Model Making – A Universal Language

By: Frank Romero

Any form of architectural representation – a working drawing, a perspective, a computer generated model,  or a physical model, must bring to life the concepts that begin in the designer’s mind. Of all of these forms of communication (sketching, rendering, three-dimensional graphics) the physical model is the only three-dimensional realization of a designer’s idea which is ultimately intended to be built as a three-dimensional structure.

Because architectural models are closer to reality than any other media, they are more easily understood by the eye, provide a more realistic insight into three-dimensional space, and are more accessible to a wider audience. For this reason, architecture throughout the world continually falls back on the physical model as the way to communicate ideas.  The model offers a directness and intimacy not found in the other forms of communication.

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At OZ, we are working to recapture the lost art of model making. Over the past decade, the rise of technology has increasingly made architects more dependent on software such as SketchUp and Revit. These software programs have made communication of three-dimensional space faster and more cost effective. However, the cost of 3-D printing and laser cutting has come down significantly, allowing designers to quickly represent their ideas in three-dimensional form.  At OZ, we’ve been able to take our computer models and translate them to be easily 3D printed.  Software like Rhino allows designers to clearly communicate with rapid prototyping machines without the loss of geometry during the printing process.


With these new tools and our continual tried-and-true modeling techniques, we are looking to describe our thoughts through three-dimensional diagramming.  Instead of a client reacting to a final presentation of 2-D imagery and virtual space, we are presenting concept models that illustrate our ideas in three-dimensional forms. This type of structure provides movement and tells a story that is otherwise difficult to illustrate. With the growing number of talents, new tools, and the perpetual design evolution at OZ, the lost art of modeling has reemerged in our process.

We are finding the need to recapture the tactile processes of architecture, whether it’s sketching or model making. In a world saturated with technology, the simple artistic techniques used to design  architecture are making a comeback. Clients are responding positively to this process and are now asking for models due to their inherent representation of space and structure. We describe this form of communication as a Universal Language accessible to all.