Architecture and Model Building: Concepts, Methods, Materials
Birkhäuser, September 2018
Flexicover | 7 x 9-1/2 inches | 250 pages | 176 illustrations | English | ISBN: 978-3035614794 | $45.99
Architectural models are used at various stages of a project. As working models they support the design process: they are made up from time to time using simple materials, such as cardboard, without any attempt at accuracy, and continue to be adjusted and added to as the ideas and the design progress. The point here is to swiftly check a design idea, to allow it to be continued or dismissed. Presentational models are more involved; at this stage the design has been completed and the purpose of the model is to convey the ideas to the potential user in a clear and easy-to-understand way.
The book Architecture and Model Building includes outstanding examples explaining the possibilities of this medium and, at the same time, provides comprehensive information on materials and techniques.
Like most architects, I’m a big fan of architectural models. While I’m not very good at making them, I appreciate well-made models and gravitate to them in exhibitions, when on a design jury, or in any presentation by an architect. In person they are particularly powerful, enabling one to grasp a project’s scale, massing, materials, sense of space, and other qualities. Models can do so much more than drawings (without replacing them, obviously), though books on the second tend to greatly outnumber books on the first. Recently I reviewed a couple books on drawings, but it’s been eight years ago since I reviewed a book — a few books, actually — about models and modelmaking. So I was excited to see Alexander Schilling’s Architecture and Model Building, which provides a thorough introduction for first-year architecture students to the various types of models (site, building, facade, detail, mock-up) and covers techniques for selecting materials and building models (both handmade and digital).
The book presents 176 images of models in b/w and orange duotone, which is a stylish but sometimes distracting choice, especially in the case of the hard-to-read orange images. The models, most coming from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, are described with captions and work in parallel to the text. Although I noticed a few errors in the coordination of the captions with the numbered images, and sometimes the numerous pages of models break up the text to such a large extent I would have liked some “text continues on page X” notes, the model photos do a very good job in helping to explain how models work and how they are built, as well as conveying how they are powerful and appealing (not just necessary) parts of the design process. With its clear and concise text, I hope Architecture and Model Building turns architecture students on to the benefits and joys of models, at a time when computer modeling and renderings grab so much of their attention.
Alexander Schilling is an architect, engineer, and research associate at the Department of Architecture, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.