Model Builders Inc Blog

6 reasons to use a white architectural model

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Sun, Dec 29, 2013 @ 06:27 PM

 White architectural models are favored by architects for a variety of reasons. 

1) An architectural competition often requires submission of a white model. This type of model is very different than a presentation model. A competition model is more of a conceptual abstraction and often built with a restricted budget in one or two weeks. The appearance is more lean and mean with less detail. White models if done well enable the judges and the public to clearly visualize the design in three dimensions especially in form and composition. The idea is to express the essence of the architect's intentions to the judges so they can pick the architect.    

2) The architect wants to show a model layout as a pure form. It may be easier to visualize the placement of structures and their context within a site. It is especially useful before final decisions are made on the colors and finishes of external materials. You can even use sunlight to show how shadows are cast across the site. Master plans are often depicted in white.

Hospital complex white model resized 600

 This hospital complex model is 30" X 45" X 6.5" high in 1/32" = 1'-0" scale

One color in addition to white is sometimes used in contrast to effectively highlight a specific feature of a model.  For a resort model the architect may want to emphasize the water areas by making them blue.

3) It is usually quicker and less expensive to make a model using white mat board or foamcore like materials.  When buying a unit in the complex shown below the buyer can more easily visualize where the unit they are interested in is located within the complex and a more detailed model may not be necessary. Also the exterior colors and other details can be shown less expensively in adjacent renderings than in the model. The model was used to get approval from the city and help with the sales effort.

Residential buildings resized 600

Residental buildings

4) White models are often preferred to use early in the design process. The architect may just want to test the scale and see how it looks or do multiple models to further develop a design or compare variations of the design.  Architects like John Ronan use a series of models starting with a simple massing model of the exterior to review with the client and gradually develop the final detailed design and materials of a building. Colors and specific materials are often chosen in the middle of the design process and not at the beginning. See .

For some projects we made quick study models for an architect that are simply black and white printouts of elevation and plan views bonded to a three dimensional model shape made with white mat board, foamcore or plastic. The architect might use those models to show two different designs of an attached garage for example. Clients usually can visualize the difference better if shown the alternatives in three dimensions and make a quicker decision.

5) To develop skills and experience in making architectural models.  For young adults, even some college students and new architects there is even a new Lego Architecture Studio product, a 1,200+ piece set of monochrome white bricks. The kit is a useful to create "natural lines and shadows that can more accurately represent architectural shapes and form." The kit comes with a 268 page book with real case studies from six different professional firms - REX architecture, Sou Fujimoto, SOM (Skimore, Owings and Merrill), MAD architects  Tham & Videgard and Safdie Architects. These firms show how to explore some of the the theories and concepts of symmetry, mass, density, use of negative space, repetition and more.

6) Sometimes the final structure is white. Also this complex building would be much more difficult to imagine in drawings than it is as a model where you can walk around it and see how different it looks from every angle.

Malmo Turing Torso Tower - Calatrava

The Turning Torso tower in Malmo Sweden. Architect: Santiago Calatrava.

Model Builders, Inc. is known for working closely with architects to interpret their design intentions as clearly as possible into a three dimensional model . Take the next step by contacting us at Model Builders, Inc., 773-586-6500 or .


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