In many ways, architectural models are strange objects. On one hand, like drawings, models are a representation of something else—a building—that might exist already but in most cases is so far only hypothetical. On the other hand, they are miniature constructions in themselves, which can be appreciated for their craftsmanship and intricacy. Perhaps this is why architects find models so fascinating; they can be simultaneously admired as an object in themselves and as a vision of something greater.
Earlier this year, we asked our readers to send us images of their most impressive models, and the response clearly showed this fascination. We received photographs of a wide variety of models, from sensible and meticulously constructed miniatures to jaw-dropping expressive outbursts. From over 300 entries, we've narrowed down our readers' submissions to just 21 of the most awe-inspiring examples, splitting them into 5 categories to reflect the incredible range of ways that people have made their models worth looking at.
Showing Off Your Design
The goal of any architectural model is to sell a design. These model designers made smart choices to highlight their projects' best features.
Contemporary Neighborhood Library / Mario Serrano + Samantha Sheppard
The lightness and geometric precision of Mario Serrano and Samantha Sheppard's design is captured perfectly in the materials and photographic style employed in this model.
Pinecote Pavilion by Fay Jones / Garrett Wineinger + Laura Leticia + Angelika Sophi
Garrett Wineinger's study of the Pinecote Pavilion by Fay Jones uses "peeled back" layers to demonstrate this classic's construction logic.
Thermal Baths in Pozzuoli / Clemens Kössler
It's not much to look at from the outside—in fact, we'd go as far as to say that from a distance this model looks like garbage. But the moment you see photographs of this model's interior, you feel a sense of immersion in this atmospheric design.
The Reifier / Heffrence H P Teow
Given the odd form of this "extroverted" art institution, the decision to create a detailed sectional model helps put one's mind at ease about the design's interior logistics.
Equestrian Center / Pierre Ide + Maël Barbe
Architectural models are often constructed of a single material. The decision here to have one contrasting material which highlights the project's most notable feature is striking.
God Is in the Details
Often, what makes a model excellent are the smallest details. These entries caught our eye thanks to the neat little touches that set them apart.
Design Building at UMass Amherst by Leers Weinzapfel Associates / Matt Vocatura
Created for the Timber City exhibit at Washington DC's National Building Museum, the standout elements of Matt Vocatura's model are the tiny 3D-printed "steel" joints connecting the wood elements.
Chamber Music Hall in Reichenau / Ivan Matas
This detailed model includes a painstakingly constructed section through the building, showing the structural elements in full.
Visitor Center for Peggy's Cove / Andrew Hill
Split into 5 pieces, the base elements of this model are able to slide along 2 bars, providing a look at 4 different sections through the design.
Greenhouse / Julius Puttkammer, Lukas Frenzel, Kai Wagner, Sophie Beike, Robin Bothe + Matthias Voigt
This design's pillow-shaped window panes were created by softening plastic in an oven, requiring one team member to give their kitchen up for a number of days.
Type Variant House by VJAA / Sarah Hefner, Ross Davidson + Zach Dawkins
The love and care put into this model can be seen in its fastidious construction, even down to the alignment of the wood grain. Not visible in these images are the magnets that allow the model to be disassembled for closer investigation.
Just like in buildings themselves, the materials used to construct a model can reveal a lot about the design's atmosphere and intent.
Salient Extension / Ibrahim Ibrahim + Maryam AlJomairi
What more can we say? When your model is not so much constructed as excavated, you've got our attention (and probably everyone else's, too).
Christoph Schwarz + Thomas Obererlacher
The main body of this model is made from a single gypsum cast, helping the angular profile of the design's steel walkways stand out to the viewer.
Theater on Rundle Mountain / Dalton Kaun
Another model that uses a cast to perfection, in this case the rugged, unrefined terrain of the "mountain" forms a beautiful contrast with the structural logic of the building.
Patience Is a Virtue
Making architectural models is incredibly time-consuming, and it can be tempting to cut corners. These models show what is possible when you avoid that temptation.
Rural Sports Hall / Ramtin Taherian
Look closely, and you'll see that this model's ceiling is made of hundreds of individual threads, each inserted through individually laser-cut holes in the ceiling structure.
Maple Leaf Pavilion / Taiwei Wang
This remarkable three-legged structure is made using only paper—no glue or fixings whatsoever.
Bastian Marzoli + Pénélope Escallier
At a certain scale, simple surface textures aren't enough. This model uses 3 varieties of individually cut bricks to provide an impressive sense of texture to its walls.
Smart Construction Choices
These days, you could simply 3D print a model and call it a day. But these models demonstrate how different tools are suited to different applications, making smart construction choices for a model with real finesse.
New Orleans Aquatic Center / Charles Weimer
Combining 3D printing and laser cutting with more traditional techniques, this model is a case study in how different tools can be used to different effects.
Shi Qi Tu
While the burned edges of laser-cut wood is usually a distraction in models, here it adds a richness to the model's "ground" which works well with its perspex "water."
Amalgamation / Eli Lurie + Ricardo Chiuz
In this masterplan design, the outlines of new buildings are shown with perspex that is lit up from below. And what is the perfect material to help these pure, bright shapes stand out? A dark-stained wooden base, of course.
The Pro Leagues
While it perhaps wouldn't be fair to compare the submissions of most of our readers to those made by model-making pros, we couldn't help but showcase a few of the stunning professional models that were submitted. This selection gives just a hint of what's possible given the experience and resources of some of the best model makers in the world.
Peter Wake, a senior model maker at Woods Bagot who has previously worked for Squire + Partners and HASSELL, sent us a variety of different types of work, ranging from concept and massing models up to complete designs.
Based in Hoboken, New Jersey, Radii Inc. has an impressive client list, and you may just recognize some of the projects they've worked on.
Thanks to every one of our readers who sent us photographs of their work!