Architecture Model Guide: How to Make a Concept Model

May 3, 2022

Whether you are an architecture student or already and architect, you will at some point need to know how to construct the best architecture model that encompass your vision. Architectural scale models are by far the best way to represent the 3-dimensional special aspects of your design. Rendering and drawings are also great tools but they can only go so far.


What is an Architectural Model?

You might be asking yourself: what is an architectural model? The answer is broad but quite simple, an architectural model is a scaled down version of what you plan on building. The model can be an exact replica or it can show a conceptual idea of your design.


Famous Architecture Model Kits

Your can purchase a miniature architectural model kit that comes with directions. This is a great way to start thinking about how you want to build one yourself. There are tons of different kits available. You can buy model kits for anything from Frank Lloyd Wright's Usonian House to the Farnsworth House. Model kits of famous architectural buildings can be a fun activity for kids interested in architecture as well.


Architecture Model Making

So now you know the basics of what an architectural model is. The next step is to start planning on how you will go about actually making the model. There are 3 main types of design models that you can choose from. You will want to begin with a conceptual design model. This type of model is very rough and simple. Using readily available materials like balsa wood and foam core is a great way to cheaply test many different compositions of the space. I also recommend using rigid foam insulation and a hot wire cutter if you can. This is a simple way to quickly generate massing models.

The next type of architecture model is your working design model. This one comes after you have nailed down your general conceptual ideas. Also, this model will be made of more sturdy materials. You should materials like wood, metal or plastic. This model will work out all of the nuances of the circulation through the building. This is also a great way to figure out what scale certain building elements should have.

Lastly, the final conceptual presentation model will be your show-stopping, jaw-dropping model that will instantly sell your design. The materials should accurately reflect what the proposed building will have. For instance, you will want to use wood to show what is actually wood, or metal to show what is actually metal. You can use painted foam, plaster or actual concrete to show what is made of concrete. Having scale figures is also required because even though you might understand the scale of the building, others will not.


Architecture Model Materials

  • Cardboard is always my first go-to when in the initial design phase of a project because it is virtually free and easily available.
  • Foam board is my next favorite model making material. It has a smooth simple texture that is not distracting. Using a foam cutting blade, a cutting mat and a metal straight-edge ruler is necessary to achieve the best results.
  • Cork sheets are also a great material to give a real sense of texture.
  • Metal is also a great choice but requires additional tools and can get a bit complicated.


Architecture Model House Example Photos

architecture model house
Housing Typology Study Model: Photo and Model By: Justin Ankus
architecture model house
1 City Block Housing Typology Study Model: Photo and Model By: Justin Ankus
Collections Museum: Photo and Model By: Tanil Raif
architecture model
Collections Museum Iterations: Photo and Model By: Tanil Raif
architecture model
Curiosity Cabinet Building: Photo and Model By: Justin Ankus
Larger Context Curiosity Building: Photo and Model By: Justin Ankus

Architecture Model Materials Shop

I highly recommend joining a local workshop. You can use their tools such as cnc machine, 3d printers, table saws and ban saws. Otherwise, you can construct models at your home if you have the space and equipment. If you are an architecture student then your school should have a workshop for you to use.


Architectural Model Maker

All of this might sound like too much work. You can always consider outsourcing the model making. There are many companies that specialize in making architectural models. This can be a great way to get a professional model made fast. You can expect to pay at least $200 per model. This is a costly service but it can be worth it.


Architecture Model In Software Engineering

Nowadays there are tons of software that you can use as a tool to help you create architecture models. Some of my favorite design software are: AutoCad, Revit, Sketchup, Rhino and ArchiCad. Using software is necessary if you plan on 3d printing, cnc cutting or laser cutting the components of your model.


Concluding Thoughts

Overall, the most important aspect is to have fun. Sometimes it takes a little push to get excited about your design. It is important to have a passion for your design or it will show in your models. What excites you about architecture? Do you also love making things in general? Model making is a fun hobby. Thinking about what the possibilities are when model making is exciting. There are endless ways to do this. Design starts with passion. Passion then leads to doing. Once you execute your plan all of your design dreams will come true!

What is your favorite material to use? Let us know in the comments below! My favorite is cardboard. Recycled materials are the best.

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