Model Builders Inc Blog

Architectural model iterations are often the key to design success

Posted by Hal Chaffee on Sun, Jan 19, 2014 @ 09:46 PM

"Iterations: John Ronan's Poetry Foundation" is a 2013-2014 exhibit at the Art Institute in Chicago that shows how he uses a series of sketches, models, and digital designs in his design development of the award winning Poetry Foundation building in Chicago. The sketches and models are used to explore options in the beginning and review them with the client before the final detailed digital design is done. This iterative process helps to give more thoughtful consideration to how the various elements should be integrated together.

Some architectural firms do all of their work digitally on the computer. However with only digital images the client may have trouble visualizing the relationships between elements and how big things really are.

multiple modelsDifferent model iterations of the interior interrelationships

Many architects, like John Ronan, find ideas initially intuitively flow better from the brain to hand sketches. Later they do the digital design for the precision needed to finalize the design.

Ideas were initially shown as hand drawn diagrams and quickly bonded to cardboard. Then various rooms were connected in multiple different configurations so they could be compared in three dimensions to better visualize how the key elements worked together. Should the key elements like the building and the garden be interlocking or overlapping layers? Use of the models helped determine the site plan. Once the site plan was determined then more sketches and models were used to evaluate different iterations of the location of other elements in the building such as the library and reading room. In this particular case the garden became central to the development of the building's program and design.

Poetry Foundation site model

Site model - Poetry Foundation is the tan/green/gray area in the middle

The design at that point was ready to put onto a model that showed the surrounding buildngs. First a satellite image of the site and surrounding buildings was put down. Using cardboard and paper sketches the new design with the surrounding buildings shown in three dimensions was created. This helped to determine that the building design should be anchored with a large entry to the garden at the corner of the property.

Exterior screen wallTwo of several exterior screen walls - the perforated one at the top was chosen

The roofless courtyard garden is separated from the street with a two story screen on two sides at the site perimeter.  Models were made of different screens.  An oxidized black screen with holes was chosen to separate the garden from the sidewalk on the north and east sides. It provides views of the garden from the street while making the garden more private while standing in it. As you walk forward along the building the exterior is all glass which helps to connect the garden to the interior. Inside the building a ribbon of Baltic birch plywood helps to connect the mostly open plan interior rooms.

Presentation modelPresentation model - Basswood, cardboard, and Plexiglas

Here the roof has been removed and in this model there is more interior detail. These models were developed by the architect as part of the design process. Models help the architect to communicate better on design decisions with clients who often don't visualize the design well in three dimensions as it progresses unless they see a three dimensional model. These models help to make sure the client understands exactly how the building will look before it is built with no surprises.

For  information on seeing this exhibit click on .

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 .

Tags: site model, architectural model, architectural models, architectural model builder