How to Make Architectural Models

Written by larry simmons
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Architectural models are created when a replica is needed of a building or site for demonstrating the look and layout of what the model represents. By building a model you can provide a three dimensional demonstration of your design, with details visible from every angle. Making an architectural model requires the same process as creating any other model; you design the model, choose a scale, and then build the model out of your chosen materials. If done well, you can create a model that brings life to your vision without the costs of building the actual structure.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

Things you need

  • Scale styrene pattern sheets
  • Straight edge
  • Hobby knife
  • Sandpaper
  • Plastic cement
  • Model accessories
  • Paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Open cell spray foam

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  1. 1

    Create a design for your model, complete with all the details you wish to present to the viewers of your model. Design the immediate area surrounding the building as well, including landscaping, to help the viewer better visualise the site. Include the building materials in your design, as the material types can be incorporated into your architectural model increasing realism.

  2. 2

    Choose a scale for your model. Residential models should be built to a 1:50 scale, where 1/4-inch in scale represents an actual foot of space. If the model represents an entire site or you're modelling a larger commercial building, drop the scale to encompass more space while maintaining a manageable model base. A typical scale for these large models are anything smaller than 1:100 scale, where each 1/8 scale inch equals a foot.

  3. 3

    Build the model using styrene plastic sheets. Patterned styrene sheets model the material to scale so it looks natural when used in a model. Cut the sheets according to your design using a straightedge to guide your cuts and a hobby knife to make them. Sand the edges smooth and glue the sheets together using plastic cement.

  4. 4

    Place model accessories onto your model such as doors, windows, external staircases, light fixtures and everything else needed to add realism to your model. Paint the model if necessary where the patterned materials did not provide the proper colours.

  5. 5

    Cut the roof for your house and place onto the body of the house.

  6. 6

    Create a base for your model using open cell spray foam, commonly used as household insulation. Cut the foam using a hot wire cutter to shape the texture of the land. After forming the land, paint the foam a grassy colour and lay out the landscaping for the model, including any pavement. Trees, vehicles, and pedestrians all serve to place emphasis to how the model building would appear in its surrounding environment.

  7. 7

    Glue the model to the foam baseboard for viewing.

Tips and warnings

  • Spray a layer of clear coat paint onto the model to provide protection from colour fading and ease of cleaning.

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