A Comprehensive Guide To Modelling (In Architecture)


It’s that time again… four weeks into the major project, and out comes the card, glue, and craft knife, not to mention the wallet.

Modelling is a very important tool, especially in architecture. Models can help immensely to portray design ideas from a different perspective. This is key to expressing complex designs, especially when 2D representations don’t get across the essence of a design appropriately. Make sure a portion of time is left to model each developed proposition for a design, not only to ensure a decent outcome for a review, but to also convey a high level of clarity in your portfolio. Don’t forget that you’re not always going to have the chance to explain your ideas verbally to the person who is going to later mark your portfolio – you need your final sheets to spark this conversation with the marker. You need the sheets to clearly explain your proposal, and portray the work in as many proficient ways as possible. What helps to express your work in a different perspective? What might tip you over the grade boundary? Pictures of good, well thought out models.

Now, there are many ways you, or your group, can go about making an effective model, and hopefully this guide will help by saving you a lot of time and a decent amount of moolah.


Context (Type of model)

First, the type of model. Although a very basic point, it has to be made. What’s the context? What does the model need to show?

Do you want to show the way in which a building interacts with the landscape/site? If so, you’ll want to be looking at building a model which represents the site at a larger scale, including contour heights and adjacent buildings (if any are present). Depending on the site, this can vary from circa scale 1:200 all the way up to 1:5000 (and possibly even larger).

Or, do you want to show the internal arrangements of the building interact with one another in detail? If so, then you’ll want to focus on crafting solely on the building at a much lower scale, with paying attention to detail. Keep in mind that you do not have to model the entire building if you only wish to show a particular function – you can focus on the function being a model in its own right. Depending on the size of the building, and the arrangements you wish to show, you are most likely going to be looking somewhere between scale 1:5 and 1:100 (depending on context).

You are not limited to choosing between these two possibilities. Depending on what the purpose of the model is; it could take aspects from both detailed modelling, and site modelling, and combine them to create a hybrid model. Although a picture paints a thousand words; a picture of a well-made model might not express every aspect of your design. If you are pondering crafting another model, – stop pondering. Get to crafting.



Now, with a type of model in mind, you need a process in order to create. (Please note that this guide notes methods which are readily available at MOST universities – your place of education may vary).

By Hand

The first, most time consuming, but most creative method: modelling by hand. Modelling by hand is not always the quickest or most effective method to creating a model, but allows for creative changes during the creating process, and can help the architect gather a better understanding of the voids, junctions, and movement paths throughout a building. For a look at materials, jump to the next section.

Laser Cutting

The second, quickest and moderately creative method: laser cutting. Depending on the accessibility of a laser cutter, laser cutting can be the quickest and most stress-free form of modelling, with the cost being incredibly low for the efficiency. However, pieces cut on a laser cutter still need to be glued together, and might need sanding, which are not very time consuming tasks, but involve time nonetheless. Also, during busy teaching blocks, laser cutters can become very busy and therefore difficult to book in order to cut out model pieces. The main drawback with laser cutting is that the user has to know how to use the software which is compatible with the laser cutting machine. This can sometimes be an issue due to the fact that there are many different types of laser cutters, and therefore many different programs. Two examples being Ethos, and Techsoft 2D Design V2.

3D Milling

The third, easiest and least hands-on method: 3D milling. 3D milling is not often used for model making, and is rarely used outside the context of site modelling. Again, as with laser cutting, a program has to be learnt in order to use the machine and understand 3D milling effectively; with the main program being 3DS Max. On the other hand, the only work required is the file for the 3D mill – no glue or sanding is required. The main drawback to 3D milling is the cost, with an A2 sheet usually costing between £60 and £80. However, the standard of the model is very high and incredibly accurate, and the cost for the model might be considered worthwhile if split between group members, if all of whom require the same model.



Materials are an important part of model making, and can (literally AND figuratively) make-or-break a model.

By Hand

When you decide to create a model by hand, you need to think about three main points: aesthetics, cost, and survivability.

It’s all well having a model that looks great, but if it’s going to fall apart before the review, you might not be the happiest bunny. You need a model that’s going to look good, and one that’s going to last. (As with above, please note that this list notes materials readily available at most institutions – your place of education may vary. Each material is kept concise for clarity and takes into account variances [GSM, manufacturer, etc.]).


Card is one of the most readily available materials, and one of the most used, for a simple reason – it does the job, and it’s cost-effective. Personal recommendations of mine include:

Kraft board (Easy to cut. Inexpensive. Lacks aesthetics due to being a dull brown colour.)

Greyboard (Stronger than Kraft board but a lot harder to cut. Inexpensive. Lacks aesthetics due to being a dull grey colour.)

Mountboard (Easy to cut. More expensive than Kraft board and Greyboard, but still relatively inexpensive. Has a choice of colour to be shown – with one site being white and the other being black. Has decent aesthetics due to this function.)

Corrugated Sandwich (Generic cardboard. Easy to cut. Very Inexpensive. Lacks decent strength and aesthetics.)

Honeycomb board (Amazing strength. Needs to be machine cut to be effectively shaped. Bloody expensive. Very thick and sturdy with decent aesthetics.)

I would recommend Kraft board or Corrugated Sandwich for simple concept modelling, due to the lesser need for aesthetics, and the low cost. However, for a final model, I would recommend something with higher aesthetics such as Mountboard for very fiddly details, and Honeycomb board if you want to go full out with an indestructible (Nokia-style) volumetric model.


You’re going to need something to stick the pieces together.

Uhu (Cost-effective. Weak tube that often leaks. Strong adhesive once set. Difficult to control the amount used – often comes out erratically. Very difficult to clean up mistakes.)

Uhu Plus for Styrofoam (More expensive than normal Uhu. Generally has stronger, more resilient tubes that rarely leak. Sets a lot quicker than normal Uhu. Although labelled as ‘for Styrofoam’, Uhu Plus works on almost any material better than normal Uhu.)

Pritstick (Useful for sticking paper to other materials. Little other use in architectural modelling. Cost-efficient.)

Superglue (Very strong adhesive. Risk factor – materials glued together with superglue cannot be separated. Quite expensive.)

Epoxy 2 part resin (Decent when required – high performance. Used very rarely for architectural modelling – has relatively poisonous fumes and is generally used for plastics. Relatively expensive for the amount and possible usage.)

My personal recommendation for an adhesive would be Uhu Plus for Styrofoam due to the need for a medium strength, fast setting adhesive. Although superglue is stronger, if a mistake is made, the pieces cannot be taken apart. Flexibility is important and often occurs during modelling buildings due to changes of heart mid-construction.


Anything that hasn’t already been noted, which I feel needs a mention.

Foamboard (Relatively inexpensive. Has decent thickness. Very useful for layering contours. Shows slight mistakes and can be awkward to cut.)

Balsa Timber (Mid-priced. Low strength but very lightweight. Very useful for beams/bridges/pillars.)

Fake Trees/Grass/Felt (Do not use these in architectural models. Although they might look pretty or possibly realistic, they take away from the structure and portray the building in a very literal way.)

Laser Cutting/3D Milling

Most materials can be laser cut, however NEVER use reflective materials as this will reflect the laser and is a major safety hazard. Common materials include plywood and matt plastic/acrylic.

3D Milling materials will be sorted through the person operating the machine – completely subjective to institution/machine. Very rare to have a decent variety of materials.



Although models are very useful and can portray ideas in a lot of different ways, highlight certain aspects, and overall increase your chance for a higher grade when it comes to it, make sure you save yourself a headache and think carefully about what you want to gain through modelling before you start the making process. This will save you a lot of time, a lot of stress, and will leave you with a bigger bank account.

I hope this guide will be helpful to you! All the best. – Walluh


Why Choose Architecture?

Why choose Architecture? Seven years of stresses and struggles for what?

Well the reason I chose architecture is simple. I want to change the world!

Why didn’t you chose politics then? Tell me the last time a politician didn’t lie, or try to manipulate you or actually care about the things you believe are most important? The government under David Cameron introduced Fracking, spending billions to extract fossil fuels, where in contrast that money can go on renewable energies…


The California Academy of Science

Speaking to architecture students at the University of Portsmouth, they say the most important thing when approaching a design is the environmental impact. This can decide; where you place a building, how you structure it and what materials you use. Improving the environment means respecting where and how you build on it.

By studying and practising Architecture you can make the difference on a small and large scale. You can decrease the carbon footprint for a house just by coming up with a systematical approach using renewable energy. Implementing solar panels, or using rain water harvesting techniques for example. You can change a whole urban landscape by using Tidal Wave Energy to power your street (if you live on the coast). The possibilities are endless.

There are forever new technologies that are being released each year that needs more architects to use them effectively.

Do you want to change the environment we live in? Do you want to change the world for the better? one small change can make a big difference.

Become an Architect!


How to Strengthen and Present your Ideas!

Struggling to think of ideas for your exciting new project?

Can’t decide on a new jaw-dropping design which will overwhelm your tutors to save the sickening feeling of having to RESTART the project again?

Well look no further, as this page highlights the key points to help create a new idea.


As Le Corbusier said, “Good architects borrow, but great architects steal.”

As a student of Architecture, researching precedents to help think of an idea is the key to success in creating a new design. Without this initial research, it can be very difficult to create a design that will be both aesthetically pleasing and work well for the supposed client.

Also, why not attend one of those evening Architecture society lectures? Yes, it is in the evening, optional and on top of that requires you to pay. However, listening and understanding the types of buildings Architects are creating in the modern world can be truly beneficial. So next time be sure to turn off that cheeky game of fifa or finish munching on your nandos and head down!

-Concept Models

Professor Sir Edmund Happold, “A world which sees art and engineering as divided is not seeing the world as a whole”.

When starting the work for your new design, sometimes a sketch or an initial floor plan just simply is not enough.

With physical 3D models, we can understand how the building will work through a different perspective. It can also be a great break from staring at the same old computer screen or piece of paper; and will allow you to get your ideas across to the client/tutor in a lot more depth.


Renzo Piano, “You can put down a bad book; you can avoid listening to bad music; but you cannot miss the ugly tower block opposite your house”.

Another key to success when designing is to create diagrams. Although it can seem like less work to just decide not to or simply do a quick job to fulfill the requirements, when it comes to that dreaded end of year portfolio submission, you will not be there to sell your scheme for that 2.1/1 grade.

Unlike most History and English teachers, Architecture tutors do not want to read pages upon pages of text to get across your thoughts and ideas. By using different types of diagrams, you are able to clearly represent how the building functions; therefore conveying the aesthetics in an effective way, resulting in a painting of a thousand words.

Many students will learn this the hard way, but you can get one step ahead by undertaking this process.

-Reuben Paradise, BA2 Architecture University of Portsmouth

Have you ever thought about how much of a bugger architecture at uni can be?

Sometimes, you go home, put your feet up and like to watch your favourite TV programme; Friends perhaps? But, then you realise; that damn design coursework is due in, and you’ve got three days! You’re burnt out, tired, fed up, and hungry. A subway won’t do it this time…

Simply having that day off, no matter how pressing the work is, is INCREDIBLY important. It gives you a chance to recharge your batteries, gives your brain a break from incessant, grueling tasks, and helps you achieve clarity within your soul.

There are usually two choices:

  1. Hand in the entire 100% of the workload, but experience horrible all-nighters in the library (your new home) and feel dead for many days after.
  2. Hand in the majority of the work which you have enjoyed, at a standard you’re proud of, and have a nice long sleep before the hand-in day/review.

Now, which would you rather experience?

It’s drummed into us students that, we need that damn 1st, and we won’t get anywhere without the best results. However, employers look for students that can DO THE WORK with a level head, who have balls, and enjoy a sense of banter in the workplace. It’s all based on who you are as a person and not only that you work, but that you’re good to work with, and you have other qualities rather than simply being ‘the best’ academically.

Now, with that in mind, don’t beat yourself up if the project doesn’t necessarily go the way you want it to, or panic profusely when you’re running out of time – you’re building up your skills and once you develop them fully, you might become a great architect one day!

Although you’re at uni to learn and to achieve a degree to the best of your ability, you’re also there to learn and develop life skills, and most importantly, have some bloody well-deserved fun.

“They should live for themselves, yet the corruption of greed becomes personified. Nevertheless, the strong shall inherit the Earth.” -Walluh



What do I need to include when doing a Site Analysis?

A site analysis is the process of gathering information about your given site, it is not an evaluation of a site. It takes time and patience to fully understand a site, you need to study the climatic, geographical, historical, legal and infrastructural context of your site. Sounds complicated doesn’t it? Well it doesn’t have to be if you know what to look for. Here is a general list of things to look out for:

  • Location, where is the site located? How does someone locate the site? What is the name of the street/area?
  • Orientation, a sites orientation is a key element to site analysis. The orientation will have an impact on your design as the direction of wind and the path of the sun determines where you build. You want optimise your design, and by orienting your building correctly you will.
  • Climate, this refers to the elements such as Sun Path, Sun Hours,  Wind Direction, Rainfall, Temperatures, Humidity and Precipitations.
  • Topography, to keep it simple the topography of a site is whether or not the land is flat or is sloping. For on site analysis purposes you can roughly get an idea of how a site is but to get accurate information a contour map will be somewhere to help you understand the topography.
  • Vegetation, when on site keep a look out for trees, shrubs, flora and fauna and draw down on your site plan where they are located. Look for the way they manipulate the light and cast shadows, if you know the type write it down if not try to research them.
  •  Existing Buildings, are there any buildings already present within your site?
  • Access, how do you access the site? What different types of access are there? Are there any restrictions?
  • History, this can include buildings or features the previously used this site. It also relates to the Historic events that happened around your site and if there are any Historic structures on site.
  • Water, are there any streams, rivers, oceans around? how high is your site above sea level?
  • Photos/Sketches, take loads of photos and sketch important details, its much easier to remember if you can see.

These are the main things to look out for when visiting your site, if you search site analysis you will find many more complex areas you can research into. My only other advice is to make sure you wear the appropriate footwear and clothing, working on Portsdown hill with wet feet and no jacket is not fun, trust me.

Some Cheeky Advice on Building Analysis


As you all know Building Analysis is essential for studying architecture. This requires you to be able to read and interpret architectural plans and sections. Looking at the Architect’s motive (Philosophical ideologies, responding to climate, etc…) and the site’s historical content to determine how the building came into being.

So here are a few tips to get you started.

  • LIBRARY – The biggest (most obvious) one is go to the library, look at book which are recommended by Tutors, Peers, Professionals. Most libraries will have examples or suggested book based on your search inquiry.
  • MAKE A MODEL – Cant understand how a plan goes together? Why not attempt at making a model of the house, it will force you to focus on every individual aspect of design, and will improve your model making skills. Why not take pictures and add to your development portfolio?
  • INTERNET – Us Millennials use the internet for everything, so why not take advantage of it? Use trusted websites, notable online magazines such as Dezeen, Arch Daily and Design Boom. (hopefully ArchiChain in the near future too!)
  • YOUTUBE VIDEOS – If a building is popular, it is worth searching on youtube, people will upload videos walking through the building or give you a better view of the house than you can find in book and on google.
  • VISIT IF POSSIBLE – Often students will get a project of a local building, visit as often as possible; and take notes, drawings, sound recordings, videos, interview others who have been there? the possibilities are endless.
  • DRAW THE PLAN AGAIN – Once you find your plans and sections in a building, get a bit of tracing paper and draw over it. It will improve your understanding of different aspects of the building, try to think of what the architect is trying to portray? why he put things where he did?
  • BE A CRITIC – Is there anything you don’t like about the building? we all have our unique styles of architecture, what would you have done different? would it have worked?
  • FINDING DIMENSIONS – Need to find dimensions of an old building and cant find them anywhere? Here’s two cheeky tips: Scale a plan using the bed, most single beds are 1900mm and most double beds are 2000mm in length, use this to scale the rest of the plan. The other one if you’re really struggling, is Google Sketchup 3D warehouse, if its popular then someone has probably done it before? (be careful because they may not be accurate)
  • TALK TO YOUR PEERS – It is very unlikely you’ll get a building to study on your own, find whoever in the year has the same one, and discuss the building. You must put in the same amount as research as the other. It will help you more and you cant rely on them to carry you through the course.

Got more tips you think will benefit students more in building analysis? Please Comment

Don’t you need an A in Maths, Physics and Design Technology A levels to do Architecture? NO!


This was the very thing i was told when i was studying my A levels. All of my teachers, heads of year and even assistant head teacher told me that i needed to do 4 AS levels, and 3 A levels at sixth form to get into architecture.


I essentially flunked Sixth Form, I didn’t enjoy the lessons as they had no architectural relevance at all. So how did i get into Architecture School?

I completed a foundation degree at London South Bank University after only achieving two D grades after Sixth Form. So confidence low and not knowing how it would go I moved to the big city.

I relished! School does not prepare you to study architecture. A basic level of understanding Maths and Basic level of drawing and IT is all you need to start you on your way. I spent only 2 days a week at university, i got to explore the big city and get inspiration from every street i walked down, and then got to incorporate those ideas into my own work, before leaving and averaging 75%. If i can do it, anyone can!

PRACTICE. you here it all the time, but if you want the career to work for you, you need to practice drawing. Your first year is all about using different line weights to make your drawings stand out and a fundamental understanding of how to read plans (To Practice search architectural plans on Pinterest and try and pin point what things mean). You’ll be astounded by the level of detail.

Essentially this Blog is all about following your dreams, even if others don’t believe in you, even if you don’t achieve what you want at first, there are always different paths you can take.

I’m now in Second Year at the University of Portsmouth, and advancing my skills every day.

Adam – BA2 Architecture Student

– CEO of ArchiChain