternative to foam boards, you can never go wrong with cork sheets, which are way easier to handle than foam. This material helps in providing texture to your architectural model. You can cut this material easily, so it’s not difficult to work with. Corks are sometimes used for surface finishes. However, they can stain and damage easily. 

Metal- If you are building some structures, metal is the perfect material you can use. In making architectural models, you can use several metals, such as aluminum, brass, copper, or steel.

How to Make an Architectural Model

small architectural model and different tools and materials

  1. Measure- Architectural models present a large-scale design using a smaller scale model. So it is important to know all your measurements to have the correct scale for your architectural model.
  2. Create prototypes- This step is important before creating your architectural model so that you’ll get to know if you have accurate measurements. Make several sample pieces and assemble them to know if they all fit correctly on your small-scale model. 
  3. Have the right tools with you- Several tools are intended for architectural modeling. These include an L-square ruler, scissors, scalpels, sharp blades, utility knife, and more. If you have enough budget, you can also get a laser cutter. But before buying these tools, make sure you have your research and know what tools work best for the materials you’ll be using for your project. 
  4. Use the correct glue- It is important to pick the right glue to build your models to avoid making mistakes and damaging your project. Use wood glue if you’re working with wood. If you want thick and strong glue that could hold better, go for tacky glue. You may also use a hot glue gun if you want a very strong hold. However, even though glue guns work the fastest, they can be very dangerous, and you can’t afford to make mistakes while using them. So if you want a safer and fool-proof alternative, go for double-sided tapes. 
  5. Create some landscapes– Landscaping adds to the aesthetic of your architectural model, and it would help in creating an idea about the appearance of your building in the space where it’s built. You may add cars, shrubs, trees, street furniture, and great lighting to visualize how your building will fit in the area you’re working with.