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Although the use of models for the three-dimensional representation of works is almost as old as the history of architecture itself, it is in the Italian Renaissance that it acquired the meaning of creative apparatus. Therefore, in today's article we will deal with architectural models and some examples of them. Keep reading!

What's a model?

Together with sketches and notes, models are an essential part of the design phase in architecture. It is a physical representation or small-scale archetype that serves as a guide to show the details of construction, operation or even appearance before the work is built. Although many professionals choose to make renders (three-dimensional models by computer), which allow virtual recordings and simulations, physical models are still a common element for the presentation of different projects.


There are many classifications, but we have chosen to categorize the models in the following subgroups:

Topographic model

Topographic models are those made to show the topographic characteristics, the terrain and the alteration that it will suffer by the project. They are scale representations of both the environment and the existing elements. They are used as a basis to include the project of a building. In this type of models we can find gardens, natural landscapes or urban spaces. 

Building model      

In general, this category is usually divided into town planning models,  buildings models, structural models and even  interior models. These types of models usually show both spatial and constructive qualities, but offering greater attention to the planned construction.

Special models

Special models usually cover the design of objects, both products and furniture, and generally scales of 1:10 to 1:1 are used. Industrial prototypes are an example of this type of model, since they are based on very precise technical drawings, which allows for the evaluation of construction or formal alternatives.

Materials for the realization of architectural models

When making a model, the different materials that can be used must be taken into account. This is especially important, since the final result will depend on this choice. We can opt for cardboard, a basic material for beginners that is easy to cut and very light.


Transparent PVC is another material that is characterized by being flexible and versatile, very useful for the representation of windows and glass. Another of the most used materials in architectural models is balsa wood, since it is very easy to model and cut. Also PLA filament, a biodegradable and highly versatile product, is the most used for 3D printing, since it does not tend to deform, offers a very neat finish and is easy to sand, drill and cut.


In short, there are many materials appropiate to build models, from paper to cement or glycerine, but all of them aim to resemble the final project or emphasise its elements and qualities.


Why are models important in architecture?

Nowadays it is possible to create virtual architectural models, in 3D, thanks to specialized software. However, a model can provide a "physical" expression of space that can never inspire the same way as a 3D prototype does. Undoubtedly, the physical and artisanal component of models is what generates that nice feeling both in the architect and in the client. Despite this fact, the computer prototype can be used to give another vision of the project, and rely on the physical models for the client to observe the final result, the context or the details of it.


Examples of architectural models

Galvani House (París, France) by Christian Pottgiesser

Keelung New Harbor Service Building Competition (Keelung, Taiwan) by ACDF Architecture

Telus Sky (Calgary, Canadá) by BIG

Biblioteca Dalarna (Dalarna, Suecia) by ADEPT Architects

Centro comercial Sarugaku (Daikanyama, Tokio) by Akihisa Hirata

Qiandao Lake Cable Car Station (Hangzhou Shi, China) by Archi-Union Architects

Master in Collective Housing UPM/ETH

The Master of Advanced Studies in Collective Housing is a professional and international postgraduate programme that is developed on a full-time basis, dealing with advanced architectural design in the city and housing. It is designed and taught jointly by the Polytechnic University of Madrid (UPM) and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH).


All vacancies for MCH2020 have been booked. The admission period for MCH2021 opens in February 2020, and it will remain so till 31.12.2020 or until vacancies are filled. The MCH2021 will have two groups, so first participants inscribed will have priority to choose their favourite workshop leaders.


For more information, click here!

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