Architectural models are to-scale physical representations of existing or theoretical structures. Typically, architectural models are used by architects in order to express design ideas to prospective clients, town planners and the wider public. They serve a purpose of exhibiting designs which can be used for a variety of reasons, including the presenting of ideas in order to obtain permits or encourage sales, or simply to show for artistic or presentation purposes.
Rough models are often made quickly using polystyrene, cardboard, wood blocks, foam and other materials, and are particularly useful to glean a three-dimensional understanding of a design, generally produced by architects and interior designers. For models featuring much more in terms of high precision detail, architects will generally employ a professional model maker in order to create a much more realistic looking model of their vision.
Models are an ideal means of communicating an architects’ vision when exhibiting, promoting or potentially selling a design. People can often find it difficult to visualise a design in three dimensions by simply looking at two dimensional prints on paper. Models can be particularly useful in the expression of ideas for complicated and unusual designs, or can serve the purpose of facilitating discussion amongst architects, town planners and engineers. Sometimes models are used simply for show, as a feature piece in the reception area of a building, or as part of a museum exhibition for example.
Recent decades have witnessed the rise in prominence of Computer Aided Design (CAD) systems as a means for exhibiting computer-generated models. While such technology is useful, one of the main criticisms of computer modeling is that it lacks the sensory impact and scale of a good physical model. However, as technology improves, and with the advent of 3D printing technology, it is likely that more of a crossover between computer generated and handmade architectural models will be witnessed in coming years.
An architectural model is constructed at a much smaller scale than that of the actual completed building. Although there are standard architectural scales, some of them are similar to those used in the models/hobby sector. With these sorts of similarities, it is often possible for designers to use high quality model scenery and elements of architectural models. Some designers are known to use 1:87 and 1:160 scales widely used in model railroads, as it means there is a ready-made availability of fixtures, fittings, vehicles and other scenery.