After graduating from my Bachelor of Design course, I got a job at Hobbs Studios, a reprographics/3D printing company. At the time they were making four models for the City Stadium rebuild, so I ended up working freelance for them. Through this experience I managed to build up a portfolio, which allowed me to successfully interview at SimpsonHaugh, and get a full time position.
I reapplied the skills learnt at university as I transitioned from sculpting things like film props and more organic shapes, to architectural models created using straight lines and hard surfaces. I was less comfortable with this type of model, because there's such a small margin for error, and you have to be meticulous about sizing to ensure it's exact. This is where I feel I properly developed into a model maker, and it's definitely one of those roles where you learn on the job. Kristin, the Model Shop Manager, has had a massive impact on me, and as a team of two it's been vital to have amazing communication, and she's taught me so much about the craft.
My day-to-day varies depending on the stage of the project I'm working on. If a project is right at the start, I could just be changing the drawings from an OS Map to something I can use on the laser cutter, or if a project is further along, I could be spending an entire day in the sanding room cutting down sanding blocks to different heights. The workload can also be very varied - we can be entirely focused on one project, or be handling multiple models all with similar deadlines, so time-management skills are definitely essential.
My favourite aspect of the job is the problem-solving part of model making; the architects will often present an idea of how they want a model to look, but elements of it won't necessarily be possible. We then collaborate to explore and develop techniques that will allow us to produce a viable but aesthetically interesting model, which still meets the specification. I really enjoy that side of creating the models.
Having the model shop on site is quite a unique thing, but model-making has become fundamental to the design development process for the practice. Architectural models allow for further exploration of ideas and form, as well as evoking a sense of scale and proportion. Context models are particularly important when reviewing where the building will sit in relation to its surroundings, considering existing features and landmarks. While this can be done virtually, there is something more engaging about seeing it in a physical form.
My favourite social memories from my time with the practice are from site visits. I find it interesting and rewarding to go into the completed buildings which I've been making models for - especially standing at the top of them. My favourites have included Two St Peter's Square, Owen Street, and One Blackfriars. I think it's always a great opportunity for the practice to get together and celebrate something we all work towards.
An event I've always enjoyed taking part in is the B15 Model Making Awards at Manchester University. As part of the course the students have to produce architectural models, so we will visit the university a few times in the build-up to the degree show and offer advice on how they can improve their models. The students then display their award entries at the final event, and alongside some of the lecturers we judge the models. We also give away a SimpsonHaugh prize. I've always really enjoyed that experience.
Despite COVID, it's great to see the need for models returning, and I'm really looking forward to the new models I'll be creating over the next few months.