Architectural model

Not be confused with Software Architectural Model

An architectural model is a type of a scale model, tangible (also called sometimes physical) representation of a structure built to study aspects of an architectural design or to communicate design ideas to clients, committees, and the general public. Architectural model are a tool which may be used for show, presentation, fundraising, permit obtaining and sale purposes.

Rough, study models can be made quickly using cardboard, wooden blocks, polystyrene, foam, foam boards and other materials. Such models are an efficient tool for three-dimensional understanding of a design, used by architects, interior designers and exhibit designers. For a high detailed presentation model, architects would employ a professional model maker or model making company.


Architectural models are used by architects for a range of purposes -

  • Quick, ad hoc models are sometimes made to study the interaction of volumes, or to get an idea of how they look from different angles. Designing a building using rough models can be a very open-ended and practical method of exploring ideas.
  • Models are an efficient method for exhibiting and selling a design. Many people, including developers and would-be house buyers, cannot visualise a design in three dimensions (3-D) from two-dimensional (2-D) drawings. An architect may employ small-scale physical models, or digital computer models, to help explain the ideas.
  • A model may be useful in explaining a complicated or unusual design to the building team; or as a focus for discussion between the design teams such as architects, engineers and town planners.
  • Models are also used as show pieces, for instance as a feature in the reception of a prestigious building, or as part of a museum exhibition (for example scale replicas of historical buildings).


Some types of model include -

  • Exterior models are models of buildings, which usually include some landscaping or civic spaces around the building.
  • Interior models are models of interior such as halls, rooms, floors showing interior planning, finishes, colors, furniture and beautification.
  • Landscaping design models are models of landscape design and development representing features such as walkways, small bridges, pergolas, vegetation patterns and beautification. Landscaping design models usually represent public spaces and may, in some cases, include buildings as well.
  • Urban models are models, typically built at a much smaller scale (starting from 1:500 and less, 1:700, 1:1000, 1:1200, 1:2000, 1:2000, representing several city blocks, even whole town or village, large resort, campus, industrial facility, military base and such. Urban models are a vital tool for town/city planning and development.
  • Engineering and construction models, showing isolated building/structure elements and components and their interaction.

Virtual modelling

Over the last few decades, detailed construction has been increasingly designed in CAD (Computer Aided Design) systems. The technology is improving rapidly. Early virtual modelling involved the fixing of arbitrary lines and points in virtual space, mainly to produce technical drawings. Modern packages include advanced features such as databases of components, automated engineering calculations, visual fly-throughs, dynamic reflections, and accurate textures and colours.

While virtual tours are undoubtedly useful, they are still limited to images on a computer screen, and lack the sensory impact, or qualia, of a physical model.


Common materials used for centuries for architectural model building were card stock, balsa wood, basswood and other woods. Modern professional architectural model builders are taking advantage of twenty-first century materials, such as Taskboard, a variety of plastics, wooden and wooden-plastic composites, foams and urethane compounds.

A number of companies produce ready-made pieces for structural components (e.g. girders, beams), siding, furniture, figures (people), vehicles, trees, bushes and other features which are found in the models. Features such as vehicles, people figurines, trees, street lights and other are called "scenery elements" and serve not only to beautify the model, but also to help the observer to obtain a right feel of scale and proportions represented by the model. Increasingly, rapid prototyping and solid freeform fabrication ('3D printing') are used to automatically construct models straight from CAD plans.

The challenge with using these tools lies in the CAD file format. The majority of 3D printers accept the stereolithography (.STL for short) file format, which is basically a mesh that wraps around the object in 3-dimensions. It helps to visualize this as a bag of oranges wrapped in a mesh bag. If there is a "tear" in the bag, the oranges will spill out. This is similar to what happens when an STL file is not cleanly produced and prematurely sent to a 3D printer. Clean STL files are a major challenge for architecture models produced using this technology.

Other rapid prototyping technology, also CAD based, which become very useful for architectural model making is CNC carving. Large CNC carving plotters able to carve out of high density foam boards up to 10' x 4' topography for architectural or urban model.


Architectural models are being constructed at much smaller scale than their 1:1 counterpart. Standard architectural scales are different, although some of them are close to the standard scales acknowledged in the model/hobby industry. Such similarities allow us to provide high quality scenery elements for architectural models. Sometimes model railroad scales such as 160 scale and 87 scale are used due to ready availability of commercial figures, vehicles and trees in those scales, and models of large buildings are most often built in approximately that range of scales due to size considerations. Models representing 1-2 buildings and a modest piece of surrounding landscape may be built at a larger scale such as or even . Here is a useful * Scale Guide to obtain more information about standard architectural scales and to help with scale selection.

Architects usually employ a professional model maker or model making company to create such models.

Paper Architectural Model

Today, printable architectural models exist and are like origami. This takes a high level of skill in order to accomplish in a proper manner.*

See also


External links

Search another word or see Architectural_modelon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2015, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature