Something that all architects in Michigan and architecture students have a love-hate relationship with is physical model building. For students especially, this could be a make or break skill. Model building is an excellent way for students, clients, and designers to understand massing and of a structure. Physical models are beneficial for many reasons and there are various ways to construct them, however, there really isn’t a quick and easy way to achieve them. New technologies are developing, like 3D printing, that makes the development of physical models a lot quicker and a lot less stressful but models that are built by hand have a charm to them. Spending hours delicately assembling, measuring and gluing materials is a kind of art that can be appreciated more than a 3d printed model.

3D printing can limit your model buildings materials and details, but when you build them by hand your materials and methods are limitless. When you 3D print an object you can be limited to the X and Y axis with very select materials that can be costly. You can find creative methods to communicate ideas through a model that has been built by hand. The materiality, Z axis, textures, etc. can all be enhanced through hand-built physical models. 3D printing can be used by designers who are not as fond of the artistic assembly these physical models require. 3D printing is precise and follows exactly what the computer is telling it. This can be nice, but architects in Michigan are trading quality and details for precision. A project that has square footage limitations can benefit from using 3D printing to better convey the size and comfort of a space.

There are many cool features model building computer programs can provide, but there are some things that they just cannot offer. Architects in Michigan learn and understand things in different ways. You can simply provide a 2D floor plan for some, or create colorful 3D renderings for other, but some clients can benefit from seeing things from a hand on perspective and that’s where you can utilize physical models to communicate your ideas. If you have a larger community project that is going to be presented before a jury you’re likely going to come across someone who will understand the design better from a hands-on point of view.

Again, there are many different techniques architects in Michigan can build 3D models. Foam core, chipboard, clay, balsa wood, pins, string, and wire are some of the more commonly used materials for physical models. If you have a project, like a residence for example, where the clients are more focused on the fine details modeling by hand would be your best option. This allows you to present the finer details to the clients with an array of materials and colors.

Building physical models used to be a more common practice before 3D rendering programs were developed. It doesn’t matter how often or how many times you’ve built a physical model, of anything really, they will always take a lot of time to construct. However, with current computer programs, building physical models are becoming a lot more simple. You can use AutoCAD or Rhino to laser cut chipboard, or other materials. Many architects in Michigan appreciate laser cutter because it minimizes your work. All you have to do is create a scaled drawing of whatever you’re modeling, simplify it into planes, laser cut and assemble. One major issue architects in Michigan have with this method is cost. Laser cutters or CNC machines are not cheap and you have to keep chipboard in stock, which is also on the more expensive side of modeling materials. Although laser cutting your model is a lot quicker than cutting your materials by hand, it is not a process you want to rush. Basically, your chipboard is being cut by a hot laser so if you rush this process you’re going to get sloppy burnt edges that are going to make the entire model look bad.

Another downside to building physical models is you cannot CTL-Z and fix a mistake. If a file in a 3D rendering program gets corrupted most time your computer has a backup. That’s not the case with a physical model you’ve spent hours building. Every piece you place or glue is the final. It is hard to go back and modify delicate materials that have been glued together. Also, architects in Michigan who build physical models treat them like a priceless piece of art. If it gets broken, there is no recreating the original. It’s a safe bet to create some kind of storage or transportation unit for the model to prevent it from being damaged.

Using hot glue is a quick solution for model building but it is not recommended for final models. This can be used for a preliminary model. Hot glue dries quickly and shortens your overall build time but it is messy and is finicky with some materials. You can damage your materials with the heat or create unappealing globs that sometimes don’t even hold your model together. For your final models, tacky or Sobo glue is a better option. These materials do take longer to dry but they hold longer, dry cleaner, and the dry time allows you time to readjust your pieces as needed. With hot glue, you only have a few seconds from the time you apply the glue to the time it cools to get your piece in the correct spot.

All architects in Michigan are familiar with model building through their education. After your first year in architecture school, you will be no stranger to diverse model building. Your professors put you through the wringer with your model making skills. You do not have as much time to focus on the details but rather different methods of constructing your models. If you’re just beginning to build physical models keep in mind that a lot of your methods are going to be trial and error. Within your first couple of models, you’ll learn simple things like measuring twice, cut with the grain, and different material properties. All of these can save you time and money in the future.