As a model maker, I work alongside architects through several design process cycles - idea, sketch, model - in order to resolve and refine a building proposal. A physical model shows what works and what doesn't. It allows us to explore and generate ideas, to understand three dimensional space in a way no other medium can, and encourages us to think both horizontally and vertically. While developing the massing for No.1 Spinningfields, models allowed us to explore how the interlocking forms responded to each other, what spaces were created between the volumes and how the structure would work.
Models are used to communicate aspects of a development. At first, we use a model as a reference to explain our design. Model materials and construction techniques can also communicate our ideas. For our shortlisted competition entry for the Science and Innovation Centre in Kaunas, Lithuania, a simple layering of laser cut plywood profiles replicated the building’s sinuous, wave-like form, which is proposed as a series of undulating structural timber 'ribs'. The model revealed both the external form and internal spaces.
The context model shows how the proposed building sits alongside other buildings in the locality and how it responds to levels and other features in and around the site boundary, such as existing trees and rivers. The model we used for a primary school in the Lake District’s Grasmere village was hugely beneficial in explaining the scheme to the school children and residents of the village.
Created at a larger scale than the context model, the detail model focuses on specific building aspects, such as internal spaces, materiality, construction or circulation around the building. This helps us to develop the design, breaking it down into its different components, revealing what works well and what requires resolution. A model showing a section of the Two St Peter's Square elevation was built at 1:50 scale to give a sense of the scale and proportions of the building’s tracery panels.
Most of our models are obsolete as soon as they are finished because they are made to highlight or prove something. The architectural model is supposed to be changed, adjusted, improved. It is a test, an exploration, a stepping stone. The building is the final model. We keep all of our models. They exist to document our design process: we tried something and it didn’t work, so we tried something else.